Corruption in Uganda: Does this Have Anything to Do with Social Work?
Corruption in Uganda: Does this Have Anything to Do with Social Work?
Charles Kiiza Wamara 0
Corruption in Uganda 0
Its History 0
0 School of Health and Social Care, University of Lincoln , Brayford Pool, Lincoln LN6 7TS , UK
This paper explores and discusses corruption in Uganda and explores the role of social work in addressing corruption. It notes that corruption is a form of social injustice and a major human rights violation. It deprives many citizens access to various essential services. The paper further notes that there is little or no social work interventions addressing corruption in the country. As such, it argues that this silence by social workers constitutes a negation of the profession's mandate and responsibility. The paper concludes by proposing various roles that social work may play to address this social ill. Uganda is bordered by South Sudan in the north, Kenya in the East, Democratic Republic of Congo in the west, and Tanzania and Rwanda in the south. It has a population of 34.6 million people with the total fertility rate of 5.8 children per woman, making it one of the countries with highest population growth rate in the world (Uganda Bureau of Statistics 2014). Whilst it is naturally endowed with natural resources including minerals, conducive climate and fertile soils, it is one of the poorest countries in the world. For example, its Human Development Index (HDI) stands at 0.483 with 19.7% of the population living in abject poverty (United
Corruption; Human rights; Social work; Uganda
Nations Development Programme [UNDP] 2015). Similarly,
the country lags behind in most of the vital non-monetary
areas such as access to electricity, education and improved
sanitation (World Bank 2016). Overwhelming evidence
further shows that 60% of the women experience gender- and
sex-based violence, but only 5.5% report this crime to police,
and 16 women die from childbirth every day (Department for
International Development [DFID], 2012).
The origin of Uganda’s high level corruption has been
attributed to the colonial period (Ruzindana 1997). Uganda
became a British Protectorate in 1894 and gained her
independence in 1962. During this time, Britain had special strategic
political, economic and social interests in Uganda. Politically,
it colonised this country to obstruct the French and Germans
from gaining access to the River Nile (Muhangi 2015).
Economically, it was colonised to acquire raw materials for
its mushrooming industries, obtain food supplies for her
increasing population, secure market for her mass-produced
goods and socially to secure a home for her surplus population
(Kabwegyere 1995). Subsequently, to protect these interests,
the British administration established state institutions such as
the army, police and courts to subjugate, coerce and oppress
indigenous communities to accept the British rule (Ruzindana
1997). These institutions served as legal conduits and
enforcement mechanisms for the colonial administrators’ interests.
Nyago (2012) further adds that these institutions became
authoritarian which intimidated indigenous communities from
questioning and holding colonial officials accountable for
their decisions. Therefore, British colonial administrators
never accounted for their actions let alone the cash crop, hut and
gun taxes they collected from the indigenous people but rather
accounted to their superiors in England. This opaque
governance system was even extended to the lowest administrative
units (villages) where local chiefs never accounted for the
taxes collected from the people (Nyago 2012). Additionally,
Low (1974) contends that colonial officials ceded power to
local chiefs, and they enjoyed a good deal of unsupervised
power. In the same way, local chiefs only accounted to
colonial administration but not to the indigenous communities.
Therefore, it would appear that the lack of accountability gave
way to deceitful governance systems that led to today’s high
Closely related, Ruzindana (1997) maintains that the British
administrators never developed institutions that would hold and
demand accountability from public service officers. This handed
the public service officers latitude to execute their duties without
being questioned by native communities. Recruitments of local
chiefs into the colonial administration was carried out in
exchange of collaboration/loyalty (to be recruited as a local chief
you would promise support to the colonial officials and act in
their interests). Uganda preserved the colonial governance
system even after its independence in 1962 (Muhangi 2015). To that
end, post-independence leaders inherited a system where state
institutions such as the army, police and courts were used to
protect the regime, suppress political competition, intimidate
citizens, violate people’s rights and facilitate resource plundering.
