Yet again, we have scored 43 out of a possible 100 on the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). The results are disappointing. Yes, we did not slip. One will muse. Fair enough. But we did not progress either. We did not cross the threshold of an average mark. That is our reality.
On the credit side of the table, we have put in applaudable efforts at tackling corruption – especially the rolling out of the National Anti-Corruption Action Plan and the foresightful creation of the Office of the Special Prosecutor as the flagship anti-corruption institution with the unique four-fold mandate of investigating corruption and corruption-related cases, prosecuting suspected offenders, recovering and managing assets, and taking steps to prevent corruption.
These and other interventions have no doubt kept as afloat above the average score of 32 in sub-Sahara Africa. Yet, that should not be our benchmark – given our higher governance and democratic credentials; and our national psyche of a desire to attain the best of everything.
However, I am afraid I bear no good tidings on where we stand on corruption and justice – the focus of my comment. The results speak for themselves. We are standing at a single spot and spinning around slowly on one foot in a circle – much like a gyroscope.
The conversation is becoming sterile. The fight against corruption is proving to be an unruly bride indeed. She is not lending herself to agreeable domestication and cohabitation. And we are not recording much success. Our progress is hampered. And we are unable to move the needle appreciably to improve our scorecard.
Our story is a rather curious cycle of self-defeat and disappearing acts. We begin by collectively acknowledging that we must fight corruption. That lights a glimmer on the horizon. Then we dim the glimmer by approaching the enterprise of the fight against corruption half-heartedly.
That is to say – we certainly know the cure to the malaise; but we are unwillingly to take the medication fully. It is as if we do not want to actually cure it, though we reckon it is slowly killing us. It is as if we do not know what we want.
I sum up our story, thus – we must fight corruption, but we must not fight it.
Justice, fundamental to any thriving society, cannot flourish in the context of corruption. The scales of justice should remain untainted if the fight against corruption is to attain any notable result. Corruption itself is curtailed through justice. And the absence of justice begets corruption. It is much like light and darkness. The brighter justice shines, the less corruption prevails.
Two factors assure this. The defence of truth and the upholding of integrity. This is our only sure bet. If we stifle truth and we place no premium on integrity, we dim the light of justice and we darken the scourge of corruption. That is to say – the absence of truth and integrity are the bedrocks of corruption.
Our collective behaviour shows that we do not reward integrity and truth is always the first casualty in the reckoning. And the scorecard reflects our lack of faith in corruption fighting and justice delivery institutions.
Citizens view anti-corruption law enforcement institutions as largely hemmed in by political marginalization and thus, part of the problem. This is because the citizens perceive a high incidence of impunity among the elite. And that corruption investigations would invariably amount to nothing and yield no consequences.
The judiciary is not spared either. The results show that citizens see the judiciary as also part of the problem. They hardly separate the judiciary from the government. They see it all as one – and every ill they attach to the government; they extend the same attitude to the judiciary. Further, citizens perceive a deficit of the defence of truth and the placement of little premium on integrity.
True it is – that the results are perception-based and not an outcome of concretely established corruption. However, the measurement of corruption in absolute terms is extremely difficult. Therefore, the next best method is assessing its prevalence from the perception of experts and businesspersons.
On that reckoning, it is observed that countries with a low risk of corruption consistently exhibit notable improvement on the CPI; while those with high risks tend to either regress or remain stagnant.
Even so, it bears pause and reflection. This is because if there is a strong perception that tilts the scale that corruption thrives in this Republic, we cannot dismiss it as unproved and not actually based on hard evidence. We must address the problem frontally.
May I offer my musings in the defence of truth and in the assurance of integrity in aid of repressing and suppressing corruption:
May we assure the entrenchment of anti-corruption law enforcement institutions.
In addition to the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, may we write anti-corruption law enforcement institutions into the Constitution – especially the flagship Office of the Special Prosecutor.
May we enlarge the powers and mandate of anti-corruption law enforcement institutions.
May we insulate anti-corruption law enforcement institutions from political marginalization.
May we insulate anti-corruption law enforcement institutions from reprisals.
May we include the Office of the Special Prosecutor in the membership of the Judicial Council.
May we assure anti-corruption law enforcement institutions the flow of adequate resources.
May we remunerate judges and officers of anti-corruption law enforcement institutions adequately. They are human after all. Hunger and squalor beget a natural edge to cut a corner or two or three – till it becomes habitual and a culture.
Perhaps I know how to assure my own integrity. But I do not know how to assure personal integrity in others beyond a plea to good sense, morality and fairness. However, I do believe that entrenching a culture of the defence of truth and the reward of integrity in anti-corruption law enforcement institutions and the judiciary along the trajectory of my musings will cascade to the individual officers of these institutions. This is because the deviant would stick out sorely and be easily exposed.
May we get there. May it be soon enough. And may we tighten the noose firmly around corruption
Editor’s note: Views expressed in this article do not represent that of The Chronicle