How corruption can be curbed (1)
THE incoming administration won the election with the mantra of change and has aptly summarised the task before it as tackling the issues of security, economy and corruption. Since the conclusion of the presidential election, a lot of suggestions have been made on how to go about this. Most of these suggestions border on probe and recovering of what past government officials have stolen, and ensuring persons of proven integrity and probity are put at the helms of affairs in the new government. The president-elect has said public officers will be required to declare their assets.
While these suggestions will give a sense that something is being done, it is not deep enough as to completely uproot the ghost of corruption and the danger that corruption poses to our corporate existence. Moreover, the analysis and contribution so far has not identified the reason corruption thrives, persists or grows in our society and how we can remove it from our public life. If we can understand the nature or characteristics of corruption and what fertilizes it, then the solution preferred will fit the purpose. This is more so that we have always had probes, task forces to recover government property. In this process some people were caught, tried, indicted and thrown into jails. These never deterred people; only for corruption not only persisting but also actually thriving. Solving this issue shouldn’t be a rocket science. If we can get a handle on the cause of this problem, it will be easy to solve.
The purpose of this article is to try to establish the factors that make corruption thrive and to demonstrate that corruption is the major factor contributing to the economic crisis and insecurity in our country. In order to do this I will relate actual life experience to show what is happening.
I visited a friend at a major federal ministry in Abuja sometime ago and we started discussing the issue of contract awards in the ministry. My friend told me that 75 per cent of contracts was given to the top three persons in the ministry (the Minister, the Minister of state and the Permanent secretary).
Twenty per cent of the contracts was usually shared by the Directors in the Ministry and the remaining five will be made available to members of the public through the procurement Director. The parastatals under the ministry must also reserve certain quota of contracts to their Minister or his nominees.
At the state level, governors spend public funds as they please in utter disregard of financial regulations and the budget system. The State budget is worthless as an instrument for controlling public expenditure as some Governors spend money in whatever manner they like and award contracts to only those who will bring back “returns” or to god-fathers and cronies.
Governors give themselves what is called security vote. To the extent that almost all the principal officers of government handle security vote which often runs into billions of Naira even when the states cannot pay salaries.
The local government administration is far more worrisome. The money allocated to the local government councils never get to them as the state government officials hijack the money under the guise of Joint Local Government Accounts. I am told that in some states the local government is given just enough money to pay salaries and even deductions made in favour of primary education into the various state primary education boards never get to the primary schools; as all deductions are further taken out through phantom payments for contracts that don’t exist or for services that are never delivered.
All these evil activities are perpetuated through friends, family members and several accomplices in the private sector that are always handy to help them funnel slush funds.
• To be continued.
• Obaro lives and works in the UK as Governance, Capacity building and information technology specialist.