Svolik (2012) gives an example of President Obote in 1966 who
used the army to attack Kabaka Mutesa II, the then president and
eventually forced him into exile. To further consolidate his power
and acquire wealth for himself, Obote abrogated the 1962
constitution and replaced it with the 1967 constitution which
centralised power to himself (Muhangi 2015). Additionally,
concerned with consolidating himself onto power, in 1965, Obote
protected and defended Amin who had allegedly sold gold and
diamonds that he had received from the rebels who were fighting
the Zaire (Democratic Republic of Congo) government in
exchange of fire arms as motivation for preserving his regime
(State House of Uganda, undated). Like the colonialists who used
the army to establish its rule, in the same way, Obote by 1971 had
established his complete government with the assistance of the
army (Svolik 2012).
Citing structural challenges such as corruption and
discrimination within Obote’s government, Amin used the army to
overthrow Obote in a coup d’état. This exacerbated corruption in the
country as President Amin was more determined to stay in power
at all cost. He established himself as a dictator unquestionable and
unaccountable to anyone (Ruzindana 1997). Similarly, Byrnes
(1992) in his state study on Uganda avers that President Amin
was extremely corrupt throughout his eight years of rule.
According to the World Bank (1997) Amin supported
economically illogical projects, approved inflated military payments,
flagrantly allowed kickbacks on state contracts and gave away
Asian property to his loyalists and generals. To achieve his ill
intended mission, Amin abolished all oversight institutions in
the country including the parliament as well as suspending the
constitution and replaced it with the rule by decree which allowed
him a plunder public resources. He appointed governors mainly
from the army who were only accountable to him. In public
service, he appointed public servants not on merit but rather based
on loyalty and tribe. His government became authoritarian, there
was no citizen participation, transparency and accountability
(Muhangi 2015). As a result, accountability and management
institutions collapsed creating a fertile ground for corruption to
flourish. Yadav and Mukherjee (2016) further argue that Amin
was only concerned with the army, and for that matter, he
committed most of the public funds into the army at the expense of
health, education, agriculture and infrastructural development.
He appeared completely unbothered about corruption instead
he allowed his supporters to mismanage state funds (Ofcansky
1999). World Bank (1997) brands Amin’s regime as a system of
organised crime that extorted money from the public.
Consequently, his gross mismanagement of state resources
witnessed the collapse of the economy. Evidence indicates that
just like Amin, Obote remained unconcerned about addressing
corruption during his second reign (Ingham 1994). Yadav and
Mukherjee (2016) further add that he was more focused on
regime survival and on acquisition of personal wealth for himself
and his political allies.
By the time President Museveni took over in 1986,
corruption was regarded as one of the country’s major challenges
(Yadav and Mukherjee 2016). Given president Museveni’s
strong stand against corruption in the 1980 general elections, it
was highly expected that he would form Ba clean government^ that
would institute strong measures against corruption (Ruzindana
1997). This anticipation was further reaffirmed by point 7 of his
10-point programme which emphasised government’s
commitment to eliminate corruption and misuse of power (Ruzindana
1997). Despite this, the literature continues to reflect Museveni’s
government as being highly corrupt (Tangri and Mwenda 2001;
Amundsen 2006; Burnett 2013; Tangri and Mwenda 2013).
Identical to his predecessors, he has ignored constitutional limits
of his power and allowed police to deprive citizens of their basic
rights and liberties. The last two decades of his rule have
experienced an exponential increase in state orchestrated human rights
violations particularly corruption, illegal arrest and detention of
political opponents, police brutality, suppression of freedom of
assembly, expression and association. Arguably, these violations
emerge from the debate around presidential succession,
accountability of public resources and governance (Human Rights Watch
2014). Any attempt to challenge these human rights violations have
been dealt with maximum force by the police. More so, his
government boasts of one of the largest parliaments in the world with
375 members of parliament and a bloated cabinet of 78 ministers.
