The Role of Parliament in Curbing Corruption

By Rick Stapenhurst; Niall Johnston et al. | Go to book overview

Case Study on the Role of Parliament
and the Media in the Fight against Corruption

John Smith


Background

Uganda, a country of 24 million people and a gross national income (GNI) per capita of US$320, is one of the poorest countries in the world. When the National Resistance Movement (NRM) government took power in Uganda in 1986, it inherited a country traumatized by civil war and insecurity. The situation was made worse by high levels of lawlessness, corruption, and mismanagement. The civil service, once hailed as one of the best in Sub-Saharan Africa, had become oversized, inefficient, demoralized, and unresponsive.

The new government castigated past governments for plundering the nation, and it promised fundamental changes, with one of the key challenges being the fight against corruption. Government, with the assistance of various development partners, developed a strategy to combat corruption and ensure good governance. This included public service reform; creation of institutions to fight corruption; efforts to purge the police, judiciary, and other government bodies of corrupt elements; and privatization.

Anew constitution was promulgated in 1995, and an expanded and more representative Parliament was elected largely by universal suffrage. The new Parliament, exercising powers it had acquired under the constitution, took on a leading role in the fight against corruption.

In addition, with the favorable political and economic climate and the focus on transparency, a free and vibrant press emerged. For the first time, the media were able to challenge government and expose corruption in ways that enhanced public scrutiny and increased government accountability.

Perhaps the most significant corruption cases the Parliament handled involved two senior cabinet ministers, Brigadier Jim Katugugu Muhwezi, Minister of State for Primary Education, and Sam Kutesa, Minister of State for Finance in charge of Privatization. The pair were accused of defrauding the government of millions of dollars and of having taken kickbacks, peddled their influence, and evaded taxes. Media reports on the scandal sparked an outcry from the public, civil society, and parliamentarians. Within less than two years, the two ministers had been censured and forced to resign.

This case study examines the roles of the Parliament and the media, working together, in curbing corruption, and it lays particular emphasis on the cases of the

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