News / Africa

    Ugandan App Lets Citizens Blow Whistle on Local Corruption

    Gerald Businge demonstrates the Action for Transparency app, Kampala, July 2, 2014. (Hilary Heuler/VOA)
    Gerald Businge demonstrates the Action for Transparency app, Kampala, July 2, 2014. (Hilary Heuler/VOA)

    Until recently, spotting corruption in Uganda required intimate knowledge of a public institution’s finances. But now — in theory, at least — you need nothing more than an Internet connection.

    Ugandan anti-corruption groups are testing a phone app that citizens can use to check the amount of money the government spends on schools and health clinics, and report when the money is not used for the right things. 

    Called "Action for Transparency" (A4T), the app was developed by Ugandan civil society groups to show citizens how much money schools and health centers are allocated, and for what.

    When people see signs the money is not being spent for its intended purpose, all they need to do is click on an icon that says “whistle.”

    According to Gerald Businge of Uganda Media Development Foundation, which is responsible for managing the app, the technology attempts to drive home the local effects of corruption and get citizens involved, giving anyone in Uganda the opportunity to anonymously blow the whistle when funds go missing. 

    “If, for example, the money was for buying medicine, and the medicine is not available, and they know that actually the money came, then they can be able to report that at this health center there is no medicine," said Businge. "They can whistle-blow on any school, on any health center. And then one of our partners, Transparency International, is able to follow up on that report.”

    Having the eyes of the public upon them should stop many officials from stealing money, Businge adds, explaining that it will also help catch corruption earlier, making money easier to track.

    But corruption is not the only problem with Uganda’s public institutions, he says. Schools and health clinics are also embracing the project because it will show the public how poorly funded they really are.

    “Because there is so much rampant corruption, people think money is being stolen even when it is not being stolen," he said. "They think they will get a chance for people to know how much is allocated to them and how little actually it is.”

    Uganda is regularly rocked by corruption scandals at all levels of government, and Transparency International ranks the country as among the most corrupt in East Africa.

    For the moment Action for Transparency is only available for institutions in and around Kampala, but Businge says there are plans to eventually expand up-country.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Moris from: Uganda
    July 03, 2014 10:33 AM
    With several civil society organizations leveraging the use of ICT and most importantly by adapting them, we hope to see a transitional change since ICT's help in easing such

    by: Ddungu Musa Evand from: New Zealand
    July 02, 2014 5:28 PM
    The only way to stop Corruption is Leadership change. Dictator Museveni and all his entire corrupt regime must go in order to bring things back to normal
    In Response

    by: Gerald Businge from: Uganda
    July 03, 2014 9:53 AM
    True leadership change can rid the country of current corrupt leaders but it is easy for the new leaders to also get corrupt and we keep in that unfortunate cycle. The real weapon we believe is empowering the citizens to know how much is allocated for what in their localities (Action for Transparency is providing disaggregated data that is accessible anytime anywhere), providing them a secure way to whistle blow in case public funds are not being utilised properly and working with different players -authorities and activists to ensure those who steal or misuse public funds are brought to book. Even when the prosecution may be hard, the ability by members of the public to report anomalies based on data of funds allocated and the reality at the school or health center, and the public discussions on these reports will make it hard for officials to steal or misuse public money.

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