Published by Patra K on

Capture of state institutions and service delivery in Uganda

The State House Anti-Corruption Unit recently launched an investigation on officials in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) over procurement and supply of substandard relief items to Kasese District. This emanated the Prime Ministers’ rejection of an assortment of relief items meant for flood victims in Kasese District, saying they were low-grade.  

The Prime Minister had gone to Kasese district to assess the extent of damage caused by river Nyamwamba on the people and also oversee the handover of relief items to persons who had been displaced by floods. However, the quality and standard of the relief items left her appalled which prompted her to halt the distribution process and ordered another consignment of better quality relief items to be delivered to displaced persons in Kasese.

The items included 40,000kgs of maize flour; 20,000kgs of beans; 2,000kgs of sugar; 2,000 pieces of tarpaulin; 1,350 jerry cans; 1,000 basins; 100 cartons of laundry soap; 1,000 mosquito nets; 100 blankets and 100 mats. In her own words, she cautioned that “Kasese District is not a dumping ground; I have rejected the blankets and mosquito nets because they are substandard. The supplier must bring good ones; these are the things that paint a bad image of our government,” This and many other cases are a clear example of how highly compromised state institutions meant to check government performance have become. 

When asked about his thoughts on corruption with the above as a case study, General Gregory Mugisha Muntu, said that the predominant culture of this regime is the presence of leaders who use their leadership authority/positions to advance their personal interests against the agenda of the country they are meant to serve which makes the corruption fight even more challenging. This was during a virtual discussion from the most recent episode of “ACFIM Talks” hosted by ACFIM Uganda.

In his remarks, he stated that the regime in power survives on using two main tools, namely “use of state security apparatus” and the “use of money to hold onto power”. He further affirmed that the longer the regime clings onto power, the more expensive it becomes in terms of having to compromise all kinds of interest groups, especially during the election period. “It goes without saying that the people involved in grand corruption cases end up becoming the source of this money (money used for election campaigns) besides the money that is channeled from the National Budget” he added. Therefore, with this in mind, he concluded that it would be a conflict of interest for those who want to hang onto power at any cost to seize their sources in the name of fighting corruption.

In addition, General Muntu said that there is a dominant culture engraved within the governance system of the country that makes it difficult to fight corruption where institutions are not independent of the state. This indicates that the institutions concerned with checking government performance have been captured by powerful individuals that seem to work behind the scenes to cripple the functionality of these institutions. 

“In context, Captivity of State institutions refers to a situation where the decision-makers in the institution find themselves in a controlled environment. A situation where the decisions on management and strategic issues as well as the direction of the institutions are not taken in the boardroom but from somewhere else. A situation where the institution is run by parallel lines of authority, one formal and the other informal, with the latter commanding more authority than the former” (ACFIM, research report: Commercialised Politics and Captivity of State institutions in Uganda; Chapter 4.0: Extent of Captivity of institutions in Uganda; pg. 34.)

In her submission, Cissy Kagaba, the Executive Director of Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda (ACCU) agreed that there seems to be an invisible hand that influences the decisions of some state institutions that needs to be identified. She adds that there is a need for government to start naming and shaming companies and suppliers that provide substandard work and supplies. She believes that some of these contractors have a link to these government departments thus the need to lift the veil and identify the true individuals behind such grand corruption. 

In addition, Cissy highlighted that despite government efforts to establish structures, institutions, and systems to combat corruption, not much is done about some of the corruption cases that are unearthed and exposed by the Auditor General’s Report. “Uganda has laws and institutions in place but even when concerned institutions make recommendations on cases of corruption, these are taken on selectively depending on whom they are supposed to touch or influence” she added. 

She further quoted a study by Global Financial Integrity in 2018 that revealed Uganda loses billions of dollars annually from illegal financial flows, including tax evasion, crime, and corruption. The study further revealed that Uganda’s Financial Intelligence Authority – set up to track illicit money claims that it lacks resources to stem the flow.

For corruption to be fought in Uganda there needs to be willingness and commitment towards the cause which should be evident in the manner within which the government institutions concerned with checking government performance such as the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) and Inspector General of Government (IGG) are funded and facilitated to fulfill their mandate. In addition, for these institutions to be given authority and backup to incriminate those involved in cases of grand corruption and there being no reprisals. 

In summary, is Uganda fighting a faceless monster of corruption? Can this invisible hand that seems to influence institutions from the background be unveiled and uprooted? What can be done to salvage the already glaring manifestations of this vice? Or, Should Ugandans look on as services are continuously compromised by the acts of the few selfish and money-hungry individuals?

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