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Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Nepotism as corruption..

Sketchley Sacika recently urged the the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to broaden the definition of corruption by including nepotism :

"I want to appeal to ACC that while we appreciate what the Act says about corruption, we would like the Act on the definition of corruption to be extended to things like nepotism and favouritism...Corruption is not only about things highlighted in the ACC Act...It’s important to understand what corruption is all about. If we reduce our understanding to the four points highlighted in the Act then we may not be able to fight corruption. Corruption fight will be in futility....I have worked in the government which was efficient before, I have worked in a government which is corrupt free; the government of Dr Kenneth Kaunda was purposeful. There was corruption yes, but it was rare"
This is a confusing statement for two reasons.

First, the Laws of Zambia (ACC Act No 42 of 1996) defines corruption as “the soliciting, accepting, giving or offering of a gratification by way of a bribe or other personal temptation or inducement, or the misuse of abuse of a public office for private advantage or benefit”. This is a wide ranging definition, which suggests several vices that could feasibly qualify as corruption.  Among them certainly includes nepotism or the favouritism granted to relatives or friends, without regard to their merit (“tribalism” probably falls within the scope). By referring to "other personal temptation or inducement" it certainly makes it clear that abuse need not be financial.

Secondly, the statement that corruption under Dr Kenneth Kaunda was rare assumes that there was nepotism or tribalism. Are we really saying these things are new?  There may be some truth in the following joke told at family dinner tables whenever governance issues come up :  "Under Kenneth Kaunda , corruption was done with “dignity” and under the table. Then came along the Chiluba government, where corruption was done in a “liberal manner” and above the table. With the dawn of President Mwanawasa the entire table was stolen, with everyone chased out of the room except for the inner circle. With President Banda government, the table has gone but everyone is invited to participate!"

I discuss the various forms of corruption, including nepotism, at more detail under Reflections on Corruption.

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