CORRUPTION has been defined as the worst poison that abuses public power for private gain.
Of course, corruption involves more than just accepting bribes. Poisonous public officials sometimes appropriate goods, take advantage of services to which they are not entitled, or even steal funds outrightly.
They may also use their position to favour their friends and relatives unfairly.
While corruption can exist in an organisation, it is worse when it is found in government.
The 2013 Global Corruption Barometer, published by Transparency International, reported that people worldwide have the perception that the five most corrupt institutions are political parties, the police, public officials, the legislature, and the judiciary.
At its peak, the Roman Empire was the greatest human administration the world had ever seen. Roman legislation was so effective that it is still the basis of the legal code of many countries. Despite Romeâ€™s achievements, however, her legions were unable to conquer one insidious enemy: the poison of corruption and it hastened Romeâ€™s downfall.
Corruption has become so widespread and sophisticated that it threatens to undermine the very fabric of society. In some countries almost nothing gets done unless a palm is greased. A bribe to the right person will enable one to pass an examination, get a driverâ€™s licence, land a contract, or win a lawsuit. â€œCorruption is like a heavy pollution that weighs on peopleâ€™s spirits,â€ laments Arnaud Montebourg, a Paris lawyer.
Bribery runs especially rampant in the world of commerce. Some companies allocate a third of all their profits just to pay off corrupt government bureaucrats.
Inevitably, the ones who suffer most from corruption and the economic devastation it spawns are the poorâ€”the ones who are rarely in a position to bribe anyone. As The Economist succinctly put it, â€œcorruption is but one form of oppression.â€ Can this type of oppression be overcome, or is corruption inescapable? To answer that question, we must first identify some of the fundamental causes of corruption.
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF CORRUPTION?
Why do people choose to be corrupt rather than honest? For some, being corrupt may be the easiest wayâ€”or indeed the only wayâ€”to get what they want. At times, a bribe may provide a convenient means of avoiding punishment. Many who observe that politicians, policemen, and judges seem to ignore corruption or even practice it themselves merely follow their example.
As corruption snowballs, it becomes more acceptable until it is finally a way of life. People with pitifully low wages come to feel that they have no option. They have to demand bribes if they want to make a decent living. And when those who take bribes or offer them to gain an unfair advantage go unpunished, few are prepared to swim against the tide.
Two powerful forces keep stoking the fires of corruption: selfishness and greed. Because of selfishness, corrupt people turn a blind eye to the suffering that their corrupt acts inflict on others, and they justify bribery simply because they benefit from it. The more material benefits they amass, the greedier those practitioners of corruption become. Granted, greed may be good for making money, but it invariably winks at corruption and illegality.
Another factor that should not be overlooked is the role Satan plays. (1 John 5:19; Revelation 12:9). Satan actively promotes corruption. The biggest bribe on record was the one Satan offered to Christ. â€˜I will give you all the kingdoms of the world if you fall down and do an act of worship to me.â€™â€”Matthew 4:8, 9.
Jesus, however, was incorruptible, and he taught his followers to behave in a similar way.
HOW TO CURB CORRUPTION
The obvious first step in curbing this deadly snake is to recognise that corruption is destructive and wrong, since it benefits the unscrupulous to the detriment of others. Some progress has undoubtedly been made in that direction. On December 17, 1997, 34 major countries signed a â€œbribery conventionâ€ that is designed to â€œhave a major impact on the global fight against corruption.â€ The convention â€œmakes it a crime to offer, promise or give a bribe to a foreign public official in order to obtain or retain international business deals.â€
Eliminating corruption across the board requires a second, much more difficult step: a change of heart or, rather, a change of many hearts. People everywhere must learn to hate bribery and corruption. Only then will graft disappear. To this end, Newsweek magazine said that some feel that governments should â€œencourage a general sense of civic virtueâ€. Transparency International, an anti-corruption lobbying group, likewise recommends that its supporters â€œinject a â€˜seed of integrityâ€™â€ into the workplace.
The fight against corruption is a moral one that cannot be won by legislation alone or by â€œthe swordâ€ of legal penalties. (Romans 13:4, 5) Seeds of virtue and integrity have to be sown in peopleâ€™s hearts because, ifÂ left unchecked, greed and corruption can ruin the earth, just as they contributed to the ruin of the Roman Empire.
The author is a Zambia Daily Mail staffer based in Choma.