To consolidate his power, he uses parliament as a political tool to
strengthen his position onto power (Barigaba 2015). It is
dominated by his National Resistance Movement (NRM) political party
members who keep changing the constitution to strengthen his grip
on power (Izama and Wilkerson 2011). Most recently, media
reports have reported stories about Members of Parliament taking
bribes to change the constitution in his favour (Mugerwa 2010;
As Museveni celebrates his 31st anniversary in office, Uganda
is one of the most corrupt countries in the world (Transparency
International—TI, 2016). It ranks as the 151st out of 176
countries in the Corruption Perception Index. Furthermore, it has the
highest rate of requesting bribes in East Africa (TI 2012).
Uganda’s corruption is principally manifested through bribery,
extortion, illegal use of public assets for private gain,
overinvoicing and under-invoicing, payment of salaries and wages
to nonexistent workers (ghost workers), embezzlement of
national funds, devious court decisions, nepotism and patronage (The
Republic of Uganda 2003). To emphasise the enormity of
corruption in the country, Serunjogi (2013), Okello (2016) and
Serunjogi et al. (2016) profiled some high-profile corruption
scandals under Museveni’s government where large sums of
money have been stolen. They include: the Global Fund
Scandal of 2005 where over US$37 million meant to aid the
anti-HIV/AIDS efforts remained unaccounted for; the
embezzlement of US$5.774 million Commonwealth Heads of
Government Meeting (CHOGM) funds in 2007 meant for
organising CHOGM meeting; the misappropriation of
US$0.546 million earmarked for immunising children against
killer diseases in 2007 through fraudulent procurements; and
the embezzlement of US$12.7 million donor funds from the
Office of the Prime Minister in 2012 earmarked for the
rehabilitation of the war-torn areas of northern Uganda. Additionally,
New Vision (2012) documented more scandals which include
the 2010 national identity card scandal where US$5.244 million
earmarked to supply and install equipment for production of
national identity cards was misappropriated, the bicycle scandal
of 2011 where US$1.7 million allocated for the procurement of
70,000 bicycles for the village council leaders was stolen, the
microfinance scandal of 2011 involving US$16.56 million
earmarked for poverty reduction was misappropriated, the
Basajjabalaba compensation scandal of 2011 where US$46.8
million was erroneously paid as a compensation for the loss of
business in the city markets, the pension scandal of 2012 where
US$46.8 was diverted to nonexistent pensioners and the Prime
Minister’s office scandal of 2012 where US$1.385 million
earmarked for Peace Recovery Development Plan (PRDP) was
siphoned. Most recently, another US$ 1.7 million tax payers’
money was spent on well-salaried public servants without
following the normal financial and accounting regulations as a
presidential handshake for winning an arbitration case against
Heritage Oil and Gas and Tullow Oil over capital gains taxes
on the resale of oil blocks (The East African 2017). The
corruption scandals are many, and if they were export goods and
services, Uganda would have a clear comparative advantage.
Whilst corruption is seen as a severe and growing problem by
both Ugandans and the international community, the political
will to address it seems to be lacking (Amundsen 2006; Human
Rights Watch 2015). This has been reflected in the recent
government’s drastic actions against anti-corruption activists in the
country. For example, Burnett (2013) points out that those
anticorruption activists who provide public information about
government expenditure are obstructed from doing so. She further
highlights that in 2013, police arrested 28 members from the civil
society organizations (CSOs) who were distributing Black
Monday campaign materials. They were accused of inciting
violence, possession of prohibited publications and spreading
harmful propaganda against the government. The Black
Monday campaign is a CSOs movement that publishes and
distributes monthly newsletters that highlight the impact of
corruption on various sectors, such as education and health, and protests
the impunity within government (Human Rights Watch report
2013). The state repressive action against these CSOs coincides
with World Bank (1997) observation that high degree of state
interference in the fight against corruption contributes to the
country’s high level corruption. Equally, Odoy (2017) links
Uganda’s poor performance in the Corruption Perception Index
to lack of commitment on the side of the leaders to address this ill.
