Monday, June 29, 2015

IS OUR SOCIETY IRREDEEMABLY CORRPT?

This was yet another week in which corruption dominated our headlines.

Uganda National Road Authority (UNRA)’s Allen Kagina took a slasher to the organisation’s hierarchy, sacking some, encouraging others not to seek contract renewal and causing soul searching in the authority, which had become the byword for the worst excesses of corruption in this country’s history.

UNRA’s woes came to a head last year, with the explosive revelations about the Mukono-Katosi road project, a plot gone wrong which nevertheless was crafted with such ingenuity, audacity and gluttony, it left the general public gasping for air.

So brilliant was the plan that getting to the bottom of the scam was not unlike chasing ghosts in panama hats and, while UNRA Officials may have been complicit, you get the feeling the real masterminds still walk among us....

Then there was the back-and-forth between Justice John Keitirima and Kampala lawyer Bob Kasango about the little matter of sh15.4b, that may or may not have been awarded irregularly or illegally, in a past court case and how the spoils of these monies should have been divvied up.

Apart from the details of this or that case the true cost of corruption is really not appreciated.
Governments which work in the service of their citizens work to generate economic activity, this activity is taxed and it’s with this money that government provides public goods – security and infrastructure and social services – education and health.

Ideally these government interventions are meant to create an enabling environment for more and more economic activity to be generated, but also to give a leg up to the least of our brothers so they can climb up the ladder of society to improve their general wellbeing.

However this neat progression can come unstuck if, the government of the day is woefully incompetent or is riddled with corruption.

It is obvious. Corruption concentrates resources in a few hands to the detriment of the majority.

The “gentleman” who helps himself to a few billions from the public coffers to buy his wife a four wheel drive vehicle, holiday in the Bahamas and live in the lap of luxury, denies thousands of patients lifesaving medicine, lowers farm gate prices as transporters traumatised by bad roads drive a hard bargain and means the quality of our basic education is compromised for lack of blackboards, benches or even a roof over the classroom.

"The outcome of this one gentleman’s avarice has a ripple effect through society and down history more than he could have appreciated when his grubby fingers signed off the money...

But beyond the physical consequences there is the moral degradation of the general society.

It shows itself first in the individuals who no longer even deny they have taken the money.

Their moral fibre is so tattered that we have heard them, in their defence argue, that there are bigger thieves and why are we going after them, that the money landed in the account by some divine providence or that they deserve it because of the sacrifice they have made to country.

And then their immediate families and society around them.

We celebrate when our relatives “eat big” -- appointed to a higher position. We gleefully jump into his brand new car, invite ourselves to his new mansion or are let out a large cheer in the bar when he covers our bills. Even if we have this niggling feeling in the back of our mind that the mathematics does not add up.

The long and short of it is that there is no social censure of corrupt behaviour in our country. Without social censure there really is no hope.


"Our feelings about corruption need to fall to the level of the disgust we feel when a 44 year old father defiles his five month daughter or the dismay we feel when a nine year old is crashed to death in boda boda accident or the shame we feel when grown women feel it necessary to strip in protest over the injustice that allows their land to be stolen from under their noses, that is when there will be hope...

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