Published by ACFIM on

Understanding Corruption and Captivity of State Institutions

Over the past two decades (2000-2019), Uganda has been ranked consistently by the Transparency International global corruption perception index (CPI) and like-minded international yardsticks, as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. This view is in harmony with the perceptions of a vast majority of Ugandan citizens who have more or less accepted corruption as a vice that is entrenched in the national social cloth. 

The study on Social Norms and Mental Models in Uganda conducted by the Basel Institute on Governance (2018) underlines the centrality of social networks in public life. It reveals that social networks expect members that have access to resources – whether by virtue of being more affluent or holding a public position – to ensure benefits are secured for and distributed to the network. 

Election campaigns are viewed by the Ugandan electorate as a window of opportunity to obtain money from political candidates. The ballot does not seem to be appreciated as a symbol of citizen sovereignty but as a commodity that can be traded for money. As a consequence, election campaigns are quite expensive hence driving elected leaders to engage in corruption not only to recoup on their campaign investment but also to satiate the persons/entities that bankrolled their elections. 

A report published by ACFIM on Commercialized electoral politics and captivity of state institutions argues that captivity of state institutions is a necessary concomitant of corruption in campaign financing and the endless financial demands imposed on a political leader by his/her constituents. 

Captivity of state/public institutions invariably involves political corruption where leaders use political office to peddle influence on processes of public contracting, grabbing of public land and other government assets, use of bribes (including various forms of reciprocation or ‘quid pro quo’ deals) to gain influence, votes, or access to the information or power of public office. Public projects get to be used by self-seeking incumbents and civil servants for political populism. 

When a state institution is in captivity, the “rules of the game” are reshaped and ultimately “new rules” are institutionalized through new policy, legislation, regulation, codes, and standards. These activities of political and predatory corruption hollow out the functioning of state institutions ultimately trapping them into captivity. Whereas corruption is more preoccupied with subverting the implementation of the laws and policies, the capture of state institutions is ornately concerned with seizing the decision-making processes where laws and policies are situated. 

Capture of state institutions in this regard is concerned with corrupt efforts influencing how these laws, rules, and regulations are developed and formed in a manner that protects their private interests. This is the very reason why elections provide a golden opportunity for cabals of so-called “godfathers” and “kingmakers” to sponsor political parties and candidates in parliament and local government councils with the ultimate intention of subverting the law-making process. For more information on corruption and state capture in Uganda click here.

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