He states that
Bpolitician’s endless empty promises to tackle
corruption and never deliver has made the situation worse by
exciting the public with catchy phrases like Bzero
tolerance to corruption^ and the recent ‘kisanja akuna
muchezo’ (era of no compromise) and after turn around
against the people they promised^
His argument corresponds with Martin (2013) who argues
that whereas government has put in place some legal
framework and institutions aimed at curbing corruption, in
reality, they are largely symbolic. It has been further alluded
by Tangri and Mwenda (2013) that corruption in Uganda is
consciously and subconsciously sustained, because it
promotes loyalty of the state allies to the incumbent regime,
makes the incumbent leadership united and cohesive and used
as a mechanism for buying off political opponents. Similarly,
international writers have observed that the current
government enjoys and encourages corruption, because it aids
selfenrichment and power preservation (Amundsen 2006; Svolik
2012; Yadav and Mukherjee 2016). Hence, it is generally
believed that fighting corruption in Uganda is a perilous
venture, because it is allegedly endorsed by Bmafias^ who include
close relatives of top leaders, party stalwarts, police and army
top commanders who are above institutional control
mechanisms (Amundsen 2006; Kayihura 2016).
Corruption as a Violation of International Human
Undoubtedly, corruption remains a huge obstacle in the
attainment of economic, social, cultural and political human rights
(Viljoen 2012; Hemsley 2015; Peters 2016). This is because
corruption undermines the countries’ efforts to fulfil their human
rights obligations by compelling countries to maximally utilise
their available resources to attain the realisation of civil, political,
economic, social and cultural rights (International Council on
Human Rights Policy [ICHRP] ( 2009); Office of the High
Commissioner for Human Rights [OHCHR] (2013). Due to the
interdependence and indivisibility of human rights, corruption
violates all rights be social, economic, political, civil, cultural
and development rights (Murray and Spalding 2015; Hemsley
2015). In Ugandan context, corruption has constrained the full
realisation of human rights as enshrined in the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), International Covenant
on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and
International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
and United Nations Convention Against Transnational
Organised Crime (UNTOC) and the Trafficking in Persons and
Smuggling of Migrants Protocols. Most significantly, it has
caused and deepened poverty and inequality in the country
making it hard for some Ugandans to afford food, clothing and
housing which violates Article 25 of UDHR (Human Rights Watch
2013; Martin 2013). Equally, Faller (2015) alludes that Uganda’s
high level corruption is a big constraint to economic growth and
poverty alleviation. As a result, this has negated the country’s
ability to fulfil Article 2 of the ICESCR which requires ‘state
parties to the Covenant to undertake steps, individually and with
international assistance to progressively achieve the full
realization of all economic, social and cultural rights’ (ICHRP 2009;
Hemsley 2015). Arguably, had it not been for the high level
corruption, Uganda by now would be an upper middle-income
country, with her population able to enjoy full economic, social,
cultural and political rights. Moreover, anti-corruption activists
have maintained that the public resources that have been lost
through corruption, since independence would have built 15
more referral hospitals, constructed more 4 Power Dams and
supplied electricity to rural areas, reduced the cost of doing
business in the country and increased per capita income fourfold from
the current US$ 571.96 (Larok 2012). He further suggests that the
money lost through corruption could have added 3% to the
economic growth statistics currently at 6.0% which could unlock
opportunities for millions of unemployed youth.
Corruption in Uganda has considerably interfered with the
country’s obligation to fulfil the attainment of the right to
medical care and education services as outlined in Article 25
and 26 of UDHR and 12 and 13 of ICESCR, respectively.
Under the health services for instance, overwhelming
evidence shows that due to diversion of public resources,
hospitals in the country do not have adequate supplies, referral
hospitals suffer from inadequate facilities, old equipment,
and in most cases, patients are referred by doctors and nurses
to private clinics for drugs that would have been provided by
public hospitals (Burnett 2013; ActionAid Uganda 2014).
