13 December 2012

Uganda: Editorial - Corruption - Leadership, Shift in Attitude Essential


This year's International Anti-Corruption day on December 9 couldn't have come at a more appropriate time for Uganda. With the extent of the blatant theft of donors' and taxpayers' money in the Office of the Prime Minister and the ministry of Public Service (Pensions), among other major swindles, still unfolding, it was an occasion to reflect on how this vice can be curbed.

The Inspector General of Government (IGG) marked the event with a report in which the inspectorate says poor implementation of government anti-corruption laws is to blame for the fast rising corruption.

Indeed, there's agreement that Uganda has good laws to fight graft, yet the problem persists and even appears to get worse. What is lacking appears to be leadership at the top and a shift in culture and attitude at all levels.

The country's leadership must not only say it but show that it abhors corruption. When civil servants and politicians at all levels get the feeling that the leadership doesn't care about it, corruption thrives.

The culture of cutting corners fuels the graft flame too. Things most people have come to take for granted, like bribing a traffic police officer, a teacher or health worker being absent from duty for long periods, a parent bribing to get her child admitted in a school, are all forms of corruption that require the same level of outrage as the big frauds.

Also, ordinary people need to realise that corruption at higher levels is intertwined with their sorry plight, and must, therefore, stop encouraging it. For instance, when one sells their vote, they can't then complain that the politician they "hired" is only delivering for himself/herself.

Lastly, poor remuneration of critical officers needs to be looked into. From police officers, Auditor General and IG staff to state attorneys, magistrates and judges, the government can't attract and retain the best when the pay is so basic. Not all who endure it can be relied on to withstand temptation.

As Justice Irene Mulyagonja, the IGG, succinctly remarked, "The best brains prefer to use their acumen in defence of the corrupt rather than prosecuting them on behalf of government." It is not difficult to see why.

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