KAMPALA – Religious leaders have been challenged to bolster their efforts in fighting against corruption as one way of promoting efficient service delivery.
The call was sounded by former Gulu Municipality Member of Parliament Leandro Komakech during the National Dialogue on the State of Public Service Delivery 2022 held in Kampala, where he also claimed that religious leaders who have a duty to shape ethical and moral values in society were not doing enough.
“Corruption is now a national security than coronavirus was because the amount of money that we are losing from corruption can run this country for a very long time”, Komakech said, noting that those who are corrupt are very well facilitated, “and can take on you any time”.
Delivering a much-praised keynote address, Mr. Komakech painted a grim picture of our country’s moral state and the dysfunctional mess in which we are, explaining that, if not checked, our country’s rapid descent into apostasy will undoubtedly lead us into a calamitous future.
He also claimed that corruption per capita in Uganda has almost doubled the Gross Domestic Product Per Capita in the recent past, reminding religious leaders of their role as sent assigned by Jesus.
“If I was someone who wasn’t a Christian I would say that the problem is so big that we may not only need Jesus but we just need God himself physically to come and save us,” he said.
Komakech expressed concern that if the moral decline is not halted and reversed, it will lead to a substandard service delivery regime, poor quality leadership in the nation, and more unemployment – asking the government and religious leaders to take deliberate steps to reverse the trajectory.
Parliament in 2021 passed a motion urging the government to rein in the surging moral decadence in the country.
MPs across the divide further cited corruption and sexual abuse as some of the main immoral acts that have continued to erode Uganda’s ethical values, thus endangering the fabric of the society.
Dr Nsaba Buturo in his motion titled, “A resolution of Parliament to highlight the decline in ethical and moral values in the country and propose solutions for reversing the destructive decline,” cited the Auditor General’s 2020/2021 report which indicated a massive abuse of COVID-19 funds by some government officials.
He said that if such an ominous decline is not dealt with head-on sooner than later by the government in particular and society in general, the decline would ultimately frustrate the socio-economic and political order of the country.
“If this moral decline is not halted and reversed, this will lead to a substandard service delivery regime, weak representation in Parliament, poor quality leadership in the nation, and more unemployment. The multiplicity of these negative outcomes will affect Uganda’s goal to become a middle-income nation and later on a developed one,” said Nsaba Buturo.
Corruption in Uganda is severe, well-known, cuts across many sectors, and is frequently debated and discussed in the media.
Such corruption undermines human rights in multiple ways: a direct defiance of the rule of law and accountability, it indicates that the law and its institutions cannot be relied on to protect against violations of fundamental human rights or deliver justice.
By unlawfully interfering with resources that should be available to realize fundamental rights such as the rights to health, water, food, and education—either through illegally appropriating public funds for personal wealth or rendering access to services subject to bribes, which are illegal—corruption leads to violations of human rights that may have disastrous consequences.
Media attention of Uganda’s corruption often focuses on the “big fish who got away” and who were allegedly protected from prosecution by other elites. Solutions—often proposed and supported by international donors—usually rely on technical responses. Those responses overlook what, based on past actions, can be described as the government’s deep-rooted lack of political will to address corruption at the highest levels and importantly, to set an example—starting from the top—that graft will not be tolerated.
The Inspectorate of Government, a government agency charged with fighting the vice is in itself weak and it was huge a lot of money but recovers very little than what it uses in the recovery process.
As a country, we need to rethink and see whether we are really doing the right thing when it comes to fighting corruption because, at the level, corruption should also be treated at a pandemic because it has reached such levels,” Marlon Agaba, the Executive Director of the Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda told reporters at the sidelines of the annual dialogue.
Agaba also asked Parliament to rethink the legal framework on money recovery, saying it was weak and that it also fails investigators.
“The legal framework in terms of tracing, management, disposal of these assets when they are taken over from the corrupt, is not in place,” he said, noting that the mandate is also scattered in different agencies including the IG, DPP, and others, which at times put them at a collision course.
The IG is keeping secret the names of corrupt officials, ostensibly to give them room to find means of recovering stolen money and returning it to the government without facing public scrutiny and court battles.
Inspectorate Spokesperson, Muniira Ali, explained that they are in negotiations with the corrupt officials. She disclosed that after finding them culpable of stealing from the government, the IG agreed to keep their names out of the public so that they would be able to mobilise resources to repay the money. This, she argued, is within the discretion of the IGG to make decisions on what she deems fit to ensure that money lost through corruption is recovered.
The explanation comes after the IG has chosen to keep secret the names and positions of 45 officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industries and Fisheries, held accountable for the misappropriation of shillings 9 billion disbursed by the Ministry of Agriculture in October 2021 to Bukalasa Agricultural College in Wobulenzi, Luweero District, and the Fisheries Training Institute in Entebbe.
These undisclosed officials agreed to refund more than 9.9 billion schillings, which they obtained through false accounting. The money in question was meant to cater to students’ feeding expenses, infrastructure development projects, and renovations of the gate of Bukalasa College, which didn’t happen since the country was under lockdown.
The IGG says that since the IG made a commitment to recover at least 100 billion shillings annually, they will not prosecute or name officials who have agreed to refund the money.
Agaba said the decision to keep their identities is nonsensical, noting that it is the right of the public to know who steals their funds and to see them prosecuted and serve sentences instead of going scot-free.
The IG revealed that it has been able to recover shillings 12.6 billion in the past 8 months from corrupt government departments and individuals. This, Agaba says, is very little compared to the amount of money the government loses to corruption annually and says the IG should not be proud of such baby steps.
Mr. Xavier Ejoyi, ActionAid Uganda country director aimed a dig at the country’s leaders, decrying the widening gap between income inequalities and the worrying lack of access to public services including the much sought-after education and health.
“The fact that access to public services remains a challenge, it is something we need to deal with seriously,” he said noting that the widespread corruption is directly affecting service delivery.
Ejoyi said his organization was increasingly getting concerned with deepening levels of poverty, noting that “it has serious implications on citizens’ access to public services.”
“We particularly take interest in structural barriers that limit or exclude women, young people, PWDS, and people who traditionally live in extreme poverty from public services,” he said also asking to urgently reflect on service delivery, “because we can’t afford to have a country where a section of the citizens are living on the fringes.”
Government figures in 2021 showed that the estimated cost of corruption in Uganda is 9.1 trillion shillings per year (2.5 billion dollars), which is equivalent to 44 percent of government revenue in 2019.
According to Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perception Index, Africa, the lowest scoring region got an average of 33/100 compared to Europe the highest scoring region with 66/100.
According to the High-Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa report published in 2021, Africa is estimated to be losing more than 50 billion dollars annually to illicit financial outflows.