How we can defeat corruption

Editor, Laws can be written in such a manner that can reduce the ability of “Big Fish” to defeat the course of justice. That, plus the kind of determination at the highest levels of the state to be totally intolerant of corruption, ensures both dissuasion and punitive action where dissuasion fails.

Editor,

Laws can be written in such a manner that can reduce the ability of “Big Fish” to defeat the course of justice. That, plus the kind of determination at the highest levels of the state to be totally intolerant of corruption, ensures both dissuasion and punitive action where dissuasion fails.

This increases the cost of corruption to the corrupt or those who might be tempted to engage in it and thus keeps the monster in check, even if it can never be totally eliminated.

And since as we know the fish starts to rot from the head, once you manage to control corruption at the top, the benefits cascade to the lower levels, especially if the big fish are held responsible for corruption and wastage of public resources within their departments, even when they themselves have not acted corruptly.

The trick, of course, is to ensure a delicate balance so that managers do not become so risk-averse because they fear the consequences to themselves that they prefer to do nothing rather than be entrepreneurial, taking decisions whose negative outcome for the public might lead to economic and legal jeopardy for the managers themselves.

As they say, “Show me someone who makes no mistakes and I will show you someone who does nothing”. Anyone who has an executive role and who has the authority to commit public resources will invariably take decisions that, in hindsight, can be interpreted in a way that puts them in the worst light.

And yet without those decisions, no progress could be possible. Thus the need not to look at decisions—even those that did not result in the most optimum of outcomes—as being motivated by underhand considerations.

Conversely, loss that is seemingly a result of poor judgment or unfortunate confluence of factors can in fact be a very clever cover for corrupted decision-making to benefit those involved who can then plead mistaken decisions rather than deliberately corrupt decisions for self-enrichment.

Mwene Gatete

Reaction to the story, “No corrupt official will be spared – Presidency” (The New Times, March 4)

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