Fighting corruption everyone’s responsibility

06 May, 2016 - 00:05 0 Views

The ManicaPost

Sparkleford Masiyambiri

PRESIDENT Mugabe is famously known for declaring zero tolerance on corruption. He vows zero tolerance on corruption in the public sector and all relevant arms of Government. He warned that his Zanu-PF Government is poised to crackdown on high-level graft bedevilling the nation.

In this vein, the public institutions that are set-up to fight this malaise gnawing our national integrity are sleeping on duty and the whip should crack on their backs to wake them up. Zimbabweans cannot afford to live another day in this corrupt ridden context.

President Mugabe has always bemoaned the fact that high-level corruption is costing the Government dearly in terms of funds and lost opportunities as programmes and public projects are never finished after rowdy officials squander funds and stifle the efforts. The law should descend heavily on those who embezzle and/or abuse public funds. They should be subjected to the full course of justice and the courts should hand down deterrent sentences as warning to all those that are involved in corruption to the detriment of national interests.

President Mugabe’s hard stance on corruption is in tandem with the ruling party’s policy. Both the party and Government should implement zero tolerance against corruption in all spheres of public and private life. President Mugabe confides that stringent measures to uproot corruption and to ensure accountability and service delivery from all arms of Government which includes ministries and parastatals should be put in place to regulate and monitor all operations closely for the good of the people of the Republic of Zimbabwe.

Relevant public institutions should play their duty to enable the success of this national vision. President Mugabe reflects an unwavering position that his Government will not tolerate corruption when he charges that: “No matter how powerful someone thinks he is or how many friends he thinks he has in Government, corruption allegations will be investigated and the truth found. And if those allegations are proved, then the person will no doubt go to jail.”

Corrupt elements deprive us of our national heritage, pride and future. A culture of hard work, sense of responsibility, transparency and accountability should extricate us from this predicament of stunted growth owing to unbridled plundering of national resources by a few individuals who are selfish. Fighting corruption is the most prudent aspect for any society to prosper.

The epidemic corruption bedevilling our nation needs practical action for us to rescue the declining economy. In the recent months we have read a lot of stories about corrupt activities in various sectors of the economy. Up to now the generality of the public is awaiting anxiously to find out the practical steps which will be employed to deflate and curtail these vices in our society.

What really is being done by the Zimbabwe Anti-corruption Unit to curb this scourge which is depriving Government of revenue? Isn’t it prudent for the nation to open toll free hotline numbers dedicated to receive leads on corruption? This would enable us all to participate actively in exposing these evils and empowering law enforcement authorities to apply suitable measures to assert justice.

The existence and prevalence of gross corruption in our society is so ugly and disheartening. Corruption is the illegal exploitation of legitimate authority endowed into someone, who in most cases is a professional. Any form of behaviour that abuses and therefore crosses the parameters of one’s power defined by his/her responsibility can be classified as corruption.

Recently the government of Uganda did what was previously unthinkable in that country by pouncing on corrupt public officials. First, police re-arrested the ring-leaders that were fingered in the scam in the Ministry of Public Service that saw the country losing close to 500 billion Shillings paid to ghost pensioners.

Secondly, it subjected the suspects to rigorous interrogations, which led to the recovery of 256 titles of properties they had accumulated. These properties had a value of over 800 billion Shillings.

Thirdly, it froze their bank accounts and placed caveats on their assets. Fourthly, the police was compelled to initiate the process of recovering the money by confiscating the properties and handing them to government for auctioning.

This is an eye opening case study of corruption that challenges Zimbabwe Anti-corruption Unit and Zimbabwe Republic Police to have a re-think over this perpetual problem that is gnawing the national fabrics daily to the detriment of national interest. It is inconceivable in Zimbabwe that we know that an equal sterling job of such a thorough going effort to combat official corruption can be initiated and let alone be sustained across a broad frontline with resoluteness over a prolonged period considering the level of impunity imbedded in our society, particularly amongst the elites.

It seems there is a lot of inertia, apathy, indifference, defeatism, false or even subversive compliance, and foot dragging on corruption in the Zimbabwean public sector as ZRP and ZAC declared defeat silently. However, in a way how can we hope that a poorly paid, poorly facilitated and poorly motivated police can take corruption head-on?

Under current state of affairs, most ZRP officers would find it better to take bribes from the law-breakers than helping the State to rein them in. Alongside there is the interference of politics in which entrenched corrupt interests will lobby the powerful for protection in spite of committing this heinous crime.

In the meantime, there is also little evidence that our local democratic process can fight corruption as effectively as the public mood would demand. This is because politicians, even when elected, possess interests different from those of their constituents who gave them power and that authority to rule.

