CORRUPTION has been a buzzword for years. Political correctness demands some general noise about corruption. Politicians are more interested in “one type of corruption”, not the other, the one that affects them.
Why is corruption an issue? It exists; it has devastating consequences for operations in the public and private sector. Corruption distorts economic activities, diverts public investments into private holdings.
Economic decisions are based on areas that would generate bribes and other illegal earnings for those controlling the institutions. In its various forms – bribery, trading in influence or influence peddling, patronage, nepotism and cronyism, electoral fraud, embezzlement, kickbacks, unholy alliance, involvement in organised crime – corruption captures a system captive by creating inefficiencies that hamper the growth of a society.
The effects of corruption are pervading. A common example of the impact is non-compliance with rules and regulations because corrupt public officials are willing to protect violators, who in many cases are either associates or organisations they owe. If it is in construction, plans are ignored, inferior materials approved and when the buildings collapse, further corrupt avenues are constructed to cover up the mess. Corruption is therefore more widespread than theft of public funds and the subsequent laundering of most of the resources abroad, safe from domestic laws.
An argument for this type of corruption is that instability in African government and seizure of assets of out-of-favour government officials accounted for the high inclination to take their loot abroad.
Whatever it is, the volume of theft has not abetted and as the economy grinds along, the impact of the thefts are felt more. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, estimated that from 1970 to 1996, capital flight from 30 sub-Saharan countries including Ghana totalled $187bn, exceeding those nations’ external debts. Much of the money was proceeds of corruption. No explanation can justify the looting.
Perhaps, when our leaders are ready to fight corruption, an area that deserves their attention is education. The education system with skewed admission processes, teachers who teach nothing, students who pay for grades, parents who provide their wards money to buy grades, accreditation of schools for courses they do not have facilities to teach is the most fertile breeding ground for the next set of corrupt leaders.
If things are as bad as they currently are, what happens when future leaders who have been schooled in corruption are in-charge? Corruption is deep, has many sides, all of them damage our society. We cannot fight corruption by making it another buzzword.