The ongoing debate on the cost of Uganda’s current Budget, the cost of the legislature is mainly focused on the financial cost implications of having a large number of MPs. Yet, the biggest cost as a result of an oversize parliament is in the form of distortions in governance and public policy arising from political corruption.
This is not surprising because corruption in general and political corruption in particular is not amenable to quantitative measurements and clear cut definitions.
However, a qualitative description of what amounts to political corruption helps illustrate the point that the current structure and size of parliament has become a hotbed and breeding ground for political corruption in this Country.
Generally, political corruption can be defined with reference to both the main actors involved, namely, persons at the highest levels of the political system, and the purpose of the political behavior, mainly, to sustain the hold on power.
The definition that is most widely shared among political scientists is that political corruption is any transaction between private and public sector actors through which collective goods are illegitimately converted into private-regarding.
Payoffs. Inge Amundsen observes that political corruption is the manipulation of the political institutions and the rules of procedure, and therefore it influences the institutions of government and the political system, and frequently leads to institutional decay.
Political corruption, therefore, is more than a deviation from formal and written legal norms, from professional codes of ethics and court rulings. Political corruption includes a situation where laws and regulations are systematically abused by the rulers, side-stepped, ignored, or even tailored to fit their interests.
No matter what justification is given, the underlying intent of any politically corrupt act is the preservation of power or, generally regime survival. In the process, politicians use public money for power preservation and power extension purposes, usually taking the form of favoritism and patronage politics.
In the present case, a bloated legislature creates opportunities for favoritism and politically motivated distribution of financial and material inducements, benefits, advantages, and spoils. Techniques including money and material favors to build political loyalty and political support are made possible.
Power-holders can pay off rivals and opposition, and secure a parliamentary majority. By giving preferences to private companies, they can get party and campaign funds, and by paying off the governmental institutions of checks and control, they can stop investigations and audits and gain judicial impunity.
U4, and Anti-corruption Resource Centre, observe that incumbent politicians can use several techniques to maintain power, many of which are perfectly legal while others are illegal and directly corrupt. The corrupt use of political power may take the form of buying political support through favoritism, clientelism, co-optation, patronage politics, and buying votes.
This may be achieved through such means as; distribution of financial and material benefits (money, gifts and rents), and symbolic values like status and “inclusion”. The corrupt use of political power for power preservation and extension also includes the manipulation of various oversight and control institutions, thus creating various “impunity syndromes”.
Based on this description of political corruption, it is tenable to argue that many actions that Members of Parliament (MPs) have been involved in qualify as political corruption.
A few examples include; the passing of resolutions to increase the number of ministers in the absence of any compelling evidence that a large cabinet provides value for the taxpayer; the amendment of the constitution to remove presidential term limits to enable the incumbent president stay in power; support for presidential pledges far new districts to gain electoral advantage; and allocation of public funds to. Traditional and religious leaders in the absence of any established criteria for such expenditure.
The fact that 332 men and women who constitute Uganda’s Parliament are given the duty of guardianship of the constitution acquiesce in these politically corrupt practices illustrates the governance costs of a large parliament.
The writer, Byamugisha Ambrose Muhoozi is the C.E.O Ambrosoli Consult Uganda, as/d/ Dean of students affair and a lecturer at Kampala International University main campus.