-What Fuels Corruption – Part One –
-By Ngozi G.C Izuora-
I woke with this question on my mind; tried to focus on the planned activities of the day but NO! the urge to deal and respond to this was strong.
Let me attempt!
Corruption in general, is a form of dishonesty or criminal activity undertaken by a person or organization entrusted with a position of authority, often to acquire illicit benefit. Some others define it as the dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery.
While I agree with the words used in describing Corruption such as…. fraudulent, dishonesty, I find it interesting to disagree with corruption tilting to only connote political office holders or persons occupying positions of authority to be guilty of this crime. In my opinion Corruption is the abuse of entrusted power or responsibility for private gains. Seating or functioning in any capacity of authority or not…, you should be culpable of this crime.
Let me get focused…
Corruption can be classified as grand, petty and political, depending on the amounts of money lost and the sector where it occurs. Corruption is an improbity or decay in the decision-making process in which a decision-maker consents to deviate or demands deviation from the criterion which should rule his or her decision-making, in exchange for a reward or for the promise or expectation of a reward, while these motives influencing his or her decision-making cannot be part of the justification of the decision.
It affects us all directly or indirectly. It sure threatens sustainable economic development, ethical values and justice; it destabilizes our society and endangers the rule of law, it delays infrastructure development, results in poor building quality and encourages layers of additional costs. All these we experience at different levels in Nigeria and beyond as the fruits of this horror.
Corruption can be further categorized as:
• 1) Payoffs and Bribes – Bribery may be one of the most common types of political corruption.
• 2) Graft and Embezzlement – Some elected officials are tasked with the oversight of large sums of money which often they take and stash in foreign bank accounts or secluded places.
• 3) Blackmail and Extortion – Political offices can provide their officials with a great deal of power. Political blackmail is a related crime. This type of corruption can occur when an elected representative threatens to reveal incriminating information about someone to coerce that person into cooperating with them.
• 4) Preferential Treatment – Elected representatives are expected to exercise fairness and discretion when issuing appointments for jobs, contracts and other benefits. Preferential treatment is a type of political corruption that occurs when an official lets their appointments be influenced by inappropriate or illegal factors.
One type of preferential treatment is known as nepotism. This is the practice of giving appointments to family members, kinsmen or people with shared affinity rather than basing appointments on the actual qualifications of the appointees. Another type of preferential treatment, known as patronage, occurs when an official makes appointments in exchange for votes, payoffs or other benefits.
• 5) Extortion – Many among us go one step further. They do not only blame politicians and public officials for willingly accepting bribes. They also often allege that those having authority in our society ask to be bribed or give us the opportunity to bribe. This means that the question ‘who is to blame’, shifts from the person who pays to the person who extorts and receives. Again, on the ground of the allegation: ‘There’s no escaping from it, for if you don’t pay, you are bound to fall behind’.
What then Fuels Corruption?
I sampled opinions from a wide range of professionals and I got responses such as: greed, weak systems and institutions, short sightedness, injustice, poverty and so on.
Indeed, corruption is extremely hard to discuss as it is an elusive phenomenon in our societies. Both parties in exchange of power for privileges want to keep their transaction secret. That makes it so difficult to establish how wide and deep corruption has penetrated our economy, and social life. Moreover, what for some is no more than ‘a friendly turn’ is for others ‘misbehaviour’. What in one place can be friendliness is unacceptable elsewhere.
Normal behaviour at an hour of the day may be unacceptable at another hour. That’s why there seem to be a tug of war by a one-time Nigeria President in making the distinction between ‘Corruption and Stealing’ a debate that most found hilarious but was vital.
This horror has eaten so deep into the fabric of society, that when you find an individual who is not corrupt it becomes surprising. I remember purchasing a huge quantity of office items at some point and the individual who sold to me was asking if I wanted him to indicate the actual prices on the receipt or an inflated cost…lost at first; then getting the message, I refused. Asking that the original (real) price of the items be indicated on the receipt, he stared so hard at me like I was high (I’m sure that this happens to us).
What then fuels corruption we might ask again?
Poverty: Corruption fueled by poverty often occurs when the basic need of the common man has not been met. The poor often becomes desperate and engages in corrupt practices. When there is poor remuneration and compensation in the system, it breeds unsatisfied workers, who can engage in illegal acquisition of compensation. This can be curbed if the entire labour remuneration system is overhauled to fit the high standard of living in the society.
Acceptance or celebration of Corrupt people by society
This is the case where we see individuals who have obviously been convicted of corruption, in some cases still undergoing the court process, being awarded titles and (honorary) awards. This has silently passed a message that there’s nothing fundamentally wrong in engaging in corruption. So public perception plays a large role in shaping the future of corruption in Nigeria today. The mindset to consistently ‘Name and Shame’ corrupt persons is that which will eventually rid us of this terror.
Bureaucracy and Weak Government Institutions
If our systems are weak, it translates that the political and legal institution in our society are also weak. Corruption is allowed the opportunity to thrive, when bureaucracy promotes sluggishness. The delay in passing of budgets and/ or giving approval for disbursement of supplies including salaries has been flagged to result in the search for substitutes means for income and this fuels corruption.
This is worsening as our legal arm has failed tremendously with catching up with corrupt officers and this practice finds its way into the private sector and eventually the entire society.
What more can I say …Greed is greed. As the desire for primitive accumulation of wealth becomes widespread then corruption would linger. The desire to hold on to political office or any position means that one would result to doing anything to attain/retain that position. This fuels Corruption.
Illiteracy and Shallow mindedness
First, I will love to establish that education here is not restricted to the formal four- walled space but includes every form of learning that shapes positively our perspectives and approach to life.
When the number of educated persons in a society is high, it presupposes that they will be meaningfully employed, have a better sense of what is/ is not morally/socially acceptable and will have a good understanding of the consequences of corruption (even though that’s not usually the case). It is expected that they can hold public officers to account and demand transparency in administering the rule of law.
Ignorance fuels corruption
The concepts of ‘half full’ and ‘half empty’ depends solely on understanding and one’s ability to buttress the point. The mentality of not fully understanding a thing but justifying it is one of which is problematic and has deteriorated the polity. Information happens to be key.
Corruption impacts societies in a multitude of ways. In the worst cases, it costs lives. Short of this, it costs people their freedom, health or money. The cost of corruption can be divided into four main categories: political, economic, social and environmental.
In all these, however, four key principles are crucial, not just in appreciating what fuels corruption, but also for development and curbing this menace. These principles are accountability, transparency, participation, and inclusion.
In other words, to put a stop to what fuels corruption as enumerated above, means that citizens and governments must pledge to End impunity, Reform public administration and finance management, promote access to information, truly Empower citizens and Close international loopholes.
By Ngozi G.C Izuora
Ngozi is a Lawyer and Development Practitioner. She has a passion for building the capacity of young people to realize their dreams and aspiration. She can be reached on +234 806 401 5293