Corruption must be fought from the top
Despite the country’s efforts to reduce the level of corruption in society, be it through transforming the erstwhile Anti-Corruption Bureau into Anti-Corruption Commission, enactment of various legislation and anti-corruption drives and awareness campaigns, especially over the last decade, the country remains in the grip of all-pervasive corruption, by most accounts. The country has been rated ‘most corrupt’ in the world, according to Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, five years in a row. Other polls conducted in the country also indicate that ordinary people hold some of the most important institutions in the country as being extremely corrupt. It does not however require statistics to highlight the level of corruption that exists in the country. It is common knowledge that corruption has seeped into almost all levels of society, in all forms of institution, counting up to huge losses for the country, a moral and social handicap, a threat to governance and law and order, and a major hindrance to development in the country. Corruption now holds in its grips politics, bureaucracy, education, health, law and order, and what not.
According to a report front-paged in New Age on Monday, at a seminar on ‘The role of the media and the civil society in implementing political pledges to curb corruption’ the speakers present, which included eminent citizens from different walks of life – politicians, former judges, educationists, journalists, economists and rights activists, highlighted, from their experience, some of the major reasons why the country has failed to create any real dent on the level of corruption in society. The speakers laid stress on the judicial process, on the long time required to dispose of cases, which is a major reason for failing to create an effective deterrent against corruption. The speakers also noted the culture of withdrawal of corruption, especially those filed against powerful people, as has been the custom for a while, and is another reason why corruption continues unchecked in society. Apparently, only two graft cases have so far been disposed of since 1991, a clear indication of the sorry fate of graft cases. The speakers generally blamed political patronisation, absence of democratic practices and lack of effective mechanism to oversee administrative functions for pervasive corruption. The speakers also questioned the integrity of government officials, the role played by military regimes in the past in institutionalising corruption, the infiltration of businessmen in politics etc for their overall role in increasing corruption.
What emerges from the discussion clearly is that to effectively deal with corruption in the country, the steps must begin at the top. Politicians, especially those in power, top government officials, must not in any way be allowed to remain above accountability, must uphold transparency, and must do away with practices such as ‘withdrawal of cases.’ In this regard, the incumbents’ failure to live up to its electoral pledge of making public the wealth statements of ministers remains a stark example of how the government itself discourages transparency, especially with regards to corruption. Furthermore, the government must be proactive in fighting corruption, by strengthening the ACC further, by aiding it proper staff and laws, and by generally upholding democratic practices. Without fighting corruption at the top, corruption can never be fought back properly.
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