The recent goings-on in South Korea are wholly predictable.
Last year, Seoul city hosted the annual Rotary International convention and the many Ugandans that attended were quite shocked by the high ethical standards of the Koreans. There is a story that went around of some Ugandans who only realised that they had forgotten a mobile phone in a restaurant when a waiter came chasing after them after they had departed.
Recently, a Rotarian friend told me that he was surprised when a camera he had forgotten at a hotel arrived in the post. The hotel had used information he registered on the reservation forms to find him here in Kampala.
So, it is unsurprising that President Park Geun-hye was suspended from office and faces impeachment due to corruption-related charges particularly regarding her long-term friendship with Ms Choi Soon-sil, who is in court for several offences including abuse of authority, coercion and fraud!
And the South Korean parliamentarians have been as thorough as some of our own committees like the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase).
They invited Choi’s daughter to a parliamentary probe committee after it was alleged that she had illegally or unfairly gained entry into university using her friendship with Park.
Despite Park’s tearful apologies and admission of poor judgement, it is most likely that she will lose her position. The case is now in their Constitutional court. Clearly, the mass demonstrations protesting Park’s corruptive ways have had an effect.
Here in Kampala, a story of a looming scandal broke last week. A leak shows that many government officials from different departments and ministries shared a heist from oil monies that Uganda won in a London court case when an oil company was forced to pay taxes that had been avoided. Yes, a heist because the amounts paid out to the government officials are mind-boggling!
The first social media reports of the leak suggested that the money had been ‘stolen’! The lists seemed quite official but the allocations to individuals are staggering and there is no indication that tax was collected.
The furore both on social media and in the public led to more leaks, perhaps by government officials, to show that these were approved payments and, by end of week, URA published a government statement.
All this reminded me of Justice Lawrence Gidudu’s keynote speech at an event on December 9, 2016, the international Anti-Corruption day. One of the descriptions he offered was that “corruption is a complex, social, political and economic phenomenon that affects all countries. It undermines democratic institutions, slows economic development and creates instability in government.”
Gidudu agreed with the inspector general of government’s earlier statement that fighting corruption is hard and some of the corrupt are so powerful and well equipped to fight back. It is no longer just the individuals but we now have syndicated or system-facilitated crime.
Apparently, Rwanda has an excellent reputation in East Africa and on the continent regarding anti-corruption. Just the name of one of their laws spells out Rwanda’s battle lines; it is ‘The prevention, suppression and punishment of corruption Act, 2003’. No wonder they do not need an anti-corruption court in that country; matters are dealt with swiftly.
Gidudu pointed out that in Kenya the battle against corruption has been politicized, especially since the case of Anne Waigoro, a cabinet secretary who was censured for grand corruption. Powerful colleagues quickly moved to protect her and officials of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Agency were thrown out!
Now whereas the recent Shs 6bn URA payout may ultimately be legal, the beneficiaries will definitely struggle in the ‘public court’! Despite Gidudu’s assertion that Ugandans glorify the wealthy, including the corrupt, there is a lot to be annoyed about this time round.
Remember that 2016 is the year of the ‘dead’ cancer machine that cannot be immediately replaced due to lack of money! The Katosi road scandal still lingers on and the pension scam court case and convictions are still on our minds.
Also remember that these are highly-paid civil servants!
It is possible that we are changing and may be less tolerant of grand corruption in the near future. However, the personal, anti-corruption ethics of South Koreans or even Rwandans are still miles away from us.
The author is one of the founding Kigo Thinkers.