Corruption, A Political Football?
Corruption as a social canker has both biblical and historical antecedents. Many scholars across the globe including theologians hold the view that the phenomenon of corruption has existed and perpetrated by humanity since the era of Adam and Eve.
The causes of corruption, especially in developing countries, are complex and stem from a combination of factors. Western structures interfering with different politico-economic traditions and practices of cultures, such as extended family system based on social sharing (Kingful, 2015). Miller (1999) argues that modern institutional and governance arrangements are an imposition from external agencies and globalization and create conflicts with local cultures and traditions resulting in corruption. Research however, shows that the driving forces behind corruption are greed and self-interest.
To minimize or eliminate corruption, then, people must be taught how to overcome entrenched motives such as greed and selfishness. Successive governments however, lack both the political will and the ability to implement this type of educational program in order to nib corruption in the bud. Inordinate societal expectation on people in higher positions does not also help matters as the rich in our society continue to enjoy unmerited praises and social recognition than the have not. As if that is not enough, the low salary/wages, the general impoverishment as well as the over dependence from families and friends is part of the problem that breeds corruption.
Described as a mass murder, social evil, dishonest act etc. by many anti-corruption advocates, the canker of corruption has contributed tremendously to the fall of several individuals, governing political parties and nations. In addition, it is one of the greatest weapons for many political actors against their political opponents. As an effective tool for social disaffection and disapproval, many political parties across the world have either lost or won elections depending on their philosophy and history on managing cases of corruption. Empirical evidence gathered over the years shows that corruption has devastating effects especially on developing countries since it is one of the main obstacles to sound social and economic development.
In Ghana many advocates of corruption are of the view that there is insufficient political will to fight the menace as seen in the failure of the executive and the judiciary to activate the Financial Administration Act of 2003, Act 654, and sect. 66 that stipulates the establishment of a Financial Administration Tribunal to deal with issues bordering on irregularities in financial administration in public institutions.
Today, corruption is conspicuously fast spreading like deadly cancer in every nook and cranny of our society and something drastically or urgently needs to be done immediately about it. In the continent of Africa for instance, the fight against the menace is highly complex and complicated since every other person appears to have related to the next neighbour in one way or the other. In my candid opinion, there are four levels of involvement in the act of corruption; namely involvement as a perpetrator, involvement as a beneficiary, involvement as a victim and involvement as a witness.
Involvement as perpetrators- these are highly skilled and powerful people who are active participants in the dirty business of corruption.
Involvement as beneficiaries- these are sycophantic elements who depend on the perpetrators for their livelihood. For instance, they could be family members, friends and other cronies.
Involvement as victims- these are the vulnerable in society who need the help and services of those in authority.
The last but not least, involvement as witnesses- these are passive observers who are usually found at public places such as offices, public transport systems etc. where the acts of corruption are normally perpetrated and executed with impunity. In our part of the world, it is normal to see the police extorting bribe from commercial drivers and other road users.
To add more insults to injury, many people who should have helped in the fight against the ills of corruption are often of the pessimistic opinion that any weapon formed against corruption is a wild goose chase since according to them, the menace of corruption has reached a momentum that cannot be reversed. As if that is also not enough, a multitude of our population is highly confused and deeply dumfounded as to what behaviours constitute corruption, making the situation looks like we are chasing an animal that we do not even know in the first place. What a hell!
So, what is corruption?
The Webster New Collegiate Dictionary defines corruption as” an inducement to wrong by bribery or other unlawful improper means and as an impairment of integrity, virtue or moral principle.”
According to the Transparency International,” corruption involves behaviour on the part of officials in the public sector, whether politicians or civil servant, in whom they improperly and unlawfully enrich themselves, or those close to them by the misuse of the public power entrusted to them.” Alatas (1990) opined that corruption has to do with the abuse of trust in the interest of private gain. It is therefore, an unethical form of influence employed by people to get things they want.
While corruption may exist in human set up, it appears that corruption in government is the worst. Government corruption may be defined as the abuse of public power for private gain. Corrupt public officials often appropriate goods, take advantage of services to which they are not entitled, or outright stealing of funds. As if that is not enough, they use their position to favour their friends and relatives in an unfair manner.
According to the 2013 Global Corruption Barometer, published by Transparency International, people worldwide have the perception that the five most corrupt institutions are political parties, the police, public officials, the legislature, and the judiciary. In 2013, some 22,000 public officials in South Africa were charged with misconduct for corrupt activities. In the year 2012, in Brazil, 25 people were convicted of using public funds to buy political support. Among those convicted was the former president’s chief of staff, the second most powerful man in the country. Also, in Seoul, South Korea, 502 people died in a department –store collapse in 1995. Investigators found that city officials had been bribed to allow contractors to use substandard concrete and violate safety rules. ‘’The extent of corruption in Europe is just breathtaking’’, according to European Commission Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom. She added that ‘’the political commitment to really root out corruption seems to be missing.’’
