The latest Transparency International survey puts Uganda as the most corrupt of the five East African Community countries.
That is not a headline that would sell newspapers in Kampala. Sad because it means the general society have accepted corruption as a normal thing. But even more disturbing is that it’s not something that is restricted to a politically connected elite, but runs right through our society across all age groups, tribes and classes.
None of us is willing to throw the first stone because we know we are all not without sin. So corruption continues because society does not have the will to beat it back.
As we stagger through the fiftieth year of our existence us a nation, one cannot help but think we let down a generation of patriots who fought for a break from our colonial tethers to provide a better life for the native population.
It has been said that service provision was much better in colonial times than it was now and some years ago one neophyte politician based his campaign on a return to colonial times in order to see service improvements.
The premise of the campaign was flawed on several fronts. One of which of course is that at the time of independence the Ugandan population was small to begin with. But even within that small population services were concentrated on an even smaller group. So for example at independence there were less than thousand A-level students around the country.
One of the independence struggles biggest drawing cards was that these services would be more widely spread around the general population. Hence the rush by the first Obote government to dot the rural areas with schools and hospitals.
They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions, so it is that the roots of corruption can actually be found in this rapid expansion of services in post-independence Uganda.
With clear capacity deficiencies merit was thrown out of the window for fulfilling the political promise of African empowerment.
Idi Amin did not help matters with the no real human capacity improvements – in numbers or quality, recorded in his eight years at the helm of this country’s affairs.
The second Obote administration was not only saddled with an economy in terminal decline but also distracted by a draining civil war that forced improving human capacity down the list of the administration’s priorities.
The NRM then inherited this litany of woes. Growing from a low base the rapid economic growth papered over our capacity inadequacies, but not for long.
We are corrupt because we can be.
Despite the thousands of graduates from university and tertiary institutions we are nowhere near bridging our human resource deficiencies. For example we have one doctor for every 11,000 Ugandans, the World Health Organisation recommends at least one doctor for every 7,000. We graduate about 200 doctors a year, so assuming the population does not grow and we even churn twice as many doctors as we do now it would take ten years to bridge the gap.
This desperate situation is replicated in every other profession – engineering, teaching and accounting.
Sadly the resources needed to redress this state of affairs are being shoveled into the accounts of government bureaucrats and their henchmen in the private sector, perpetuating a vicious cycle that will prove hard to break.
That because we are a God fearing people – given the large numbers that patronize our churches and mosques, and therefore that we can appeal to our higher moral selves to clean up the system is a romantic notion at best. In fact some of our most “religious” have been shown to be the most rapacious thieves, believing because they are God’s anointed they are safe from reprove on earth.
The anti-corruption fight will have a real chance of success when we invest more in the institutions to fight crime – the police, Judiciary, Inspector General of Government, Auditor General’s office among others.
Given the current context you may very well recruit battalions of corrupt competent officials – or is it competent corrupt officials, but as long as you cannot man the relevant institutions adequately a corrupt free society will always be a pipe dream.