By Adellah Agaba
Published: 9th December 2015
Corruption is the behaviour on the part of officials in the public sector, whether politicians or civil servants, in which they improperly and unlawfully enrich themselves, or those close to them, by the misuse of the public power entrusted to them. This would include embezzlement of funds, theft of corporate or public property as well as corrupt practices such as bribery, extortion or influence peddling. The political pronouncements notwithstanding, corruption continues to present one of the biggest impediments to development in Uganda.
Key Government Officials during the Anti-Corruption Week launch: Inspector General of Government Mrs. Irene Mulyagonja, 3rd Deputy Prime Minister Hon. Kirunda Kivejinja and Auditor General Mr. John Muwanga.
Corruption in Uganda is said to be systemic and institutionalized. It is further observed that corruption and poor accountability is evident at all levels of governance. This is evident in instances like flouting of public procurement regulations; exercising undue influence in recruitment and promotions; bribery; misuse of funds; buying votes; forging academic papers, among others. Corruption has continued to flourish in every sector of society and the public is becoming immune to this evil to an extent of tolerating it while, oftentimes, the corrupt are admired. This has greatly contributed to the breakdown of the ethical values system of the society. It is not for the lack of strategies, laws or institutions that corruption has thrived; it is rather the lack of political will and commitment to the full implementation of the laws and policies.
UDN Staff during the launch of the Anti-Corruption Week in Kampala.
The participation of civil society in the fight against corruption remains relevant and CSOs have begun to organize themselves into inclusive and all-embracing nation-wide campaigns aimed at boosting their energies in the fight against corruption. The role of Parliament as the overall oversight institution of the State - in establishing ethics and integrity in public office and as the front-runner in demanding for accountability, open and transparent governance and in its ability to check excessive power of the State while representing the interests of the electorate - cannot be underestimated.
It is our duty to fight corruption together.
Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development is seeking parliament approval to amend the Public Finance Management Act, 2015 (PFMA), which has shuttered hopes on promoting prudent public finance management in Uganda. The Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Matia Kasaija, on 30th September 2015 tabled in Parliament amendments to the Public Finance Management Act, 2015 among others seeking to give Government the leeway to access funds from the Central Bank without prior approval of Parliament.
Uganda Debt Network (UDN) together with other civil society actors under the umbrella of Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG) made a call to Parliament to reject amendments to the Public Finance Management Act, 2015 during a press conference held by the Civil Society actors in Kampala. Whereas it would be justified to amend any law, the amendments contained in the Minister’s submission should be vetoed. The PFMA, 2015 as it is, is strong on checks and balances, legislative oversight as well as gender and equity. The proposed amendments are now contrary to keeping prudent Finance Management principles in Uganda.
Civil Society Concerns
Some of the Amendments Government is proposing for such as:
Section 9 of the Public Finance Management Act, Government is proposing to substitute the word “Accounting Officer” with “Sector‟ and “vote‟ with “sector‟. The major concern is that by choosing to replace Accounting Officer‟ with “Sector”, it becomes difficult for the public to hold public officers accountable. We believe there is it’s impossible to holding a ministry accountable instead of its permanent secretary or minister. Such an amendment protects accounting officers from being held accountable for misusing public resources.
Section 13,(15)(g): By having the Certificate of Gender and Equity in the public finance law, Uganda had been rated at about 78 in terms of integrating gender in planning and budgeting. However with this proposed amendment to repeal the Certificate of Gender and Equity, the country is likely to lose this rating considering Uganda was the first country in the world to have gender clause in Public Finance Management laws. Certificate for Gender and Equity responsiveness is very critical if the country is to attain gender responsive and sustainable development. The current section in the law was a compromise position and such government needs time to test this process.
Section 17 of the Principal Act if amended proposes that if a vote does not to utilize money of a given financial year shall by the end of the 31st July of the following financial year, authorization may be sought from the Permanent Secretary/Secretary to the Treasury to retain that money by up to 31st October of the financial year. This amendment undermines the power of Parliament and may encourage misuse of public funds.
Section 36 proposes that Government can acquire any loan that does not extend beyond a financial year without Parliament approval. This move undermines the role of Parliament to approve all loans as provided for in constitution of Uganda. In the amendment for Section 22 of the PFMA, we are against the proposal to widen the scope of a virement to be more than 10% of the vote is a gross deviation and may perpetuate financial indiscipline.
Section 82 seeks to give Bank of Uganda power to make temporary advances to government and local governments in respect to temporally shortages of the recurrent revenue, without approval of parliament. This proposal undermines the role of Parliament to approve all loans but allows Bank of Uganda to print money for fiscal use which is an undesirable PFM move.
The Open BudgetSurvey has been conducted five times in the last decade, with previous rounds completed in 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2012. Between 2012 and 2015, the average OBI score for the 100 countries for which comparable data is available increased from 43 to 46. This result masks considerable variation in progress across the countries surveyed with the largest improvements in budget transparency between 2012 and 2015 made by countries that were among the least transparent. Uganda was commended for its high score in budget transparency at national level. With a score of 62% in the Open Budget Survey 2015, Uganda is placed among the 19 countries (out of 102 countries surveyed) that provide substantial information to its citizens.
Left to Right: UDN’s Mr. Julius Kapwepwe, Mr. Patrick Tumwebaze ,The Secre-tary to the Treasury (MoFPED) Mr Keith Muhakanizi , launch OBSurvey,2015 results for Uganda at MoFPED offices, September, 2015.
Drawing on internationally accepted criteria developed by multilateral organizations, the Open Budget Survey uses 109 indicators to measure budget transparency. These indicators are used to assess whether the central government makes eight key budget documents available to the public in a timely manner and whether the data contained in these documents are comprehensive and useful. Each country is given a score out of 100 which determines its ranking on the Open Budget Index – the world’s only independent and comparative measure of budget transparency.
OPEN BUDGET SURVEY 2015
UDN’s Imelda Namagga (second left) poses with the IBP’s Executive Director, Waren Krafchick and Claire Schoulten at the OBI headquarters in London during the Open Budget Survey launch, September 2015.