By Given Mutinta
‘I am allergic to corruption’, is President Michael Sata’s beguiling phrase illustrating his stance on corruption. However, corruption cannot be curbed by riveting slogans.
A slogan that is not guiding decision-making and actions to come with practical strategies to curb corruption can be likened to dreaming. It is clear that Sata’s stance on corruption is not strategically and technocratically informed. This explains why it is muddled by careless pronouncements on suspected plunders without convincing plans on the ground.
If it is critical for military forces to have strategies before enemies are engaged so as to win the battle, it simply means that strategies are critical to win battles against corruption. They act as bridges between policy and actions against corruption.
It is through developing strategies against corruption that today countries such as Botswana, the Gambia, Tanzania and Uganda have very low levels of perceived corruption.
Besides his slogan, what radical government systems have Sata employed not used under Chiluba, Mwanawasa and Rupiya’s regime? It is undeniable that Sata has inherited from the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) regime government systems with loopholes that allowed individuals in previous regimes to abuse their power. The flawed systems created fertile soil for corruption.
If Sata is really ‘allergic to corruption’ is he going to maintain the flawed government systems? If you inherit a house that has life threatening loopholes occupying it does not make it new or stronger. The first thing a responsible occupant would do is to close up those loopholes by renovating the house if you cannot build another one. Regrettably, Sata has not employed austere measures to address loopholes in our government systems.
Think for a while, if Sata is working in a system with loopholes that made individuals in the previous regimes misappropriate colossal amounts of money what will make Sata’s own ministers, permanent secretaries, senior and junior officers not to use the same loopholes for private gain? Besides, Sata has appointed corrupt individuals to serve in his government. Thus, before him are government systems with loopholes and corrupt individuals operating in these systems. Simple logic shows that Sata’s government has a shoddier environment that will easily encourage corruption than in the previous regimes. Surely, only ‘ba kaponya’ and those destined to blow the ‘vuvuzela’ can say Sata is resolute in curbing corruption. In all honesty, how different is Sata’s government from the previous regimes?
At present, Sata’s method of tackling corruption is misdirected as it is myopically narrowed down to a witch hunt and has created a disdainful environment where the fight against corruption is used to make political scores. Why is it only ministers who are being pursued for corruption when there are as well permanent secretaries, senior and junior officers who used power entrusted to them for private gain.
I am not saying plunderers should not be arrested. All those who have abused national resources should face the ferocity of the law. However, let us not reduce the fight against corruption to a witch hunt aimed at Sata’s self-aggrandizement and impressionism.
The battle against corruption will not be won by stimulating selective retribution. Plunderers are just symptoms of the acuteness of corruption. Thus, pursuing plunderers should not be the main focus of the war against corruption. It is one of the many areas that need attention.
Sata’s present method of curbing corruption can be likened to mowing a lawn. Sooner or later the grass will grow again because the roots were not deracinated.
To effectively curb corruption, its root must be uprooted. In addition to pursuing plunderers Sata should address the penological aspect of corruption. He should come up with strategies of deterring and rehabilitating society to a condition where it can no longer stomach corruption. Thus, the fight against corruption should employ effective social marketing strategies.
It is the utilisation of social marketing strategies aimed at individuals and different groups of people that made Singapore, Denmark and Switzerland to curb corruption.
We need effective strategies not a witch hunt to promote awareness and attitudinal change towards power and national resources. Through social marketing strategies iniquitous attitudes such as ‘niku shapa cabe niva government ivi’ or ‘ninshita balekeni balye nabena’ promoted by our society will be addressed.
Anti-corruption attitudes will eventually help to generate mechanisms that will reward appropriate or punish inappropriate behaviour. In due course, we will reduce the level of societal acceptance of corruption
and support the fight against corruption.
Sata’s ‘allergy to corruption’ should seriously take into account the relevance of social marketing because it necessitates the understanding of the complexity of the corruption itself in government offices. Without this Sata is fighting an unknown enemy and what a thoughtless way to go to war.
Only ‘ba kaponya’ can believe that Sata’s verbal allergy to corruption and his bunkum witch hunt can curb corruption without programmes to influence the acceptability of anti-corruption ideas. To curb corruption government should come up with a framework of programmes and how they will be designed, implemented and controlled to address the roots of corruption.
Sata should realize that corruption is not only a problem in government but society as whole. Thus, we need plans on how people at the grassroots can be reached with deterrent messages on corruption so as to influence behaviour change. It is conventional wisdom that a corrupt society begets a corrupt government
As long as we have leaders who are incapacitated in both ability and vision thus content with a lawn mowing method of fighting corruption we will fail to employ effective multi-layered and holistic approaches needed to curb corruption in our country.
Sata should be challenged to provide practical strategies in the fight against corruption. The large sums of money that have been allocated to curb corruption should be ingeniously used to ensure that all contemporary issues of corruption in government are addressed in a holistic fashion
Any reasonable person is able recognise the significant differences between Sata’s will and his lack of capacity to generate, plan and administer effective anti-corruption strategies. Was Sata not part of the corrupt MMD regime? When did he become a leader able to bring ingenuity in government to effectively address the roots of corruption?
Sata’s war against corruption should also include revisiting his government managerial system to deter individuals from engaging in corrupt behaviour. The current managerial system is flawed and we need to establish appropriate systems, procedures and protocols that can curb corruption. We need a strengthened government managerial system that will reduce or eliminate opportunities for corruption.
If individuals in the previous regimes were able to subvert the rules for personal gain, there is need for Sata to employ radical managerial measures that will deter individuals from abusing their power.
We are tired of scrappy anti-corruption efforts. When are we going to employ a radical managerial system that will effectively intercept both the less and the more destructive highly conspired exploits of national resources? The critical question Sata needs to ask himself is why the existing managerial system is not working? It is illogical to carry on with a managerial system that is undermining our very efforts to eradicate corruption.
In addition, the current government organizational system is also flawed. The high level of corruption in government is an indication that government lacks practical integration of operational systems, corruption control strategies and ethical standards. Why is that we have a weak norm of ethical behaviour in government?
It is now clear that corruption is more instigated by loopholes in the government organisational system than by individuals working within it. Thus, Sata’s fight against corruption should target individuals and the organisational context in which individuals work.
Government should urgently provide an effective structural framework that will remove the possibility of corrupt practices. The current government organisational system has too many loopholes to be relied on.
As long as Sata maintains the current government systems that failed to deter individuals in previous regimes from plundering our national resources why will officials in his government not use the same loopholes for private gain?
Sata’s ‘allergy to corruption’ is a pure mellifluous rhetoricism if it does not support for reforms at the highest levels of government systems that can bringing practical results and hoist the credibility of, and people’s support for the war against corruption.