‘Fighting Corruption Is A War For Every Ugandan’

Minister Milly Babalanda

By Milly Babalanda

Last Friday was World Anti-Corruption Day. Uganda joined the rest of the world to mark the day in recommitment to combating the vice that is the biggest hindrance to service delivery in public service, yet service delivery is the language and purpose of leadership and work. Having President Yoweri Museveni in person presiding over the occasion at Kololo Independence grounds sent a message that there is sufficient political and moral will to defeat the vice in this country.

Observing “Anti-Corruption Day” is not a ritual, as some say. It’s held in solidarity with all actors, local and international, who wish to see an end to graft in all its forms. As far as I am concerned, corruption in Uganda is a deviance and not a norm. The corrupt have themselves to blame because, as a country, led by NRM, we profess a “zero tolerance” to corruption policy.

Sanctions have been instituted to respond to offenders and these are increasingly being made stern and remedial in nature in that once a conviction is secured, the concerned have to return what they have appropriated for themselves irregularly.
We have seen action taken on the corrupt, including the so called “big fish” as long as there is ample evidence to pin them. I urge Ugandans to take fighting corruption as their war because it is them that are denied services by the corrupt.

They should share relevant information to the organs responsible for handling such cases including the IGG, State House Anti-Corruption Unit, CID; Iam aware that all of the security organs have a component of detecting corruption cases and forwarding them to the relevant bodies for prosecution of the culprits.

I am uncomfortable when I hear anybody talking of corruption without participating in reporting cases. Public lamentation only fuels political dissent without providing appropriate solutions.
Corruption is a big disease in the country which affects all our sectors. Without multisectoral convergence and total goodwill on the part of the public, the cancer will destroy us.

Lack of information by members of the public about government-funded programs and poor knowledge about their rights to access services has been identified as a major enabling factor to corruption. If we close information gaps, this will help us to fight graft because the public will be equipped with information to be employed as weapons against the corrupt public servants. Remember, information is power!

Fighting corruption is highly prioritized by the President. His condemnation of the vice is not rhetorical and he is a distinguished whistleblower to set an example for the rest. Let it be known that there is no “big fish” when it comes to corruption, or crime. Wrongdoing automatically makes anyone vulnerable and small once they are exposed.

That is why continuous sensitisation of the public on their right to access government services arms them with “ammunition” to take down the “big fish”. With sufficient information on services and projects under implementation and the timelines attached to them, it is easy to detect where there is a problem and hold those responsible accountable. This is part of “performance audit”, as proposed by the president at Kololo on Friday.

How that works is that all government workers have well set out performance targets which they must meet, failure of which it would be corruption in disservice. But it is most understandable when dealing with public (works) projects which are visible to a naked eye. If, say, a contractor is supposed to build a school with seven classrooms but he or she builds four and the rest disappear in thin air, or a bridge is built which is washed away floodwater just before or soon after completion, members of the community should be able to see this anomaly and report. Where do they report? They should have access to anti-corruption agency hotlines or the contacts of RDCs and call directly.

For them to do that, they should be aware of the specifications of the contract. Recently, I asked directed RDCs/RCCs to start sharing information on government programmes with the LC chairpersons in their jurisdictions. Looping in the LCs in the development agenda will empower them to mobilise their people to support government programmes by identifying challenges and poor service delivery and reporting upward in the hierarchy.

If the corrupt have established “fiefdoms” in upcountry stations where they feel untouchable, once information gets to the centre, they will realise that their power is imaginary. The Minister of State for Economic Monitoring, Hon. Peter Ogwang, has been on a groundbreaking monitoring exercise of government programmes in various districts. A lot of rot was uncovered and various district officials have been fished out to answer for glaring acts of corruption and negligence. If such vigilance is sustained, I believe that high and mid-level corruption will be stamped out. How can the “small fish” survive?

Civil servants should be reminded of the repercussions of wasting public resources. It is immoral and defeats the purpose for which they are employed.

Further to that, a special anti-corruption oath should be crafted and every public servant made to swear it while taking up office so that when they violate it, they will automatically forfeit the right to remain in service. It is also my view that prosecution of cases of the corrupt and those who, without reasonable justification, delay service delivery should not drag on endlessly because justice delayed is justice denied.
Therefore, the idea of celebrating anti-corruption day serves as a reminder of our collective and individual responsibilities in building a corrupt-free country.

The author is the Minister for the Presidency.

Tags : Milly Babalanda

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