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Key findings
  • More than two-thirds (69%) of Ugandans say the level of corruption in the country increased during the 12 months preceding the survey, including 51% who say it increased “a lot.” The proportion of citizens who perceive corruption as one of the most important problems facing the country is growing slowly but steadily.
  • About one in three Ugandans (29%) say that “most” or “all” officials in the Office of the Presidency are corrupt, an improvement from 39% in 2008. Perceptions of corruption in the judiciary increased, but police continue to fare worst in public perceptions of corruption among state officials.
  • Citizen assessments of the government’s performance in fighting corruption improved slightly, but still only 26% describe those efforts as “fairly” or “very” good.
  • Less than half of Ugandans (47%) agree that ordinary citizens can make a difference in the fight against corruption. Optimism is higher among men, younger citizens, more educated citizens, and frequent consumers of news.
  • Among Ugandans who tried to obtain certain government services in the year preceding the survey, almost four in 10 (38%) say they paid a bribe to get the services they needed. Only 6% of those who paid bribes reported these incidents to the authorities.

Uganda’s widespread corruption is highlighted in the country’s poor ranking (139th out of 167 countries) in the Corruption Perceptions Index as well as in the recent Africa edition of the Global Corruption Barometer (Transparency International, 2015a, b). Pernicious effects stretch from substandard public services through elections and the judiciary to stunted economic development. In 2012, four in 10 respondents (41%) in an Afrobarometer survey reported that they had been offered money or a gift in return for their votes during the 2011 elections. In petitioning Parliament last year to appoint a commission of inquiry, retired Supreme Court Judge Justice George Kanyeihamba said, “There is evidence of inefficiency, incompetence, and corruption in the judiciary and unethical conduct by members of the bar” (Parliament of Uganda, 2015). The Black Monday Movement, a coalition of anti-corruption civil society organisations, estimates that between 2000 and 2014, the government lost more than Shs. 24 trillion to corruption – enough to finance the country’s 2015/2016 budget (ActionAid Uganda, 2015).

The government’s strategies to fight corruption include the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS), the Anti-Corruption Act, and the establishment of a specialized anti-corruption court within the judiciary. Internationally, Uganda has been a signatory of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) as well as the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption since 2004.

Many civil society organisations have joined the anti-corruption fight, including the Anti-Corruption Coalition, Transparency International Uganda, the African Parliamentarians Network against Corruption, Civil Society Today, the Uganda Debt Network, and the NGO Forum (Martini, 2013).

These efforts may be reflected in modest improvements in the public’s perceptions of corruption in the Office of the Presidency and of the government’s performance in fighting corruption, according to Afrobarometer’s 2015 survey in Uganda. Nonetheless, more than two-thirds of Ugandans say that corruption increased during the past year. Perhaps most importantly, less than half of Ugandans believe that ordinary citizens can make a difference in the fight against corruption.

John Kewaza

John Martin Kewaza is a researcher for Hatchile Consult in Uganda.<br />