Analysis: EMELDA MUSONDA
LAST Friday as Zambia joined the rest of the world in commemorating the International Anti-Corruption Day, it was yet another reminder of the gloomy reality of corruption and its devastating effects on society.
In line with the 2017 theme dubbed “Corruption: An impediment to Sustainable Development Goals”, the message was loud and clear.
If corruption is not dealt with efficiently, effectively and conclusively, as President Edgar Lungu rightly pointed out, the attainment of social development goals will remain elusive.
This is because corruption siphons the collective wealth of a country into individual pockets, thereby depriving citizens of basic necessities such as quality education, health care, infrastructure and many others.
To some depraved individuals corruption may be as simple as collecting money in exchange for a favour or a service by virtue of one’s office.
The effects of corruption run deep like still waters.
In most known circumstances corruption rears its ugly head through the recruitment of wrong and incompetent people, thereby affecting service delivery and productivity.
The evil in corruption is also manifested in so many lives lost in hospitals because someone was bribed to buy substandard or expired drugs.
Corruption is also manifested through known criminals and society misfits walking freely on the streets because they bribed their way to freedom. This certainly increases the deviant rate and undermines the justice system.
The consequences of corruption are also reflected in substandard infrastructure which does not last, thereby costing governments more money in rehabilitation and reconstruction.
Indeed the list goes on and on.
In our country one does not need a research to tell that corruption is taking root at various levels of society.
For instance, corruption has been cited in various areas such as recruitment of teachers and nurses, awarding of student loans, awarding of government tenders and roadblocks, among many others.
As a country we cannot bury our heads in the sand and pretend all is well.
We have a problem that needs concerted efforts to be resolved.
Given the devastating effects of corruption on our country, we need a holistic approach that involves every Zambian from the lowest to the highest level.
In his address during the commemoration of international Ant-Corruption Day, Transparency International Zambia Chapter president, Reuben Lifuka, made the following key proposals which I feel should be taken seriously if we are to make significant strides in the fight against corruption:
Strong leadership – the fight against corruption certainly needs resolute leadership at all levels if we are to achieve success in the fight against the vice. Leadership is indeed key to driving the fight against corruption. Mr Lifuka rightly acknowledged that President Lungu has shown good leadership but this should be emulated even at the lowest level.
Acknowledging the problem – One cannot find a solution to a problem which does not exist. The first step in problem solving is problem identification. As a country we need to collectively and sincerely acknowledge that we have a problem of corruption at hand. It is only then that we can confidently move on to find ways of eradicating it.
Revising strategy – It is indeed time we changed our approach to fighting corruption.
“For a long time we have placed more emphasis on investigating and prosecuting those found to be corrupt while neglecting integrity building for individuals, communities and institutions,” said Mr Lifuka. I could not agree more with this view. Certainly investigations and prosecution must continue because they are equally important. However, integrity building should also be incorporated because prevention is better than cure.
From a tender age, people need to be taught values of integrity. This will help them understand the importance of upholding integrity even when they grow up and assume offices of high responsibility.
Enforcement and enactment of laws – Mr Lifuka emphasised the need to adopt new policies and laws, and to enforce existing ones. This will ensure that all loopholes for committing corruption are sealed and would-be offenders deterred.
Support to governance institutions- TIZ proposed enhanced support to institutions which are problem identifiers such as the Auditor General’s Office, ACC, DEC, Financial Intelligence Centre, Public Protector’s office and the controller of internal audit as well as problem solvers such as the Zambia Public Procurement Authority, Cabinet Office, key line ministries, Judiciary, etc.
It is only logical that after problems have been identified they are solved, otherwise it is a worst of resources to just end at the identification stage.
Community involvement – Lastly, TIZ emphasised the need for community involvement in the fight against corruption.
It is indisputable that corruption is not just a fight for those in government, but every citizen regardless of status has a role to play.
Citizens have an obligation to speak out and expose any corrupt elements in their communities.
The above recommendations by TIZ provide a holistic approach to fighting corruption as they encompass both preventive and correctional measures.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail editorials editor.