By Susan Takumba
The count down to the 2015 time line for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has left many a country, including Uganda, reflecting on how to fast track progress to realise agreed sector targets.
What is clear is that certain critical recurring challenges will continue to hamper this progress, unless urgently addressed. Key among these bottlenecks is corruption, given that corruption adversely impacts on citizen’s access to education, healthcare, water, equal opportunities and justice, and also undermines democracy, prosperity and development.
Corruption is increasingly viewed as an accepted way of life in Uganda to the extent that when someone is appointed or elected to a public office, they think it is their turn to “eat”. The lack of civic competence worsens matters.
Majority of the rural folk treat the provision of services as a gift or favour from the Government and do not deem it their right to demand for quality services and will, therefore, settle for anything. Most do not concern themselves to know for example how much money has been passed to their local leaders for a road or a school.
Even if shoddy work is done they remain thankful because they never expected it in the first place. Public servants have got away with rampant theft of public resources because they face no sanctions from the beneficiaries. In fact, corrupt people are glorified in the villages because they have the capacity to solve some of the local problems, including making funeral or wedding donations and sometimes building churches and mosques.
Like many districts in Uganda, Kamuli has endeavoured through the decentralisation system to improve the quality of social service provision to the local people. Unfortunately, any significant achievements are watered down by effects of corruption.
According to the Kamuli District Education Officer, for the last seven years, only 12,000 children of the 16,000 born in Kamuli district every year, complete their primary education. The DEO partly attributes the dropout rate of the other 4,000 pupils to increased corruption in the country, where money which should have developed UPE schools is misappropriated, resulting in poor quality of education.
Citizen participation and involvement can minimise corruption. As has been proven in Indonesia, combining auditing with citizen participation can be important in strengthening anti-corruption efforts.
In Uganda, the Auditor General should regularly announce audits of public infrastructure projects to communities, and hold community-level meetings to discuss audit findings upon completion of infrastructure projects.
Similarly, IGG reports should be simplified and findings disseminated to the local communities so that citizens can hold their implicated leaders accountable.
The writer is the coordinator of Kamuli community driven advocacy for integrated development/UDN