CORUPTION (one R has already been stolen!)

corruption-featureWe see that both media and donors are pushing government to make serious strides against corruption. Government keeps promising, but delivery is below standard. This is not only a matter of non-performance. The politicians are stuck in a system that is not easy to change.

48500132.cmsThe system of corruption was recently explained on BBC in connection with the anti corruption summit in London. It works like this: when (hypothetically) you pay a small bribe to a lowly placed official at (hypothetically) immigration or road traffic authority, that money does not stay with the person you bribe. Part of that money goes up the chain, in exchange for protection of the racket. At the top of the chain the number of small bribes that converge become large numbers = large amounts of money. Highly placed officials cannot just break this bond: they were elected in this system, with support from many people who rely on corruption, because their salaries have been hollowed out by tcompliance-anti-corruption-icon_teaser_2_3_gt_1200_gridhe run away inflation.

Bingu was, in his first term, in a unique position: with the Muluzi/UDF he dumped all the support that had him elected. So he had more freedom to maneuver and he was capable of actually doing something for the people. IN his second term he had to pay back all support he had gotten for his relection, and he turned like a lcorruptioneaf.

A President simply cannot go all-out against corruption: this violates the deal that he needed to get elected in the first place, and he would be removed, one way or the other, by the powerful systems in both the party and the civil service. And removed could be in any of a great number of ways including the most permanent.

This systematic rot is widespread and hard to fight.

Calls from donors and media to make serious strides against corruption anger highly placed targets of those calls, because, the way the highly placed politicians see things, they do all they can. Within the system that is. And of course that same system benefits them greatly with great amounts of money and unchecked power  (the President appoints all top law enforcers and the top of the judiciary.)

Donor representatives, especially diplomats, cannot call for a fundamental change in the system: that would be meddling in internal affairs of the host country. So they, being diplomats, have to use diplomatic language. But in the media we could do better, and analyse the situation including the system. We need a thorough overhaul of our system of governance that will replace the corrupt patronage system that we have with one of merit. This will not be an easy task: if all salaries are hollowed out by inflation, it is very difficult to motivate the civil service to become corrupt-free. If we raise all salaries in the civil service to reasonable levels the already over-stretched government finances are going to go hay-wire. If we adjust the wage-bill by firing all civil servants we don’t need, we create mass unemployment. And all people taking the decisions we need to effectively stop corruption are benefiting in one way or the other and often in more than one way.

Deeper analysis in the media is only the start…

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