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Friday, 28 August 2009

A poor stance on graft (Guest Blog)

Some observers have expressed fears that the fight against corruption in sub-Saharan countries is waning. One of such observers is Daniel Kaufmann, who is quoted by Celia W. Dugger (in an article which appeared in The New York Times of June 10, 2009 entitled "Battle to Halt Graft Scourge in Africa Ebbs") as having said the following: "We are witnessing an era of major back-tracking on the anti-corruption drive."

In Zambia, such fears are evoked by the apparent lack of political will to address the scourge, dismissals of officials who pursue corrupt politicians regarded as sacred cows, an under-funded Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), selective prosecution of suspected perpetrators of corruption, single-source procurements by government agencies or ministries in contravention of rules and regulations limiting such procurements to emergency situations, and appointment of individuals found wanting for flouting Zambian laws and regulations to ministerial positions.

There are, of course, other factors which militate against the anti-corruption drive in Zambia. In a nutshell, they include poor governance, political instability, regular reshuffles of government leaders, a weak legislative system, a weak judicial system, bureaucratic red tape, inadequate salaries and benefits, greed and moral deficiency among some employees and national leaders, excessive discretionary presidential powers, lack of transparency in governmental decision making, and lax enforcement of criminal and administrative codes.

Approaches to addressing the incidence of corruption, therefore, seem obvious; they include the following: good governance; sustained political will; genuine zero tolerance; streamlining of cumbersome bureaucratic procedures; provision of adequate remuneration of employees; compulsory ethics education; provision for an anti-graft hotline; protection of whistle-blowers; creation of an autonomous agency to handle the distribution of relief food, cash and other supplies to communities affected by floods, droughts and other kinds of disasters in order to reduce politically clutched distribution of such supplies; and active participation in bilateral and multilateral conventions, protocols and declarations designed to fight corruption, particularly in the areas of prevention, prosecution, asset recovery, and international cooperation in generating rules for extraditing alleged fugitive perpetrators of corrupt practices.

As it is often said, actions speak louder than words. Unfortunately, President Rupiah Banda and his administration seem to be paying lip-service to the fight against corruption. If they cannot demonstrate their commitment to combat the scourge through their actions, therefore, the anti-graft policy which has just been launched is meaningless – it is a sham at best!

Meanwhile, corruption, together with the other bottlenecks to sustainable socio-economic development – including poor leadership, economic mismanagement, a bloated national government, and the debt burden – will continue to diminish the country's ability to harness its abundant natural and human resources to meet the basic needs, expectations and aspirations of the citizenry.

Henry Kyambalesa
(Guest Blogger / Agenda for Change)


  1. Has there also been a reduction in aid conditionality in SSA? If so, is the correlation or causation?

  2. Luis Enrique,

    Has there also been a reduction in aid conditionality in SSA? If so, is the correlation or causation?

    I suspect it has more to do with the increasing influence of China. Battles in Africa over national resources used to be between the French and Anglo-Saxons, today it is more between the West and China.

    Also very important, is the cyclical global economic shift from paper assets (stocks, currencies) to hard assets (food, commodities). African land, farmland, and food is going to gain in importance, which is why the West and China want as much access to it as they can get.

    The fight against corruption was never serious, and only pursued in cases where the West did not have access to African resources (Sudan, Zimbabwe) while ignoring the worst outrages against human rights in places where Africa's assets were firmly in western hands (DRC, Gabon, Ivory Coast, etc.).

    The fight against corruption is not serious, because by and large, the West benefits from it economically and financially.


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