‘Corruption in Uganda is Highly Collaborative, not Made by Civil Servants’—Study

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Dr. Kaluya and Family on his graduation
Dr. Kaluya and Family on his graduation

Dr. Michael David Kaluya celebrated the completion of his doctoral studies from Northcentral University in Prescott, Arizona last August with research that may have greater implication on the campaign against the problem of corruption in Uganda. The photos show some exciting moments that highlighted his graduation ceremony...

By Michael Kaluya, Ph.D.

In Summary: Findings of a recent scientific study into the complex problem of corruption in Uganda have dispelled the pervasive and popular view that corruption, a malignant cancer eating up East Africa’s third largest economy was not an exclusive behavior “monopolized by public officials.” Rather, the findings of his ground-breaking study suggests that corruption is a social evil engendered by an unholy alliance between citizens desperate to access services and greedy public officials ravenous to exact a price on services they are obliged to freely provide.

Grand Prairie, Texas--A recent newspaper article in Uganda titled “Police, gov’t officials, judiciary most corrupt-survey” appeared to have emphasized a popular view that corruption in Uganda is exclusively originated, orchestrated, and practiced  by public officials working for public institutions. However, viewed from findings that emerged out of a more rigorous scientific study, nothing could be further from the truth. Thus, while the popular view that corruption in Uganda exclusively benefits public officials working for public institutions remains pervasive and to some extent authentic, it remains biased and does not address the nuances associated with corruption as a complex social problem. A recent ground-breaking dissertation research that applied a proven research framework, the Institutional Analysis and Development framework (IAD) determined that corruption in Uganda is highly dependent on collaboration by citizens and public officials. This finding reverses the previously simplistic but popular view and understanding of corruption as a uni-directional social scourge. The act of corruption, according to the study findings, is not only an abuse of public office by civil servants but also an act that benefits the community (the citizen and the public official who engage in the act of corruption are partners in crime and both stand accused!).

The research analyzed secondary data (3rd National Integrity Survey i.e., NIS III) obtained from the office of the IGG involving 12,000 citizens and 670 public officials, who revealed the highly collaborative nature of corruption in Uganda. The key findings of the research indicated that while citizens and public officials slightly differed in their perception of corruption and corruption forms, they both collaborated effectively to engage in corruption. While slight differences in the way citizens and public officials perceived corruption across public institutions were evident, fundamentally, the highly collaborative relationship between the citizens and public officials in acts of corruption in Uganda identified both as culpable.

According to the study, collaborative corruption in Uganda was highest in the following order: embezzlement, diversion of funds, extortion, bribery, favoritism, and fraud. When citizens’ and public officials’ demographic variables (age, gender, educational level, and location) were also analyzed, they all revealed that the differences between citizens’ and public officials’ perception of corruption were slightly different; but their mutual interactions implied that bribery, embezzlement, and diversion of funds were the basis for collaboration across the analyzed demographics. 

The research recommends that government needs to adopt technological interfaces to reduce work incentives for public officials and make the public sector less attractive, while promoting the private sector to generate employment opportunities; and subject potential candidates joining the public sector to rigorous vetting to prove suitability before recruiting them into public service. The study also makes practical recommendations including the elimination of some government incentives to some public officials in less security sensitive areas and rolling those incentives in compensation plans to reduce collaboration in corrupt practices.

Other recommendations by the study include reducing government crowding out to increase private sector investments and employment; making all public service job offers go through the inspectorate of government for clearance. The process for clearance needs to be tedious, lengthy, and a burden on the candidate to prove suitability; and limiting public servants to public service work to eliminate conflict of interest and to reduce collaborative corruption.

The study notes that in developing countries, corruption in public institutions exists in many forms and is responsible for the slow economic growth and development. While corruption is considered an important global social issue and is clearly apparent in least developing countries, its complexities are not clearly understood by policy makers, donors, and many anti-corruption agencies both in and outside Uganda. Because perceptions of corruption are real or imaginary, corrupt actions in Uganda occur through different but acceptable forms involving citizens who are motivated by their need for services and driven by greed among public officials. The forms of corruption; embezzlement, diversion of funds, extortion, bribery, favoritism, and fraud, therefore, should all be considered as vehicles for the highly collaborative nature of corruption in Uganda.

About the Author: Prof. Michael Kaluya, Ph.D. is a college professor of Economics, Business Management, Public Policy & Administration, and Political Science. He is also a senior public policy and business consultant in the USA.