Corruption is a very elusive word to define. For instance, all parents resort to bribing their children at some point. It's usually a last-ditch effort aimed at quieting a five-year-old who's whining loudly in the supermarket or at controlling a ten-year-old on the brink of a social disaster. The promise of a toy, or a few extra dollars can have dramatic, if temporary, effects on a child's behavior. Is telling a child who dislikes arithmetic that you will give him sweets for finishing his maths homework a bribe, since he should be doing it anyway? Is giving a flower to a lady during Valentine day or to a spouse at a time when you want a little peace and quiet a bribe?
Broadly defined as the abuse of public or private office for personal gain, corruption has become a major international concern. Surveys reveal widespread acceptance of bribery among European companies operating in the developing world. In many cases, these corruption allegations relate to companies or projects which have received tax-payer support through agencies such as the World Bank, the UK Export Credits Guarantees Department (ECGD) and the Department for International Development (DfID).
In seeking to "explain" corruption, most people tend to dwell on developing countries but ignore the industrialized ones. They concentrate on the bribe-takers but not the bribe givers. Indeed, if corruption is growing throughout the world, it is in large part fueled by policies and programmes that are being pushed by Western governments and which are further underwritten by poor governance and misdirected funds.
People are not born corrupt. Corruption is a resultant effect of warped public policy, poor governance, and excessive discretionary powers, lack of checks and balances in the government institutions and high levels of inefficiency. The aspect of predictable rule of law that applies to both enforcers and the governed must be seen to work to its logical conclusion. To tackle this disease, governments ought to address aspects of their public policy that encourage “mali ya umma” (public property) mentality because what belongs to everybody belongs to nobody, hence the misuse. They must introduce a system where citizens rely less on government solutions to problems they can and should solve on their own
It is through reforming institutions that the war on corruption can have a meaningful and long term solution. Government policies should incorporate the vetting of appointed public servants. They should give citizens the right to recall non-performing legislators and those found guilty of corrupt deals. Governments must ensure press freedom and freedom of expression as a strategic way to ensure information flow as a means of checking corruption. It is also important that citizens get informed about the law and their basic rights through school systems and other educational groups to ensure that no one pays for what should be their right to receive.
Africans must be given an opportunity to be productive and create wealth. It’s only through ceaseless labor and ceaseless application of man’s faculties to natural resources that one gains property. Corruption stems from a situation where man can live and satisfy his wants by seizing and consuming products of the labor of others. It therefore becomes urgent that the African people and the African governments make it more painful, expensive and dangerous for one to plunder the products of others, but more comfortable and rewarding for one to attain their highest goals in life through avoidance of corruption.
Kenyans and Africans by extension should read Sheria a 52-page book by Fredric Bastiat. Sheria or The Law (English version) addresses issues on proper governance and ways to tackle the menace of public plunder. On what he refers to as “legalized plunder” Bastiat says, “See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime”. Written several years after the 1789 French Revolution, this Kiswahili version is handy in providing ideas on how to tackle corruption and ensure economic self-reliance.
This edition of The African Executive examines subtle forms of corruption inherent in irresponsibility, babysitting, patronizing, alienation, dominance, compromise and many others from various viewpoints. Of course you will find interesting reports on agriculture, banking and country profile.
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