By Francis Kagolo
Uganda can only benefit from oil if the Government embraces transparency and allows the civil society to scrutinize the sector effectively, the European Union (EU) head of delegation has said.
Kristian Schmidt lauded the finance minister Maria Kiwanuka for her recent positive posture towards preventing corruption in the oil sector but said this ought to translate into action.
“I have heard her (Kiwanuka) saying that future generations should not be asking where the oil money was put. I think this is on the right track,” he said. “But oil creates a lot of suspicions and mistrust which can cause conflicts. It is critical to put in place the right structures to use the revenue correctly in a manner that will benefit the future generations.”
He made the remarks at Transparency International Uganda (TIU) offices in Ntinda, Kampala.
He visited the organization to get updates about the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF), an EU-funded programme that started in 2011 to support state and non-state partners contributing to equitable growth, poverty reduction, rule of law and long-term stability in Uganda.
The programme supports work aimed at strengthening democracy, protect human rights, improve access to justice, and enhance accountability.
The ambassador expressed dismay over the high levels of corruption in the country. He urged Parliament to empower civil society to play their role without restraint.
Uganda’s score declined on the Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index 2013. With a score of 26, Uganda’s rank for 2013 was 140 out of 177, a worse performance than 2012’s score of 29.
“Uganda has good anti-corruption laws and institutions but does not seem to be at the level where it ought to be globally in fighting corruption,” Schmidt said.
The ambassador explained that most countries that are ranked worse than Uganda are those with failed states, natural resource curse or dictatorship.
“Uganda is not suffering from any of these. It has multiparty democracy and it is yet to experience a natural resource curse.”
He said there was need to look at the civil society not as an enemy of the state but a partner in development. “Civil society is a good ally for proper use of public funds. Theirs is not a partisan approach. It is pursuing the public interest.”
The TIU executive director Peter Wandera expressed concern over the Government’s reluctance to ratify the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).
EITI is an international standard that ensures transparency around countries' oil, gas and mineral resources. Wandera said the delay to endorse the initiative raised eyebrows over the Government’s commitment to transparency and accountability in the oil sector.
Patrick Kayemba, the TIU chairperson announced a plan to follow up funds in the roads and land sectors which he said had not received much attention from the civil society.