This explicitly affects the rights of Ugandans to attain standard
health services. Still, reports of stolen drugs continue to
dominate the media where drugs are stolen from public health
centres and taken into private clinics, and others have
reportedly been sold in Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya
by public officials (Bwambale 2009; Nisiima 2015). As earlier
on indicated, the health sector has witnessed scandals after
scandals which has left the health of Ugandans in a precarious
state. More so, corruption has negatively impacted the
attainment of quality education services. Teachers in public schools,
colleges and universities go for months without salaries which
affects their motivation to teach students to their expectations
(Education International 2012). Likewise, media reports have
reported cartels of head teachers, district education officers
and officials from the ministry of public service paying out
salaries to nonexistent teachers (Aber 2008; Wanambwa
2010). Certainly, this compromises schools’ ability to perform
as they receive less teachers against the required ceiling. For
the fact that, the education sector is marred by corruption
scandals, the country’s efforts to realise social and cultural
rights have been greatly dented. It is vexing to note that
corruption affects the rights to health and education of the poor
people more than the rich people (Schatz 2013). The rich and
corrupt take their children in good private clinics and schools
for quality health and education services, whilst the poor
people rely largely on public facilities that are overcrowded and
Whereas, every person has a right to social security,
Uganda’s formal social security which is majorly comprised
of Public Sector Pension Scheme and National Social Security
Fund is highly marred with high level corruption. For
example, under the Public Sector Pension Scheme meant for the
retired public civil servants, corruption has made it impossible
for the pensioners to receive their money. Recently, the
scheme has been hit by scandal after scandal. For instance,
in 2014, US$3 million pension money was diverted to the
accounts of nonexistent pensioners (Obore 2015). Two years
later, officials from the ministry of public service could not
account for US$7.24 million (Kyeyune 2016). As a result,
older persons who served the country diligently and are
supposed to be revered for their honest service are home rotting in
poverty. Worst still, the pension payment process takes ages,
and many have passed on without ever receiving their
payments. Besides, the National Social Security Fund meant for
those who worked for the private sector has neither been free
from this social ill. For example, in 2007, it was involved in
conflict of interest which resulted into the loss of US$3.2
million (Serunjogi 2013). It is also alleged that the war
veterans take ages without receiving their retirement benefits, and
many are languishing in poverty. This violates Article 22 of
UDHR and Article 9 of ICESCR which guarantee people a
right to social security.
Largely, corruption in Uganda has remained the biggest
obstacle to the realisation of civil and political rights outlined in the
ICCPR. Corruption in Uganda since independence has remained
a tool to preserve regimes in power which has undermined
democracy and the rule of law (Tangri and Mwenda 2013).
UNDP (1997) argues that corruption in Uganda has violated
human rights, perpetuated electoral malpractices and increased
lawlessness which has undermined Article 21 of UDHR.
Conspicuously, leaders are more concerned with ‘regime survival’
rather than serving people’s interests which has undermined public
trust in the government. Yadav and Mukherjee (2016) argue that
Ugandan leaders are more concerned with remaining in power and
amassing personal wealth rather than establishing democratic and
pro-people government. As averred by Rose-Ackerman (2004)
and Kaufmann and Dininio (2006), corruption is highly corrosive
to the state and Leads to unprecedented political consequences.
This is because it endangers political competition, transparency,
participation and accountability which are essential features for
the realisation of political rights stipulated in the UDHR and
ICCPR (Faller 2015). On this note therefore, corrupt leaders get
re-elected in office as voters are bribed with sugar, bars of soap and
money to vote for the incumbents. This does not only violate
Article 21 (3) of the UDHR but also compromises the quality of
leadership. Evidence has shown that since 1980, elections in the
country have been marred by voter bribery and buying off political
opponents (Faller 2015). With this unprecedented electro fraud,
voters can not sanction politicians for bad performance. It is for this
reason that sceptics have argued that because of political
corruption, elections in Uganda are for mere ceremonial legitimacy
intended to confuse the international community.
