By: Yankuba Sanneh
Corruption outworn the fabric of societies at the very instance it is harbored. While it is not peculiar or limited to a particular geography, corruption is a common and persistent feature in developing countries, prevailing in a growing and persistent trajectory. However, the most pressing form of the phenomenon is postulated to be administrative corruption. Administrative corruption is the institutionalized individual perversion of public resources by public or civil servants ( Gould 1991, p.467, as cited in Turner and Hulme, 1997). Such, by interpretation, implies using public resources other than its intended benefits for the public.
As a very retrogressive phenomenon, administrative corruption has hindered the development of many developing societies, albeit varying in degree from country to country. For instance, Nigeria’s corruption level outmatches that of the Gambia, not implying the latter is not experiencing it.
For example, according to the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index 2022 report, Nigeria is ranked 150 with a score of 24 out of 90 ( a score in which Denmark is the highest rated). On the other hand, although ranked among the least, the Gambia has a ranking of 110 and a score of 24 from the maximum of 90. This could be attributed to greed in public and civil servants, using their office for individual pursuits but also fulfilling the needs of close circles, although the causes varied from place to place. Also, the syndrome of getting rich quicker, delay in prosecution, duplication of anti-corruption agencies, absence of credible media, fear of poverty, etc., causes the menace ( Kabiru, 2019).
Some examples of corruption include using their capacity to provide jobs for their unqualified friends and family, bending the rules in awarding contracts for kickbacks, and unlawfully selling public properties using the generated funds for personal use.
The repercussions of these exploits are enormous, even for well-performing economies and societies( World Bank, 2023). For instance, presenting a job to an unqualified person means comprising the efficiency of the public workforce because the individual would not possess the money to execute the job.
Also, awarding contracts to unqualified persons or without due process compromises not only competence but also economic setbacks for the public because such could mean inflation in monetary allocation for kickbacks. Significant to point out is the discovery made at the ongoing inquiry into the local government councils regarding the inflation of prices of bags of rice in one of the councils substantiates this assumption. The inflation was basically to dupe the public of their resources for personal benefits. Perhaps it is equally important to highlight the alleged misappropriation of funds for public projects such as the fencing of the Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara Conference Center under the OIC project. The purported diverted funds would burden a frail economy and deprive people of their right to development because the stolen funds could be significant if only channeled to development programs to meet the critical needs of the most impoverished people.
With its many negative impacts, there is relatively gradual progress in the combat against corruption in some places – whereas it is perceived as a norm and thus a culture that the few employ – despite stiff resistance and challenge from the people and entities benefiting from it. The probability of the truism of this assertion is eminent because corrupt officials would not want a cessation of their source of milking and would, therefore, do whatever they possess to prevent that from being achieved.
However, anti-corruption mechanisms have been devised to fight and prevent corruption. But the extent to which this has helped is questionable since most mechanisms start and end with paperwork, hardly any severe or consistency, or are usually killed at the formulation stage either by cabinet or parliament. Some of the mechanisms are vicious circles in the framework. The solutions they offer only aggravate the situation.
The case is mostly cherry-picking and immunity for some top officials, using others as scapegoats. A typical example can be cited in the Gambia, where an anti-corruption has spent years in the parliament without any changes in the original bill. The reviewed and changed clauses in question sought to exonerate certain government officials over what-would-be corrupt practices. These changes were however greeted with massive outcry and condemnation from the public because the changes entirely compromised the objective bill and thus sabotaged the undertakings of the police against corruption and ilks. This means the manipulation would result in minimal outcomes against corruption because certain wrongdoers, mainly holders of higher offices, would be protected from anti-corruption whips.
Consequently, such injustice and thus lack of anti-corruption measures encourages financial indiscipline, embezzlement of public funds, inefficiency, incompetence, and the rise in the number of setbacks in public awarded contracts to under/unqualified firms and individuals that usually result in substandard works. Importantly, all of these have a toll on the ordinary citizen. Equally, this is accompanied by unending woes for the nation, including a decrease in growth, a prerequisite for any development agenda to be realized, and social injustice and inequality.
For any tangible outcome against corruption, there must be a commitment from the government and the citizens. For the government, it is essential that all three organs ( the role of the fourth estate and media cannot be overemphasized) – the parliament, executive cabinet, and the courts – work in tandem for an effective and productive battle against corruption. In cooperation with the parliament, the cabinet should be able to devise mechanisms enough to give the law courts the zeal to punish perpetrators accordingly. Perhaps it is essential to highlight the efforts of the above organs in setting up and into local government operations following allegations of corruption in local councils.
Conversely, formulating a commission is one thing, but implementing the recommendations of those very commissions is another, as seen with previous commissions, in which recommendations were partially acknowledged, forgiving others from facing punishment. On the other hand, the courts should be dedicated to making convictions enough to deter others from engaging in corrupt practices. Citizens also have a pivotal role in this. With a patriotic mindset, either in the position of authority or otherwise – that the nation is foremost – citizens should be able to take precedence in national development over individual quests. For instance, efforts currently employed by the chairman of Brikama in the fight against corrupt individuals within the council. This is one typical and current example citizens could draw inspiration from. The media equally has a part to play in unmasking corrupt practices through investigative journalism, citing the role of the press revealing corruption at the Ministry of Fisheries, leading to the prosecution and ultimate incarceration of top officials from the Michurch.
Therefore, with the partnership of the organs of government, coupled with the patriotic citizenry and the media, there is a high propensity for an upper hand against corruption.