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KELVIN Siwale.

Notable achievements of integrity committee programme

THE Integrity Committee (IC) programme for Zambia is arguably one of the best ways to mainstream corruption prevention into the day-to-day systems of both public and private institutions. It is important to note that on one hand, the programme has worked well in institutions where due attention is being accorded to it, while on the other hand, it has been an academic exercise in institutions that have no time and due regard for it.
Having already tackled what the IC programme is, today we shall sample some intuitions that have faired very well in the IC programmes and highlight some of the major achievements.
Until an organisation or a country acknowledges that corruption is a huge challenge, they will not give it due attention. It is unfortunate that it may be too late by the time this is realised. The economic development may have drowned into some selfish individuals’ deep pockets. Therefore, before an organisation can think of establishing an IC, the first thing will be to identify corruption as a serious risk.
Establishing ICs should not be treated like it is just fashion because everybody is doing it.
You also jump on the bandwagon. It will not work because it’s just a smoke screen to you. Only those institutions with a collective resolve to rid their institutions of corruption will achieve meaningful results in the IC programme.
That said, let’s look at the following selected institutions which have made notable achievements: Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA), Ministry of Lands, and National Registration, Citizenship and Passports Office.
If we trace back in history, you will realise that ZRA and Ministry of Lands were among those institutions that were labelled ‘corrupt’. The two institutions have over the years rebranded and redeemed their reputations. ZRA and Ministry of Lands were among the eight pioneer institutions in the establishment of ICs in 2006.
The ZRA-IC and Ministry of Lands IC have, over the years, worked hard to mainstream anti-corruption right in the fibre of their day-to-day business and their labour is now bearing fruits. Go to ZRA or Ministry of Lands today, you will find well-organised customer service centres, where clients interface with officers in a transparent manner. Not every simple issue ends up behind closed office doors as this would create room for officers to solicit or clients to offer bribes.
Service charters have been developed for all to see. Before you ask, you already know how long a particular service is likely to take to be delivered and how much is involved. Further, the two institutions have been sensitising both members of staff and the public on the existence of the IC and its roles. Another important factor is the existence of the institutional or tailored codes of ethics, which has set a standard of behaviour for all employees.
According to the 2017 Zambia Bribe Payers Index, it is gratifying to note that ZRA‘s bribery index or chance of officers soliciting for a bribe from clients has steadily dropped from 12 percent in 2009 to 5.6 percent in 2017. In the case of Ministry of Lands, the 2017 Zambia Bribe Payers Index reveals that the bribery index has steadily dropped from 20 percent in 2009 to an impressive 4.7 percent in 2017.
This institution established its IC in 2008, two years after the aforementioned two. The National Governance Baseline Survey Report 2004 shows that the frequency of bribes for one to access the services of Passports and National Registration offices as reported by households put together stood at 35 percent.
In the past, clients processing a passport would take longer than necessary and it was believed that to get a passport or national registration card faster, you had to know or pay someone an extra ‘fee’.
The so-called agents came in and they would help the client make a submission and solicit for extra payments to have somebody’s passport processed quickly. How were they doing it to skip the queue? Only heaven knows.
However, the introduction of the IC, among other interventions, has changed the picture. The work processes have been improved to enhance efficiency, the charter is clearly outlined, and fees are stated.
The duration within which a passport is expected to be done is also clearly stated. Further, the trained members of the IC, in conjunction with the ACC, have been sensitising staff on matters of corruption, ethics, transparency and accountability.
As a result of anti-corruption interventions put in place at National Registration, Citizenship and Passports Office, the duration within which a client collects their passport has significantly reduced. Consequently, if a customer satisfaction survey was to be conducted today, the institution would perform well. Going by the 2017 Zambia Bribe Payers Index, the chances of a client paying a bribe at Passports Office stood at 14 percent in 2009 but now it stands at 3.6 percent, while at National Registration Office in 2009, it stood at 22 percent, but now it stands at 4.7 percent. This is commendable progress and should be sustained. Kudos to management for believing in change and mainstreaming anti-corruption in their day-to-day business. More needs to be done though.
Lastly, the management of the IC programmes should be sustained and well-funded by Government so that no institution gives an excuse for failure to perform. Institutions should incorporate a strategic objective on the integrity committee, in their strategic plans, so that it is mandatory to provide funds for the IC programme.
ZRA has already done that and IC activities are funded just like any other corporate activity, unlike funding IC programme as a by the way, as it is in most cases. If the programme is not in the corporate plan, that is where everyone will rush to when you are cutting the institutional budget, during the budgeting process.
Therefore, it would be good if Government, through the ACC, ensured that all institutions incorporated a direct strategic objective on the IC programme in their corporate plans. This would make CEOs to be more accountable.
Corruption should not be tolerated in our public and private institutions. Let us have funds for this programme and dedicated officers, even one or two, in each government institution.
It must be emphasised here that this programme has great potential to rid our institutions and country of corruption if well managed.
The author is an anti-corruption specialist.