Uganda: Corruption frustrates achievement of MDGs

Ugandan anti-corruption sign.
(Photo :

The government of Uganda has continuously allocated resources to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), but its failures in fighting corruption slow down progress, says David Obot, researcher for the Development Network of Indigenous Voluntary Associations (DENIVA) and main author of the Ugandan civil society contribution to the Social Watch Report 2013. Uganda may reach three of the eight MDGs by 2015. The other goals would be missed, particularly those related to sectors where corruption is highly concentrated.

Uganda obtained funds to support national development programmes thanks to the steady economic growth that averaged 6.9 percent a year in the 1990s and 7.2 percent in the 2000s. The debt relief initiatives allowed the government to free more resources for these efforts. This East African country successfully addressed some challenges, such as poverty, hunger, gender gaps in education, access to safe drinking water, basic sanitation and treatment for HIV/AIDS, notes Obot.

On the other hand, statistics show slow progresses in the MDGs related to child, maternal and reproductive health, the fight against malaria and other major diseases, and the loss of environmental resources and biodiversity.

Corruption in Uganda has reached unprecedented dimensions, slicing a significant portion of the national budget and thus reducing the funds allocated to development plans. In 2005, the World Bank estimated the losses to corruption at USD 204 million, while the Global Integrity Report doubled the amount to some USD 400 million. The East African Bribery Index issued in August 2012 by Transparency International ranked Uganda first among the five countries of the region: 40.7% of the respondents said they had witnessed payoff incidents in the public sector.

Some cases have led to prosecution of high executive officials. However, the effectiveness of the fight against corruption has been minimal. The failures are attributed to poor investigation, work overload in the police force and in the judiciary, and lack of political will to take actions on “well connected personalities”.

The governments of Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom suspended their aid to Uganda in November 2012, when it was discovered that USD 25.7 million in donor funds, meant for the post-conflict recovery of Northern Uganda were transferred  to bank accounts belonging to employees of the Prime Minister’s Office. The European countries conditioned the resumption of aid to the full investigation of the case, the prosecution of the embezzlers, the recovery of the misappropriated money and the establishment of effective control systems.

To make things worse, pharmaceutical companies put the brake on the cooperation aimed to give Ugandan people access to essential drugs at an affordable price.

According to the Uganda Poverty Status Report (2012), the proportion of the population living below the poverty line fell from 56.4 to 24.5 percent between 1992 and 2009/2010. The country had surpassed the MDG target of 35.7 percent by 2005. The enrolment ratio in primary education increased between 2001 and 2010 from 87% to 96% of the children aged 6-12 years. Besides, there are more and more women engaged in active politics and representing citizens in the parliament and in the local councils.

The Uganda Demographic Household Survey reported that between 1995 to 2011 the under-five mortality rate decreased from 156 to 90 per 1,000 live births; the infant mortality rate decreased from 81 to 54 per 1,000 live births; the maternal mortality ratio decreased from 506 to 352 per 100,000 births; the proportion of births attended by skilled health personnel increased from 38% to 59%; and contraceptive prevalence rate increased from 15% to 30%.

Meanwhile, HIV prevalence increased from 6.5% to 7.1%. In 2010, the World Health Organization (WHO) global report on tuberculosis ranked Uganda 16th among the 22 high TB burden countries. Tuberculosis remains a major public health problem with an annual incidence of 330 cases out of 100,000 people and an estimate of 102,000 new infections per year.

Besides, the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) noted in 2010 that the environmental degradation had got worse, increasing the burden on the national economy as more resources must be allocated to stem outbreaks of diseases, to the treatment of drinking water, to resettle environmental refugees and to restore damaged ecosystems. NEMA also observed a decline in the percentage of the territory covered by forests, from 21.3 in 1990 to 18.3 in 2005.


Uganda Social Watch Report 2013