Likewise, corruption has exacerbated human trafficking in the
country (US Department of State 2016). The Department further
maintains that Uganda remains a source, transit and destination
country for human trafficking partly due to corruption which
violates the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
(UNCRC), the UNTOC and the Trafficking in Persons and
Smuggling of Migrants Protocols. Anecdotal information shows
that some police and border officials take bribes from the
perpetuators to facilitate and foster human trafficking. This
constitutes a big constraint for the country to fulfil its obligation
of addressing this problem. Despite the human rights violations
caused by corruption, Clague (2003) and Hodge et al. (2011) have
agreeably argued that corruption helps to overcome bureaucratic
rigidities that characterises service delivery. However, social work
being ethics centred profession, this argument makes less merit.
Human Rights and Social Work: The Nexus
A growing body of literature has confirmed that human rights are
closely related to social work profession (Ife 2001; Healy 2008).
They further maintain that social work profession aligns with
human rights framework in promoting self-worthiness, freedoms and
social justice. Conversely, Reichert (2006) asserts that human
rights principles present nothing new to social work profession.
She further adds that both social work profession and human rights
share similar values such as equality, respect, fairness and
independence which undoubtedly makes social work profession
a human rights profession. Besides, several international bodies
have associated social work’s core mandate with the promotion
and protection of human rights. For example, United Nations
Centre for Human Rights (1994) called on social workers to
advocate for the inherent dignity and worth of every person as well as
promoting respect for human rights. Similarly, the International
Federation of Social Workers ethical principles are in concomitant
with the human rights philosophies that include honouring the
‘intrinsic value of every person’ and use of ‘individual and
collective action to promote social justice’ in the form of ‘equitable social
structures that provide people security and development while
upholding their dignity’ (International Federation of Social Workers
[IFSW] 2012, p. 1).
Healy (2008) traces the historical development of social work
profession to ascertain the degree to which the profession has been
involved in addressing human rights issues. She concluded that
human rights were crucial within the social work profession. Her
conclusion coincides with the global definition of social work
approved by International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) and
the International Association of Schools of Social Work [IASSW],
(2014) which says that
BSocial work is a practice-based profession and an
academic discipline that promotes social change and
development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and
liberation of people. Principles of social justice, human
rights, collective responsibility and respect for
diversities are central to social work. Underpinned by theories
of social work, social sciences, humanities and
indigenous knowledge, social work engages people and
structures to address life challenges and enhance wellbeing^
This definition undoubtedly confirms that principles of
human rights and social justice are fundamental to social work.
Therefore, eliminating human rights violations such as
corruption is a justification for social work profession across
the world. This is further contained in the IFSW (2012)
professional obligations Bwhere social workers are called on to
eliminate domination, exploitation and deprivation of freedom and
liberties against any person or group^. Intuitively, social workers
should be seen promoting the right to people’s participation in all
aspects of decisions and actions affecting their lives.
Implications for Social Work Practice in Uganda
Unlike other professions such as law, medicine, education and
engineering, the social work profession in Uganda is relatively
new. This is because for many years, the social work functions
such as taking care of the orphans, older persons, the poor,
child protection and psychosocial support were under
familybased care systems (Kabadaki 1995 cited in Twikirize 2015).
The history of social work profession in Uganda can be traced
back towards the final years of the colonial period (1950s)
when it was introduced by the British colonial administration
largely to deal with urbanisation challenges (Ministry of
Planning and Community Development, 1965 cited in
Twikirize 2015). Furthermore, the introduction of probation
services, children protection and community development
services during the same period called for the employment of
professional social workers. To that end, the colonial
administration in 1952 established Nsamizi Training Institute for
Social Development to train social workers (Twikirize et al.
2013). Due to the growing demand for more qualified
professional social workers, the Department of Social Work and
Social Administration was opened at Makerere University in
1963 basically to offer pre-service and in-service training in
social welfare, community development and social
administration (Twikirize et al. 2013). In 1969, the same Department
started offering degree programmes in Social Work and Social
Administration. Currently, there are over 31 higher education
institutions offering a bachelor’s degree in social work which
has tremendously increased the number of social workers in
the country (Twikirize et al. 2013).
Despite this professional evolvement, social work in Uganda
has not positioned itself in the fight against corruption, and in
most cases, it is silent. Arguably, the numeric strength and
professional development should be an opportunity towards
building sustainable efforts in addressing corruption in the country.