Government corruption has reached an astronomical proportion with deep roots. Professor Susan Rose-Ackerman, an expert on the subject of corruption, wrote that reform would require ‘’fundamental changes in the way government does business.’’ In Ghana today, many citizens are anxiously waiting for the arrival of the much talked about “Independent Prosecutor” as the last “Messiah” in our fight against the canker of corruption.
What forms of corruption are available? Elements of corruption include bribery, fraud, theft, extortion, nepotism, maladministration etc.
Bribery – Where an official accepts money or some other consideration to engage in a particular course of action or inaction.
According to Abochie (2002),’’ bribery is aimed at achieving two main goals namely:
1. To influence the trustee to bend the rules in favour of the giver.
2. To hasten the pace at which a legitimate official duty is performed in the interest of the giver’’.
Anin Commission (1975) defines bribery and corruption as the giving and receiving of a gift, or attempt to extort a gift or a valuable consideration whether in cash or kind with the objective of influencing a person in a position of trust to act in a way favourable to the interest of the giver.
The Anin Commission was categorically clear that if the people holding the position of trust himself or herself demands a gift from possible beneficiaries in order to favour them in the exercise of his or her duties or before performing his functions, the trustee is clearly corrupt. The difference here is that the bribe is not willingly given but extorted. The giving or receiving of such gifts or valuable consideration in cash or kind is wrong whether it is given before or after the trustee has exercised his or her duties improperly in favour of the giver.
Embezzlement – Where an official misappropriates public assets for personal use.
Fraud – Where an official makes false claim for benefits for which he or she is not entitled, or in order to avoid liability for, payment, such as tax or custom duty.
Conflict of interest – Where an official stands to profit incidentally from an official act. In our part of the world where everybody is related in one way or the other in our part of the world where everybody appears to be closely related to the other, conflict of interest has always been a political football with many politicians constantly being dragged to the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ).
Extortion – Where an official demands money or some other consideration to engage in a particular course of action. The police is usually the most perpetrators of this act.
Effects of corruption
Corruption does not only erode the moral fabrics of society but also violate the social and economic right of the poor. It subverts the rule of law and retards development. Last but not least, corruption denies societies and particularly, the poor the benefits of free and open competition.
What solutions are available?
Dr. Kwame Nkrumah once said, “Corruption is not a problem peculiar to any country, I personally feel that the only way we can stop corruption in any country is to build up a strong public opinion against it.” What is your take on that? Various attempts made by successive governments over the years have fallen on deaf ears.
For example, former president J.A Kufuor’s “zero tolerance for corruption’’ was not only a mirage but also, an exercise in futility as he later conceded helplessly by saying “corruption started right from the era of Adam and Eve. ‘’ At the end of the day, public officials are still citizens and we are all a product of society,’’ so stated the chief auditor of Nicaragua when explaining why he felt that government corruption was impossible to eliminate.
In my candid opinion, notwithstanding the obstacles, the fight against the evil of corruption is winnable in as much as it is fought devoid of ill-motives, blame games, partisanship, learnt helplessness, injustice etc.
Also, there should be proportionality in the sort of punishment meted out to offenders. For example, the situation whereby some offenders are jailed ten years for stealing a hen while their compatriots are only jailed two years for stealing a government bungalow or car should be avoided for the sake of justice and equity. After all, Martin Luther King, Jnr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. Furthermore, the practice of deviancy amplification whereby governmental and non-governmental organizations who willingly expose acts of corruption are deliberately branded as the most corrupt should be checked.
As a people, we cannot continue to window dress with our desire to eradicating corruption in our dear society .The fight against corruption must be genuine and all inclusive without being using as a witch-hunting clandestine weapon against only political opponent. No one person nor matter how powerful can fight corruption.
Moreover, corruption is a well co-ordinated activity that needs collaboration and co-operation to totally eliminate or minimize. We need genuine civil society groups in the fight against corruption but not politically tainted groups and individuals who will hide and do the bidding of their pay masters and only become deaf and dumb after accomplishing their selfish ambition.
In Ghana today, it is conspicuously clear that excessive partisanship has constantly been an obstacle to any genuine attempt by well-meaning individuals and groups to fighting against corruption. Accusation and counter accusation is not also an effective weapon to the fight against the menace. The only viable way to go is to hold individual offenders responsible for their unscrupulous actions or inactions.
Ironically, even in the best environment and with the finest education in morals, some people will still choose to be dishonest and corrupt. Experts admit this is why governments across the globe cannot completely eliminate the canker of corruption in society. The most that can be hoped for is that the scope and destructive effects of corruption can only be limited. The United Nations Convention Against Corruption states that to fight corruption, governments should build ‘’integrity, honesty and responsibility"
The time is now!!
David Banaaleh (Kingdave)
Founder/CEO, Generational Advocates for Psycho-solutions (GAPS)
Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."