In most corruption fights, politicians seek their personal benefit first, if someone can bribe them too and the public interest comes later or never at all. And when they do, as they often pretend in our parliament, it is to use corruption as a platform to score political points against the political opponent.

Serious and successful anti-corruption work needs to focus on people and systems that are oiling the machinery of corruption. In other words, one has to work to build attitudes, consciousness and knowledge amongst the different employees, while simultaneously making sure to establish transparent systems and routines that minimise the risk and possibility of corruption.

Prevention of corruption, among other things, may involve actively doing attitude-creating work amongst all citizens and their partner organisations, and the development and spreading of a grassroots course on anti-corruption amongst the ordinary people. There is need to develop good routines and checklists for a proper financial management in all public projects. These should be always up for discussion and verified during project visits.

The civil society should engage themselves forcefully to share experiences in the anti-corruption work as well as raise the expertise amongst public and private employees in terms of prevention, disclosure and handling cases of corruption through different courses and training.

At the moment corruption has reached unprecedented levels, and it is imperative to try various ways to reduce corruption. The following are suggested tools to reduce corruption.

The first tool is ‘education’. With the help of education we can reduce corruption by stimulating public awareness. Those who are uneducated do not know about the process, provisions and procedures through which they can get justice when confronted by corrupt officials.

Corrupt public servants try to fool ordinary citizens and often demand for bribes from them. It is due to unawareness in the field of law, public rights and procedures, thereof that a common uneducated person suffers from the corrupt society. This suggests that if we are educated, we can understand our rights well.

Secondly, we need to change the government processes that permit corrupt officials to flourish in the Government unperturbed. The reverse may be possible only when there is no more criminal politicians in our government. The provision is that if there is any case filed against a person then he would not be eligible for election. But if we see a hundred politicians then about sixty percent of them would be criminal in nature. If these criminal politicians command us and make laws, what types of laws would be formed? We can guess!

Thus during election, we should keep in mind the person for whom we shall not vote for. In other countries like India, there is a provision that no person with a criminal record shall be allowed to contest as a legislator. Unfortunately in our case, a fairly large number of them are occupying seats in the August House.

Thirdly, there is need to reduce corruption by increasing direct contact between Government and the governed. E-governance could help a lot towards this direction. Right to information should be used for transparency and ultimate accountability. The public have the constitutional legal rights to know any public information. Lack of effective corruption treatment, due to absence of effective legislation, is the prime reason why the country is submerged in this pool of incorrigible corrupt tendencies. That means, instruments which are in use, are not functioning properly.

Fourthly, lack of transparency and professional accountability is yet another big reason. We should be honest to ourselves. Until and unless we are honest, we can’t control corruption. If each of us is honest towards our profession then corruption will automatically decrease to minimal levels. We need to pay attention towards professional accountability, that is, how much we are faithful and truthful towards our profession. Corruption may be controlled by handling major professions such as those in medical, revenue collection, police and judiciary systems.

However, preventing corruption completely is a tall order. So steps can be taken to reduce it significantly. There are a few fundamental ideas that can be implemented that can, by their very nature, curb corruption. The three areas that need attention are the officer training, personal characters, and the incentives program that motivate ordinary citizens to report corruption, especially through toll free numbers. It is my theory that following all or some of these ideas would change the situation in Zimbabwe.

The other critical step is to hire police officers of good character, which is difficult for a number of reasons anyway. Officers are human. Giving a person the kind of power a policeman has can overwhelm one. It is predictable what can happen, as history illustrates so well. What is unpredictable with any kind of reliability is what will happen to a given individual. It is predictable that some officers will be corrupt. It is also predictable that a large majority will do the job they were hired to do, and do it honestly.

Stricter screening methods need to be implemented to decrease the chance that a potential hire will become corrupt. If he can successfully complete all the integrity obstacles, then it becomes more likely that he will be honest. Unfortunately, because policemen are human, no department has been successful in creating a test that will reliably predict officer conduct. However, the ZRP can reinforce ethical behaviour.

Once an officer is hired, the department should do all it can to promote ethics on the job. Officer safety is extremely important. If police are incapacitated by the need for corruption, who will be left to protect the citizenry in the future? Along with such indoctrination, ethical indoctrination is paramount.

Corruption in the force makes it easier for a citizen to rationalize acting unlawfully, which just creates more work for the police.

If a police officer, who is allegedly the pillar of the law, can defy it, why cannot the citizens who pay for the police services? The credibility of the police vanishes. A corrupt police officer cannot very well express effectively why citizens should obey the law, for he has no consistency and thus no credibility.

Hence, all Zimbabweans need to say NO to corruption for us to create a developmental state.

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