This is a negation of the profession’s mandate and responsibility.
Fundamentally, social work profession should be seen
challenging societal barriers, promoting human rights and social justice.
Informed by anti-oppressive social work practice, social workers
should be cognizant of the fact that most of the human problems
in human living emanate from oppressive and inconsiderate
political systems that perpetuate social injustices that serve personal
interests and grip on power (Mmatli 2008; Chu et al. 2009; Reisch
and Jani 2012). The principles of human rights and social justice
are clearly regarded as fundamental to the practice of social work
(Chu et al. 2009). To that end, social workers should be at the
forefront of promoting human rights and social justice. Like in
other countries where this profession prevails, social workers
should be seen challenging societal barriers, inequalities and
injustices; promoting human rights; advocating changes in policies
and structural conditions that allow people to remain in
vulnerable positions (Fine and Teram 2013). The prevalence of high level
corruption in Uganda amidst social workers’ silence depicts that
social workers are either forgetting the key principles of the
profession or have identified themselves with the aggressor as
suggested by Preston-Shoot (1996) that
BIf social work in particular, and professional groups with
which it interacts, lose the ability or willingness to question,
they risk losing the empathy, values and practice skills
which seek to counter the inequalities, internalized
oppression, alienation and exclusion characteristic of
contemporary social life. They risk identifying with the aggressor
rather than using their position to promote an empowering
difference^ (p. 39).
Unlike the social work profession, other professions such
as the legal profession have been visibly active in the fight
against corruption. For example, the Uganda Law Society, an
association of lawyers charged with a responsibility of
ensuring high levels of professionalism, in 2016 petitioned
Parliament of Uganda over bribery in the judiciary and
unethical conduct (Parliament of the Republic of Uganda 2016). It
has also keenly participated in the analysis of the legislative
and policy framework for combating corruption in the
Regarding social workers’ silence over corruption, evidence
has shown that social work practice in Uganda is more
deeprooted in responding to social emergences such as poverty and
other vulnerabilities caused by hunger, floods, landslides and
wars (Twikirize et al. 2013). Additionally, social work practice
in this country is greatly influenced by its colonial past
dominated by casework and community development methods
(Kabadaki 1995). Paradoxically, these approaches cannot
address political and structural problems (Mullaly 2007; Mmatli
2008). Therefore, this poses a huge limitation for social work to
combat corruption. Considering the magnitude of corruption in
the country, social workers should be active agents challenging
the dominant political, financial and institutional powerful
forces and hold them accountable to values of greater social,
environmental and economic justice. They should strive to
transform individuals and communities and make them
mutually respectful co-creators of public life rather than passive objects
of decisions made by others. As suggested by Stanford (2011),
social workers should work outside the box and traditional
social work space and be relevant in addressing contemporary
social problems that are causing human suffering. Particularly,
social workers should facilitate good governance and fight for
social justice despite the risks involved. Writers have shown that
acting against corruption requires courage, since it involves
stepping on some people’s toes which yields into persecution,
isolation and distress (Banks 2004; Webb 2006).
Whilst the risks associated with the social workers’
involvement in the fight against corruption are well-documented
(Banks 2004; Webb 2006), social workers should take the risk,
since this profession is both a moral and political practice
(Specht and Courtney 1994; Chu et al. 2009). Moreover,
combating corruption and other forms of social injustice is both a
motivation and justification for social work profession (Chu
et al. 2009). Hence, social workers should be at the forefront
in fighting against this vice that has eaten the social resources
potentially available to Ugandan society. The role of social
work in the fight against corruption has been emphasised by
Fine and Teram (2013) and Chu et al. (2009). So, this
profession needs to depart from its traditional practices as (Weick
1987) claims that
BNo matter what its historical role has been, social work
does not have to support the existing paradigm. Because
of its uniquely preserved wisdom about the radical
potential of human beings to recreate themselves, social
work can take a leading role in articulating a new view^
Similarly, Twikirize et al. (2013: 3) highlights that
BSocial work in Uganda has an important role to play in
addressing contemporary social problems; and to
proactively engage in the development process alongside
Therefore, the social work profession is instrumental in
contributing to sustainable development issues like combating corruption
(Global Agenda 2012). However, there is a critical step that should
be taken to realise this goal. For example, fighting corruption in
Uganda requires mainstreaming anti-oppressive social work
practice in social work education. This will not only raise awareness on
its consequence but rather emphasise on the need for a corruption
free society. It has been argued that introducing anti-oppressive
social work practice will enable paradigm shift from traditional
social work to contemporary justice informed social work
(Mullaly 2007). It is further believed that exposing social work
students to anti-oppressive social work practice will build their
capacity to question corruption practices and hold those in power
accountable for their actions and inactions. Furthermore, social
workers should engage in public education and awareness
campaigns to stimulate citizen action against corruption (Healy 1999).
