By Richard Musaazi
The most logical way to analyse corruption and the activities of big businesses or finance, is to think like criminologists.
“Behind every great fortune lies a great crime.” The standard definition of crime is that it involves behaviours that harms or intends to harm individuals or the public at large.
There is a prominent level of corruption in Uganda. It makes me wonder who on earth can help us eradicate this vice from our public services. What’s more, this doesn’t include private or uncovered corruption, beyond that which has emerged within the public domain.
No matter how one perceives these issues, corruption is endemic. It is likely to continue to be so, unless we take drastic action to shake up the system. But when will such a moment dawn?
Each of us has a responsibility to create a country where there are fewer victims of crime. I started crime reporters because individuals and communities have a right to be safe from crime and the fear of crime. Also, I have a unique role that is independent from authorities.
Appearing on NTV’s talk show (#NTVONTHESPOT), the minister of Justice, Kayinda Otafiire explained that fighting corruption is a question of how much it has been tackled and in what areas. Taking part in the same show was Hon. Ogenga Latigo. He added that the problem with fighting corruption in Uganda is that unless it is brought out in the open, no action will be taken.
Picking on Hon. Ogenga’s point, we first need to agree that corruption exists and that it is a crime. While carrying out my own research, I identified several reasons why these factors do not exist, and why we continue to struggle with this deplorable, corruption in Uganda.
1. Too many loopholes existing in the system pave the way for those walking the corridors of power to become corrupt overnight and pass on their ‘tricks’ to others. The awarding of contracts for instance, and the taking of kickbacks is a real avenue for corruption.
2. Lack of any clear-cut official position on corruption presents a problem in our Ugandan context. Where gift-giving or receiving is a norm, it can be difficult to identify where a gesture of ‘thanks’ exists, and corruption begins. Indeed, it is not strange for people to “wet the ground” in pursuit of a stated agenda. In that case, who is guilty of what?
3. Negative influence of politics is evident in this system. When everything has been politicized, any attempt to act against a culprit quickly turns into a hot political issue ready for battle on the partisan political lines.
4. Massive apathy among the citizens of Uganda contributes to an acceptance of bribery and corruption as ‘part of everyday life’. Of course, the saying that “everybody eats from his workplace” seems to give a blanket blessing to the vice. Lack of moral courage to expose bribery and corruption can also contribute to these acts. In working to overcome this, I created an anonymous online form to help citizens identify and report corruption and other crime.
For many years, the government in Uganda has been aware of the extent to which corruption has stained their reputations. In some cases, politicians have attempted to shift blame as a way of solving the problem. Others have brushed aside allegations. Still, some have used cosmetic measures that addresses the issue. However, that has not solved the problem. Instead, it leads to the possibility of scoring cheap political points.
In truth, fighting corruption cannot be done sporadically. The entire system must be overhauled. Appropriate laws have to be passed and enforced, irrespective of personalities.
The need for radical systemic change that will punish corruption and make it unattractive forever, means the government of Uganda has a duty to make the first move. Following this action, there should be support from all other institutions of the state. This will result in citizens voicing their concerns, and exposing the vice of corruption, willingly and safely.
More importantly, there should be rewards for those whose efforts expose corruption. This will motivate conscientious citizens to support the authorities in the fight against bribery and corruption.
The laws must bite deep – particularly for those politicians who use scare tactics and attribute ‘attacks’ like those of ‘witch-hunting’.
These corrupt officials must be exposed and punished. Only then can honesty in public service take precedence over the spoils of bribery and corruption. Anything less will mean the people of Uganda will continue to suffer under this vice.