Toward a cleaner society

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How often do we pick up a newspaper or read in other news outlets about instances of public corruption? And we wonder how it is allowed to happen. In the annual study released by Transparency International (TI), the Corruption Perceptions Index indicates that corruption continues to add to the economic woes of societies globally. The study offers a score of individual countries and how corrupt their public sectors are seen to be.

Two thirds of the 176 countries ranked scored below the median, indicating a major affliction with corruption. With such daunting numbers showing that public institutions need to be more transparent, and powerful officials more accountable, there is much to be done to arrest the tide against the proliferation of this disease.

Corruption is a globally recognized problem, and as stated by Cobus de Swardt, managing director of Transparency International, “Corruption is the world’s most talked about problem. The world’s leading economies should lead by example, making sure that their institutions are fully transparent and their leaders are held accountable. This is crucial since their institutions play a significant role in preventing corruption from flourishing globally.”

The Corruptions Index shows that Denmark, Finland and New Zealand tie for first place as the cleanest countries with scores of 90. This is undoubtedly a result of mechanisms in place that allow the public unrestricted access to information systems and rules governing the behavior of those in public positions.

At the bottom of the pile are Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia. As TI says, “In these countries the lack of accountable leadership and effective public institutions underscore the need to take a much stronger stance against corruption.”

Most of the GCC countries were below the median, which is not very encouraging. But what is encouraging is that governments in some countries have begun to sit up and take notice, and even action legislation designed to fight this growing evil.

In Saudi Arabia, Nazaha, the state-appointed anti-corruption commission has been given full autonomy to investigate corrupt practices across all government agencies. It has had its hands full, as it weaves through a myriad of corrupt bureaucrats in several agencies, with suspicious dealings, failed and stalled projects or unaccountable public funds.

Many complain that this is not enough. The commission must be allowed more teeth and more bite. It has been in existence for several years now, and while there had been an initial positive response by the public, that interest has now waned. There are complaints that punishments have not followed revelations about corruption. Judicial authorities must administer the appropriate punishment against corrupt public officials.

According to the report, corruption in countries translates into human suffering, with poor families being extorted for bribes to see doctors or to get access to clean drinking water. It leads to failure in the delivery of basic services like education or healthcare. It derails the building of essential infrastructure, as corrupt leaders skim funds. The fat get richer, while the rest are washed away in a sludge of dirty deals conducted by unethical bureaucrats.

The report concludes that, “it’s clear that corruption is a major threat facing humanity. Corruption destroys lives and communities, and undermines countries and institutions. It generates popular anger that threatens to further destabilize societies and exacerbate violent conflicts.”

How can this cancer be arrested if not stopped altogether? Governments must integrate anti-corruption mechanisms into all aspects of decision-making. All public servants must be held accountable for their misdeeds. Some citizens have even suggested that public service personnel should make a declaration of assets before they are appointed to their posts. Governments too should increase transparency in public spending and the awarding of contracts to allow less room for deceit and embezzlement of public funds. And finally, judicial boards must dispense justice expeditiously and in line with the aspiration of the public.

Corruption is filth and the criminals guilty of fraud and corruption should not be allowed to get off scot-free. As Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman has stated, “everyone should come together in fighting corruption in all its forms.”

— The author can be reached at talmaeena@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena


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