31 December 2012

Uganda: Anti-Graft Agencies Doing Well


FOR the past eight months, newspaper headlines have been awash with grand corruption scandals.

It is now clear an iron curtain of corruption has descended across our country. Indeed most sectors of life are affected - be it the church, homes, schools, sports clubs, government offices, private offices, shops etc.

It seems instead of reaching out to each other, we are busy stealing from each other. For example, farmers are reportedly conniving with extension workers to inflate input prices, some local councils and community leaders are taking bribes to make unfair decisions in village courts, police constables are reported receiving 'facilitation' to intervene on behalf of cunning village landed gentry to cheat peasants, teachers are riding bodabodas for quick buck and receiving salaries (from tax payers) while our children are receiving no lessons, milk vendors are adding water in milk to cheat consumers, traders are tampering with weighing scales and cheating farmers, business men are cheating government taxes etc - this trend may not be in headlines -but it is sadly entrenched.

Will a compendium of anticorruption laws stop this anarchy?

We must return to our ancestral values that define us as a people that lived by code of respect, fairness, community and honesty. I hope this will not be dismissed by sceptics and law puritans as moralising the fight against corruption.

My hunch tells me we have focused more on putting in place hardware administrative, legislative and judicial systems while relegating software incentives that entrench powerful value systems and social sanctions in our country.

The NRM government has worked to strengthen investigative organs that deal with corruption. It has for example, reformed the office of the Auditor General (AG) and Director of Public prosecutions (DPP) from mere departments to substantive and independent institutions.

The Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has powers of high court and is visibly interrogative and very much on the scene in the corruption fight. The Anti- Corruption Court is in place. The civil society is also involved in a bevy of actions aimed at visualising corruption for the masses.

The name and shame book by the Anti- Corruption Coalition and the latest push in form of protests codenamed 'Black Monday' - are highlighting citizens' rage at this rampant theft. Debates in mainstream media and social media are hot and sometimes toxic.

Even religious leaders have pitched prayers and led missions to ask the Almighty to bless this land and rid it of the sin of corruption. But the net result of these genuine efforts has been more exposure of corruption scandals as opposed to reducing and finishing them off.

By exposing these corruption scandals, state agencies must be applauded and encouraged rather than the spurious demonisation that has been going on.

A sustainable solution to corruption lies in return to a robust struggle for revival and entrenchment of values of community and citizenship.

All of us need to learn that the world must be shared and every one must have an opportunity. That to own 20 houses, which you cannot sleep in at once and four cars that you cannot drive at once is meaningless and backward. Nelson Mandela, in his latest 2011 book - Conversations with My Self; tells a compelling story about real progress.

He counsels that ".... In judging our progress as individuals, we tend to concentrate on external factors such as one's social position, influence and popularity, wealth and standard of education.

These are of course important in measuring one's success in material matters and it is perfectly understandable if many people exert themselves mainly to achieve all these. But internal factors may be even more crucial in assessing ones development as a human being.

Honesty, sincerity, simplicity, humility, pure generosity, absence of vanity, readiness to serve others - qualities, which are within reach of every soul - are the foundations of one's spiritual life. Development in matters of this nature is inconceivable without serious introspection, without knowing yourself, your weaknesses and mistakes....never forget that a saint is a sinner who keeps on trying" - Can we defeat the reigning dominant psychology that is bent on material factors that Mandela talks about?

Writer is a public policy analyst.

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