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FIGHTING THE ET SPIRIT DE CORPS IN CORRUPTION – A NOTE TO THE PRESIDENT-ELECT

Posted last April 21, 2015, 7:25 pm in People report article

One of the issues on which the current election was fought is that of fighting corruption, a cankerworm that has eaten into the fabrics of our community and country. My concern about the success or otherwise of this fight is what I have chosen to call ‘et spirit de corruptions’, curled from the term  used to describe the brotherhood and the spirit of cooperation among men of the armed forces. The existence of this spirit is what has made, and what will make the fight against corruption very difficult to win, unless the in-coming government deals with it.

 

In order to clarify my concern, I need to make reference to what happened in one of our universities when the management illegally awarded a sum of 400,000 naira to each other in the name of furniture grant, and the branch of ASUU raised a furore on the matter, describing it as corruption. During the period, the Vice Chancellor came to congress to tell us that it was poverty that made us complain about an amount as small as 400,000 naira. About the same time, the VC spent about 1 million naira to purchase towels and bed sheets for his own use, and we thought that was also too much. While we were counting on the Council Chairman to scold the V.C., we found that the Chairman was being compromised in some ways, including the use of his Insurance company to insure the property of the same university of which he was Council Chairman. As soon as that began to happen, we lost the support of the Chairman who then started defending the VC. We were later to hear that the same Chairman had to be ‘rehabilitated’ after losing some dollars to dupes. It then dawned on us that we were only reporting a small thief to a bigger one, since the amount we were accusing the VC of corruptly appropriating was much less than what the higher powers would have been (miss)appropriating. So, when you report a corrupt junior officer to a corrupt senior one, both of them will meet to laugh at you.

 

By the same token, the rumour going round is that in our government ministries, most contracts are awarded to functionaries of the same ministries through fronts, and different cadre of staff have levels of contracts they can perform, with or without fronts. The most junior staff extract bribe to trace files before higher officials can treat them. The intermediate staff supplies stationeries and other materials, while the senior ones deal with bigger contracts. It is also alleged that chief executives of MDAs have problem having their budgets considered by legislatures unless there is up-front deposit or deliberate inflation of estimates to be sorted out later. Of course, capital projects would not be executed if Legislators are not involved in the nomination of contractors. And when the stakes are high enough, the pyramid includes federal and presidency agencies/parastatals involved in the awards. This way, everybody in our public service from the messenger to the Minister/Commissioner and Legislator is well looked after such that it is not in the interest of anyone along the ladder to disturb the apple cat. There The conspiracy is a cast-iron one.

 

Another confounding variable is the wrong impression often given that the private sector is less corrupt than the public sector. There is no doubt that the private sector is more organized and less bogged down by bureaucratic bottlenecks such as statutes, rules, regulations and policies, thus making decision taking and implementation  faster and more effective. However, it is the private sector that has the financial muscle to produce irresistible volume or value of financial and other inducemnets that can compromise even the highest of public servants. We have read in the past of involvement of multinational corporations in bribe scandals all over the world. All these are in spite of the establishment of Servicom, Public Procurement Act, and other such policies aimed at curbing corruption.

 

What this should say to us is that the war against corruption must be started at the very top, and the most potent weapon has to be EXAMPLE. The excuse that since corruption involves everybody those at the top should not be held responsible does not hold water. Neither will anybody who engages in preaching against corruption while being actively engaged in it, be taken seriously. When junior workers know that the man at the head will not take bribe or gratification, they know they can not take it either, or they will be prepared to face the wrath of such leader. If as chief executive or head of department, one gives clear leading in the corruption war, those below will tow the line. As a first step, that means our President-elect and those immediately surrounding him must dictate the pace from day one in government, or forget about the fight. It means if the President-elect declares his assets publicly, any potential public office holder who does not wish to declare his or hers can not occupy the office, and that includes those who contributed the campaign funds and provided expensive logistics. Another major form of corruption is rewarding campaign supporter with policy dictation, a situation in which appointments and government policies are dictated by financiers. This is usually in form of support for particular businesses, giving of waivers, or creation of monopoly. Policies must be dictated predominantly by public common good. No amount of rhetoric will work. Our new leaders must stay OUTSIDE the corruption corps circle, or we would be back to square zero. This is how to destroy and break the spirit of corruption from the tip of the pyramid, so the base can crumble. Are we ready?

 

Professor P. O. Olatunji,

Dept. of Haematology & Blood Transfusion, OOUTH, Sagamu

 

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