On Friday was the International Anti- Corruption Day. One has to wonder about the timing of certain revelations of high corruption in recent weeks and the commemoration of the day last week.
According to the Inspector General of (IGG) Raphael Baku his offce is not only getting more reports to investigate but is piling up a commendable win –loss ratio against the “forces of darkness” . This year 109 arrests have been made, 45 cases concluded and 28 convictions obtained, a far cry from the 2009 record of 12 arrests, seven cases concluded and two convictions obtained.
The spike in activity has something to do with the passing of two new pieces of
legislation – Whistle Blowers Act and Anti-Corruption Act, 2009.
The Whistle Blowers act allows members of the public to report incidents of corruption, provides for their protection and a percentage of the illicit funds in question. It has its problems but is a critical step in the fight against corruption. More about that later.
Despite these gains against the vice the public perception is that, on the contrary corruption is galloping out of control and the cases we seeing being brought to court are the low hanging fruit on the tree. That there is selective prosecution with the biggest perpetrators getting away.
That maybe true but the nature of the crime lends itself to this kind of scenario.
Unlike murder or even outright theft, in corruption cases, bribery for instance both parties are guilty of a crime, witnesses are hard to come by and paper trails can be obscured. The aggrieved party is a faceless government or a far removed public neither of whom maybe aware a crime had been committed or an unable to do anything about it for legal or bureaucratic reasons.
Like a borehole pump which takes time to get going as the airlock is worked out I would like to believe that once momentum has kicked in corruption will be worked out of our system with time. The cynics argue that corruption is too well entrenched to be worked out and believe the normal judicial processes are incapable of making a dent in the cancer.
I on the other hand think that the fight against corruption will find its greatest ally in the business community – the supposed beneficiaries of this ill.
This is the reality facing the Ugandan businessman; He either grows, merges with international players or get swept away by new regional and international competitors. It’s happening already.
Formalising business processes will give owners a better picture of their business, allow them to maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses, allow generational transitions and in a globalised world make them more attractive to potential partners or buyers.
To ensure longevity businesses will have to document their process and adhere to the law – including pay taxes due. In this ever evolving scenario the space for corruption will narrow. In addition foreign players who are already steeped in best practice will insist on the same for their local partners, not to do so may be worth billions in lost revenues.
On the flip side, what may end up happening is that squeezed out of the business sector, our businessmen will go to work for government and perpetuate corruption there. The corrupt elements will then attempt to take government hostage failing that will seek to disrupt events, so that chaos can thrive and they can resurrect themselves.
This is the ever present challenge of governments. It is the corrupt cliques that have the greatest incentive to frustrate the private sector from being a credible counter to government, because a strong private sector can call government to order.
For our subsistence businessmen, with no ambitions beyond big 4X4 cars and a harem of little brown girls, and for our governments with less than a short term view of the their countries destiny, corruption may serve current purposes but it is not sustainable.
Unsustainable because governments need more and more revenues to service growing populations, which revenues come from the private sector, and businesses need to grow as a survival strategy.
Corruption is everywhere the challenge is to relegate it to the fringes of our daily lives, current evidence suggests we maybe on our way.