NOW than ever before, countries world over, including Zambia, are battling with decreasing levels of integrity and morality among the citizenry.
This is certainly a cause to worry because a country like ours, which still has a long way to go in its development journey, needs citizens and leaders of integrity to push the agenda.
Integrity, which is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles, is the foundation on which success can be attained.
It is only when we have more civil servants and citizens with integrity that we will be able to develop. For instance, it takes integrity for those in public office to offer a good service to the citizenry.
This is why an English author, Douglas Adams, said: “To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity.”
In the day-to-day execution of duties, civil servants and citizens in general are faced with choices on whether to serve the country or their personal interests.
It therefore takes integrity for one to always act in national interest.
The sad reality is that we have so many people today who would rather serve their personal interests at the expense of national development.
This is why Government is losing so much money through corruption and overpricing in tender procedures. This shows that the system is infiltrated by individuals who lack principles.
In a bid to curb financial flows through tender procedures, Government is now working towards amending the Zambia Public Procurement Authority Act.
Time and again, we have heard of how dishonest contractors have robbed Government by doing shoddy jobs after being paid colossal sums of money.
Lack of integrity in our society is also mirrored through tax evasions by both individuals and corporate entities.
In politics, lack of integrity manifests itself through character assassination, false promises and defections, among others.
Recently, the country was also shocked by the revelation that 498 teachers fraudulently weaved their way into the profession. This is only but a tip of the iceberg on the levels of integrity among the citizenry.
In the media, lack of integrity is pushing some journalists to fabricate stories to the detriment of national peace and unity.
These and much more are only a reflection of how people are embracing dishonesty as part of their lifestyles.
While it may be a toll order to change a culture of dishonesty in grown-ups, we could probably preserve the future generations.
The Bible, in Proverbs 22:6, says: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
This entails that whatever values are imparted in our children today will be carried on even in old age.
It also goes on to say if integrity is imparted in children today, we will surely have more citizens with the virtue in the future.
It is for this reason that we agree with the public protector, Caroline Sokoni, on the need to inculcate integrity in citizens at a tender age in order to promote patriotism.
Ms Sokoni rightly noted that citizens with high levels of integrity have the propensity to be productive and can enhance service delivery when employed in the public service.
It is in national interest and for future prosperity to inculcate integrity in our future leaders.
The public protector also noted that “Mal-administration concerns all of us and we all need to ensure that we are people of integrity as citizens. There is need to ensure issues of integrity are put into the education system so that people are aware of the need to always do the right thing such as being honest, proactive and non-partisan in the execution of their duties”.
Embedding lessons of integrity in the school curricular is certainly a good strategy to help young people internalise the virtue.
It is worth noting that in a bid to promote accountability, transparency and credibility of public institutions, Government last year launched the Office of the Public Protector and the African Ombudsman and Mediators Association.
The public needs to take interest and understand the operations of this important office.
This is because the office of the Public Protector cannot function effectively in promoting accountability, transparency and credibility of public institutions without the involvement of citizens, who are the major informers and complainants.
Needless to say, we need concerted efforts to cultivate a culture of integrity for the good of the nation, now and for generations to come.
For without integrity, there can be no patriotism, and without patriotism, there can be no development.