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Defence related graft: EAC pays the heavy price of secrecy

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Transparency International’s Defence Anti-Corruption Index measured the level of corruption in the defence and military sectors of 82 countries from all over the world. Only two, Australia and Germany, received grade A. Photos/FILE

Transparency International’s Defence Anti-Corruption Index measured the level of corruption in the defence and military sectors of 82 countries from all over the world. Only two, Australia and Germany, received grade A. Photos/FILE  Nation Media Group

By Julius Barigaba Special Correspondent

Posted  Saturday, February 9   2013 at  20:40

In Summary

Summary of performance areas
Scores D - F also imply some or all of the following weaknesses that apply to much of sub-Saharan countries and closer to home, in the Eastern Africa region:

  • Little or no legislative scrutiny
  • Weak defence committees in parliament
  • No debate of defence policy
  • Low engagement with civil society
  • Budget scrutiny - no internal and external audits
  • Unknown or unclear sources of defence income
  • Organised crime gangs in armies/defence
  • No export controls
  • No asset disposal controls/scrutiny
  • High percentage of classified spending, secret programme auditing  and off-budget spending
  • Unauthorised private enterprises in defence deals
  • No reprimand measures for corrupt personnel
  • No whistleblower incentives
  • Questionable appointments and promotions
  • Ghost soldiers
  • Bribery for preferred posting
  • Inequality in training opportunities
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Secrecy in military issues in East Africa has cushioned the region from security loopholes that enemies could take advantage of.

But this secrecy, gaining prominence in the wake of the bloc’s rising defence and military spending, has left their economies bleeding, with millions of dollars being stolen in the procurement process.

Despite the World Bank’s attempts to enforce transparency in defence and military spending through its security sector reform strategies, it has emerged that corruption is still high the world over, and East Africa is part of it, a new report by Transparency International (TI) reveals. 

Uganda — considered the region’s powerhouse for its military exploits especially in Somalia — failed TI’s Defence Anti-Corruption Index, getting the second worst rating (an E) of all East African countries; with a D-, Tanzania, Rwanda and Ethiopia fared marginally better.

That Kenya with a D+ comes out as the region’s most transparent, tells of the appalling levels of corruption in the defence and military sector in Eastern Africa.

Last on the list

The consolation for Uganda is that Eritrea and the Democratic Republic of Congo were last of the 82 countries that were assessed. 

According to TI, countries like Uganda, Eritrea and DRC in the E-F band have little or no transparency in their anti-corruption mechanisms and controls. There is centralised control and little or no public scrutiny, which enables graft. 

In September last year, Uganda’s parliament tried to apply controls on spending when it wanted Ush15 billion ($5.69 million) slashed from the defence budget and given to the health budget. The argument then was that the health sector needed Ush39 billion ($14.8 million) to recruit health workers.

But President Yoweri Museveni said he would not sacrifice the defence budget for anything.

“Nobody can cut... we cannot agree to the cutting of defence. I cannot agree because defence is underfunded already,” President Museveni said.

He said there were “many other things” that the government is yet to accomplish in the defence sector, whose most recent deal was the purchase of six Sukhoi fighter jets worth $740 million from Russia in 2011.

The Independent news magazine reported that in addition to food, salaries and defence equipment that year, Uganda spent $1.02 billion, nearly twice as much as Kenya’s $735 million.

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