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Sunday, 29 November 2009

Uganda: 'Corruption Worse in Country'

Tabu Butagira

Courts have trouble convicting corrupt bureaucrats because colleagues help destroy incriminating evidence in a "scratch my back, I will scratch yours" syndicate, a minister has said.

Ethics Minister James Buturo's remarks, likely to infuriate government officials, came hours after Transparency International said in a new report released yesterday that graft is getting worse here.

The 2009 Corruption Perception Index (CPI), a measure of citizens' opinion of public sector corruption, shows Uganda slipping from position 126 last year to 130 out of 180 countries surveyed worldwide.

"This is a powerful reminder to Ugandans that we have a common enemy - corruption...government, civil society organisations and citizens are not pulling their weight together to end the vice," Dr Buturo said.

Dishonest public servants, the minister said, are not caught partly because detectives investigating them scupper state efforts by falling for the allure of bribe-taking.

Anti-corruption activists welcomed the findings that place the neighbouring Rwanda, at ranking 89, as the least corrupt of the five East African countries fast-tracking both an economic union and political federation.

The progress of Rwanda, tied with Tanzania in position 102 last year, to present position 89 - while Tanzania backslid to number 126 - could offer a lesson to other EAC partner states on how to get it right on corruption fight.

The region's economic giant, Kenya, moved marginally from position 147 to 146 while Denmark, New Zealand and Sweden took the top slots.

Mr Raphael Baku, the Inspector General of Government, said the 2009 CPI "may or may not" be factual since the surveys capture only what "people think". "It could be that there is a lot of talking and writing about corruption in Uganda," he said, "When you beat the drum loud, everyone hears."

On a scale of 0-10, a lower digit reflecting higher corruption prevalence, TI reported that the vast majority of the 180 countries fell below the mid-mark.

The report speaks of entrenched wrongs: foreign investors offering bribes to fix business deals in developing countries and public employees falsifying accountability, undermining economic recovery from last year's financial meltdown.

The national coordinator of Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda, Mr Jasper Tumuhimbise, agreed with the report authors that those countries with fractured institutions such as Parliament and the Judiciary lose more public resources through official complicity.

Mr Tumuhimbise said: "We lost the anti-corruption fight when our leaders put in place institutions and laws without the accompanying political will."

Burundi is at number 168, a dozen places from the worst-rated country - Somalia.

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