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Opinions of Saturday, 13 July 2013

Columnist: Dzitse, Prosper

The Issue Of Corruption And Its Effect

.... On Our Societal Development

The Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII) in its latest finding has indicted many institutions as being corrupt or as engaging in corrupt activities. I have also listened to many commentators trying to downplay the findings. It is very obvious that corruption is still eating very deep into every aspect of our society.

The fact of the matter is that, it is not that we do not know that corruption has been with us and is still with us, our fear however is the rate at which it is increasing rather than decreasing as a result of the various purported measures that are being put in place to minimize it.

If the politician who has been entrusted with the tax payers money is engaging in soo much corruption, if the police service that must arrest and prosecute corrupt officials, is the first on the corruption index, if the judiciary that must endeavour that people found culpable are tried and if possible imprisoned, and if the media that must help educate the general public on matters of corruption are deeply rooted in corruption, then we are heading for a disaster as a country. So ‘who watches over the watchman?’
Rather than fighting to defend their integrity as institutions, it will be good those institutions take the report seriously and work in purging theirselves of the canker. They must make not just rules and regulations but those that can be enforced to the latter so as to check the behavior of those in their institutions.
Corruption is any abuse of position of trust in order to gain an undue advantage. It is a phenomenon that involves the conduct of two sides, that of the person who abuses the position of trust as well as the one who seeks to gain an undue advantage by this abuse. It can occur in relation to public officials as well as between private persons. Corrupt practices can range from small favours in anticipation of a future advantage to the payment of large sums of money to senior members to public officials.

Sometime ago, corruption was synonymous to politicians so any time corruption is mentioned all eyes turn towards the direction of the politician out there. I am more than glad that gradually the chickens are coming home to roost, more discoveries are been made on many sides to the issue of corruption, and many are being educated on the subject matter.

Our perception about the above subject for the past 56 years has not done us any good, it has actually made us look at the issue in a very narrow manner rather than sort the appropriate remedy to it. It is high time we understand that the issue of corruption is deeply rooted in every aspect of our society, from the home to the school and to the work place. For instance, many a parent pay money to educational authorities in order to have their children enrolled in school, that is corruption.
It is very true that many students while in school pay their ways through in order to make good grades and classes. All these amounts to corruption. It is also worth noting that many people have tried to confuse the act of giving and receiving gifts with corrupt practices, while we all agree that in every civil society, there is the act of giving and receiving which is highly acknowledged by all, we must all know that gifts are not given or received in secrets but corrupt practices are done in secrets with the parties involved trying to protect their image. While corrupt practices are done with the intention of getting an unmerited advantage, gifts are not. While corrupt practices are done by abusing one’s entrusted position, gifts are not. We must draw a clear distinction between the two.

Corruption has caused us in a great measure. Many of our public resources are lost through this diabolic practice by our public officials. It is not a matter of surprise that our wage bill keeps on increasing while our level of production and effectiveness keep on declining. This is something that we must be worried about as a country, and this is something that we must resolve to fight. Many government employees leave their posts before the required time for closing and yet they take full salary. Many come very late or do not come at all, and no one is complaining, their superiors are doing the same thing so who should complain.
I was in one government institution not long ago to get something done. I was there a month before and was told everything was going to be ready in a month’s time, when the time was due, I was told the director travelled for a month so my document was not attended to. In that institution, the staffs come to work any time they like and close any time they like. Most of them abandoned their official duties, locked their offices to watch the Supreme Court proceedings in their T.V room at the expense of the public. All these are things that we must stand against if we want value for the money paid to our public officials.
We must begin to look at corruption on a broader skill if we indeed want to fight it, we must not just be pointing fingers at the politician, after all the politicians are not the only people that engage in this evil practice. In one way or the other of us have received unmerited favours from someone before, being it in public or private office. This is what we have to start looking at. We must have mental re-orientation about this phenomenon in order to make the needed impact as a country. Corruption is not a good thing as we all know, so it is high time we all make individual and societal commitment to fighting it. That is the only way to go.

Our country has suffered for so long and it is time to be up in arms against this canker. It is our collective responsibility that can make it work.
In order to fight this canker called corruption, we must have broader base approach to the issues and look at it on a broader skill than just sitting and pointing accusing fingers.

In order to fight this canker as a country and as a matter of urgency, I would like to suggest the following steps:

o Proper political reforms, including the financing of political parties and elections, so that we can all ask for the accountability from such political parties in relation to how they use their money and where they get additional funding from.
o Proper financial control measures such as, proper bookkeeping, budget, proper methods of reporting and record checking as well as auditing.
o Proper public supervision of institutions such as the media, parliament, ministries, MMDAs, schools, councils among others.
o Proper economic reforms, such as the regulation of markets and the financial sector.
o Free access to information and data. This is one of the reasons why I think the passage of the right to information bill has been unduly delayed and must be addressed as a matter of urgency.
o Proper maintenance of law and order so that those found culpable are dealt with drastically according to the law.
o Improving and strengthening of the judicial system.
o Institutional reforms are needed so as to have proper check of our tax systems, customs, and public administration in general.
o The encouragement of whistleblowers and civil society organizations such as NGOs.

It is very true that we cannot stop corruption completely and corruption as we all know will not disappear from society. Our efforts are meant to restrict it and to protect as much as possible the ‘poor’ and the ‘weak’ in our societies. In the end, all corruption costs are paid by the consumer and the tax-payer. They need to be protected.

Our perception about corruption must change completely if this will be made possible. We must know that it is less damaging in total amounts but it makes it difficult to understand why we fight the grand corruption if we fail to fight the small. As they say, ‘a little drop of water makes a mighty ocean’. Major corruption thrives on a broad base of small corruption-payments or bribes. Let us together agree with one voice that we are no more going to vote for incompetent politicians who will try to bribe their ways through, let us agree that we are no more going to give ‘gifts’ in secrets, let us agree that our country has suffered in the hands of many a people as a result of corruption, and let us agree that we are resolved now than before to fight this canker from our homes to the work place.

Prosper Dzitse,
President/CEO-Institute of Mentorship and Leadership Training