It is believed that education and awareness campaigns
meaningfully enhance people’s participation which is crucial in addressing
corruption (Schneider and Lester 2001). Additionally, social
workers should provide public information including distributing
access to public information laws and regulations to build people’s
confidence in holding their leaders accountable. This corresponds
to Christensen (2005) who states that promotion of the right to
public information laws enhances citizen participation in the
decision-making process. Relatedly, social workers in Uganda
should demystify the idea of people power. This will enhance civic
agency among ordinary Ugandans and deconstruct negative
attitudes such as apathy, disconnectedness, and hedonism.
Since social workers are torch bearers for the people whose
rights have been violated, they have a primary duty to engage
in advocacy as a tool to address corruption in the country.
Undoubtedly, social workers have the necessary knowledge,
values and ethics base that exceptionally equips them to take
on advocacy role in addressing corruption (Dominelli 2002a;
Payne 2006). Therefore, they should support and participate in
advocacy activities to challenge corruption practices (Brandon
and Brandon 2001). Better still, they should lobby government
to act against the corrupt officials. Besides, advocacy being
collective action-oriented, social workers should work with
the media in publishing press statements that call for
government action against the corrupt. Internationally, social workers’
use of media advocacy has proved to be effective tool in
addressing corruption. Successful stories have been documented
in countries such as Armenia, Colombia, India and Kuwait.
Furthermore, social workers should actively participate in
political engagement to curb down corruption (Gray et al. 2002).
They should particularly partake in political engagement to
promote public accountability which is a key ingredient towards the
attainment of a corrupt free society. Domanski (1998) believes that
political engagement is crucial in the realisation and fulfilment of
human rights and social justice. Social workers need to hold both
local and national engagement meetings involving oversight
bodies such as Inspectorate of Government, Parliament, district and
subcounty councils on matters of accountability and transparency
and come up with concrete action points on addressing corruption.
Most significantly, social workers should set a good example in
society by desisting from corruption practices, because it
compromises their integrity and their role in addressing this social ill. They
should also play a whistle blowing role among the already
established professional duties. Lastly, due to the several
skyrocketing incidences of corruption in the country, there is an
urgent need for social workers to adopt litigation campaigns
against the corrupt officials to recover the lost money.
Corruption as a violation of human rights has undesirably affected
service delivery in Uganda. It has worsened the vulnerability of the
disadvantaged groups such as the women, children, people with
disabilities and persons living with HIV/AIDS by interfering with
the quality of service provision. The social wellbeing of these
groups has been threatened by corruption, since they heavily
depend on social services such as health and education. This paper
urges social workers to actively engage in the fight against
corruption, since it violates social justice and human rights which this
helping profession stands for. Social workers should not shy away
from partaking in advocacy activities such as peaceful
demonstrations if they are to remain relevant. They should adopt public
education campaigns as a strategy to address structural challenges
in the country. This will help to stimulate citizen action against
impunity. Better still, social workers can combat corruption by
organising broad-based integrity meetings involving all
stakeholders, lobby and advocate for the citizens’ charters to give
communities an opportunity to participate and openly engage
government leaders on decision-making process. They need to build
alliances with the media to report and shame those involved in
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