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How do we stem graft when we can’t make sacrifices in the war?

By David Oginde | December 13th 2020 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

On December 9 every year, the world pauses to mark the International Anti-Corruption Day. Recognising the socio-economic dangers of corruption, the UN General Assembly adopted the United Nations Convention against Corruption on October 31, 2003.

The Assembly consequently designated December 9 as the International Anti-Corruption Day, with the primary aim of raising awareness on corruption across the globe.

Since 1995, Transparency International has used the Corruption Perceptions Index to gauge the perceived levels of graft in a country – with a score of 100 for the least corrupt and zero for the most corrupt.

According to this index, it would appear that there has been very little movement towards overcoming this economic cancer, some 15 years since the first Anti-Corruption Day was established in December 2005. While some nations may be doing better in this fight than others, it is a malady that appears to have long become endemic in many countries.

According to Transparency International, the average country score in 2019 was 43 out of 100 in the perception index, with more than two thirds of the countries scoring below 50. Sadly, the average score for Kenya over the last 20 years has been 23 points, with a minimum of 19 points in 2002 and peaking at 28 points since 2017.

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Though in a sense there appears to have been significant improvement in recent years, we are still way below the global average of 43 – which in itself is very poor. The implication is that much work still needs to be done if we are going to conquer this vice locally, and indeed globally.

The reality is that the fight against corruption is a societal issue and a leadership factor. When a society not only tolerates but actually celebrates the corrupt, there is no way it can possibly fight corruption.

For example, we hold in very high esteem men and women who most certainly cannot account for their wealth.

The outcomes of our elections are a perfect evidence of this fact. We tend to vote in people who can dole out money and other campaign artifacts. When it comes to the giving and taking of bribes, Kenyans find it absolutely normal to ask for or give bribes – casually claiming that it is just our way of doing business. Yet we turn around and make the loudest noise about corruption.

Indeed, whereas we always vilify the police for being the most corrupt, I have never heard of anyone who the police robbed of a bribe! Our love for shortcuts, convenience, and comfort cannot allow us to make the sacrifices necessary for combating corruption. This is how we have nurtured corruption.

It is a fact that if every bribe giver refused to give a bribe – no matter the cost to self, the bribe takers would have nothing to take.

Likewise, if every bribe taker refused to take – insisting instead on doing what is right, there would be no one to give a bribe. That is how to nurture a value driven culture. And this is where the leadership factor comes in.

The primary task of leadership in any context is to define values and to shape culture. These are those long-lasting beliefs founded on national or community ethos. They define what is considered right or wrong, good or bad.

This means that the leader has the threefold duty to consistently teach, model, and enforce the desired values. It is a fact that if we are going to overcome the overwhelming power of corruption, we should adopt this three-pronged strategy. We should not assume that everybody knows or understands what corruption is. We should thus engage in deliberate and well coordinated education of the masses, beginning with our children.

Secondly, leaders should model a value driven lifestyle. Every leader in every sector should strive towards transparency and accountability in all their activities.

This will send positive signals to the ordinary person and provide a moral high ground for the leader. Thirdly, there should be strict enforcement.

Corruption is like a weed, ignore it for a few days and it will overwhelm your crop. Thus, corrupt practices should be dealt with promptly and decisively. I wonder why we cannot move with the same speed and determination to develop “vaccines” against corruption as we have done against Covid-19.

Perhaps it is because, whereas Covid has been indiscriminate in its attacks – felling even the high and mighty – corruption tends to benefit the very group that could fight it. Let us all arise against this vice. 

-[email protected]


Transparency International Corruption United Nations
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