Extortions and Embezzlement on the Rise

Published on 30th November -0001

The reporting of extortions and embezzlement of public funds in Uganda is still very low the 2004 National Service Delivery Survey (NSDS) report reveals.

Though 27 per cent of the respondents knew how to report extortions and embezzlement of public funds only 1 percent have ever reported. "This implies that a lot of extortions and embezzlement may be going on unnoticed. This may adversely affect service delivery in the programme priority areas leading to public dissatisfaction with the government services," the report warns.

"It is frustrating that many people do not know how to report extortions and embezzlement of public funds," the secretary, Inspector General of Government, Mr. Martin Olobo said. "There is reasonable tolerance of corruption in our society. We should condemn this. Unless we pick the courage to report these vices we shall not win the war on extortions and embezzlement because those who fear to report this have serious implications on our services."

One in every three Ugandans bribes the central government police indicating that the police is still the most corrupt government body. The highest incidence of corruption in Uganda occurs at the police stations; the report released in April 2005 reveals. According to the survey, 33 per cent of the respondents that made payments to the police revealed that they had actually paid bribes before receiving the services. This was regardless of whether it was official or non-official, Mr. Ben Paul Mungyereza, principal statistician coordination unit, Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) reported during the launch of the report in Kampala.

The survey reveals that of all institutions that asked for bribes, police stations recorded the highest. It added that 26 percent of the households bribed the local administration police, 16 percent magistrate court, 11 percent District Land Tribunal and less than 3 percent customary courts. "As you draw nearer the community the incidence of bribery reduces because you intend to know who will take the bribe unlike a police constable at the police station that you do not know and who probably comes from a different community," Mungyereza observed.

These were some of the key findings of the survey conducted in all the 56 districts by UBOS in collaboration with the ministry of public service. The survey covered six sectors namely: health, education, agriculture, governance, road infrastructure, water and sanitation. The overall objective of the survey was to provide information for policy formulation, implementation and monitoring for all levels of governance. A representative sample of 18,000 households was randomly selected from all the 56 districts but only 17,608 households were covered.

The most common nature of cases were complaints which were mostly registered at the District Land Tribunal. Generally, most households were satisfied with the services. The report says that time taken to resolve the case varied with the type and level of institution. While local government institutions took a short time of less than a month in majority of cases, some cases presented in the High Court and Land Tribunal took more than 12 months. Olobo observed that since the courts took long to dispense cases, the public opted for bribery so as to quicken the process. "The courts need to set up bench marks in which they are to dispense cases," he said.

The report indicates that most respondents were more than 10 kilometers away from the high court. Other institutions located far from the households included the district land tribunal, the magistrate court and the prisons. The Local Councils are within reach as most are located at a distance not exceeding 5 kilometers.

Monitoring the performance of the governance sector needs to be handled a bit differently from the other sectors since it focuses mainly on qualitative issues of service delivery that are better assessed using qualitative methods. The sector standards focus more on the qualitative aspects of service delivery and therefore no specific quantitative targets or standards were available for comparative analysis of the survey data, which was mainly quantitative. The lack of targets notwithstanding, "the survey revealed an improvement in service delivery of the administrative and legal institutions, especially the LC system. Central Police has continued to exhibit the negative practices of bribery, extortions and corruption."

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