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Opinions of Sunday, 30 November 2014

Columnist: Søgaard, Mathias

Negative consequences of corruption

Corruption is, when you have to bribe a police officer to make a report.

Corruption is, when you have to bribe a teacher to get a good grade.

Corruption is, when you think you had bought malaria medicine to your ill child, but the content turned out to be fake.

Corruption is, when you can bribe your way through the judicial system.

Corruption is, when you can bribe your way through the health care system.

Corruption is, when a contract is awarded to the one willing to provide the best kickback.

Corruption is, when you have to access a patron to get a job.

We are beginning to get into the core problem, patrimonialism. A patron redistributes his wealth to his (or her) clients. However, the clients also come to the patron when in need of help. E.g. if a person gets a high position, his friends will begin to knock his door for different things.

Dash me a phone, dash me a job, dash me a VISA, dash me money.

Dash me, dash me, and dash me.

The “dash me” has terrible repercussions. A politician is blamed for corruption if, he refuses to allocate money from the state coffers. If he does not do so, then he is targeted for eating alone. If he does allocate money to his friends and family, then he is blamed for corruption by stealing money from the state coffers.

The relationship between the patron and his clients means that corruption is kept alive by everyone. By politicians craving in to the demand by their clients continuing “dash me” demands. But also kept alive by the ordinary person, he is the one constantly coming to the doorstep of patrons uttering the words “dash me”.

People are the ones voting for politicians who notoriously have craved in. The politicians, who are willing to dress ostentatious, providing the biggest and most expensive gifts to wooing possible supports, are often the ones who are elected. Hence, everyone is responsible for the existence of corruption.

But why does it matter, if a teacher has to be bribed? That a successful CEO is met with the demand to give a position to a friend? Or those politicians allocate money to supporters and family members?

Let’s start with the student, who has to bribe the teacher to get a good grade. That invalidates the entire school system. A grade does no longer reflect what the student actually can or not. A poor grade could be giving to an excellent student, but the student failed in providing the necessary bribery to give to the teacher, so he or she was given a poor grade.

At the same time, an excellent grade may not reflect that the student is bright, it may only reflect, that this student was capable to pay the teacher, and in return he was awarded a satisfactory grade. Old female students are also met with demands of male teachers to provide sexual favours in order to receive a good grade, or just to pass.

Not only is this a horrible misuse of power, which should be condemned, it also increases the risk of STDs such as HIV and pregnancy that prevents the female to continue her education. It also means that a grade loses all meaning, since the trust of the system has been undermined, and ultimately it is lost.

A CEO has opened a business, and he needs qualified workers. He faces two main problems.

He finds it hard to find a qualified local, since a diploma can be forged, the grade, as we have just seen, has lost all credibility. If he does not have the necessary saving, he would neither be able to hire foreigners.

Not necessarily whites, but skilled labour from a country, where the educational system has protected its credibility. At the same time, he would have friends and family knocking his door begging for a job. The problems to crave in to nepotism are multiple. Unqualified staff would prevent your business to flourish, and may succumb to a business who did hire more skilled labour. Your friend may be skilled, but who did not hire him because of his qualifications, who hired your friend because he was a friend.

Suddenly, your company will suffer because you lack staff that actually knows how to perform their duties. That also prevents the company to grow and to hire more workers.

The politician allocating money to his friends, family and supporter would affect the national coffers extremely negatively. The money that should be used to pay teachers, doctors, anti-corruption bodies, to improve infrastructure, so the muddy roads you have been using that now have destroy your car could be paved.

The cholera epidemic currently present keeps erupting because there is not enough money left to improve the general sanitation. Corruption is not just about money misspent, it is a deadly practice that costs the lives of innocent every single day! The coffer remains chronically empty.

Instead the money is spent to make a politician appear like a powerful patron to attract voters, and to allocate money to friends and family.

Why? It works! A powerful patron is more likely to be elected and reelected. To mitigate the consequences in allocating money from the state coffers, patrons have to look for resources elsewhere…like IMF or willingly foreign countries. Another consequence is that a patron has to satisfy his cliental now! When a person says, “Dash me money”, he does not refer to a distant future, he means now! That forces a politician to find cash fast.

For the average person patrimonialism means, that the state cannot pay the wages for its public servants, so a police officer, a teacher, and a doctor are forced to demand a bribery to make ends meet. They also have children at home, a rent to be paid, and they also need food on the table. And the evil circle continues to be reproduced

We can then blame gays, foreign companies, and politicians. But in fact, we all have an interest in fighting corruption, and we are all partakers. We are all victims of corruption, and all producers of corruption. We should wage war on corruption, but we don’t do so by standing divided, by creating a scapegoat like blaming homosexuals will not change anything. Except that corruption can continue to flourish while we are busy beating each other up. Instead, we should stop to vote for people who live ostentatiously, stop to ask a patron to “dash me”.

Ghanaians, rich and poor, tall and small, virgins and players, men and women, straight and gays, Muslims and Christians, black and white, we should all join hands in demanding a no tolerance toward corruption. Creating a scapegoat will just prolong our endurance with corruption.

Mathias Søgaard

MA - African studies