Corruption: The case of the hiccups in Rwanda's scientific state

A couple of weeks ago in this column I pointed out that over the past decade Rwanda has been trying to create a scientific state, that the country has established mechanisms for applying a systematic approach to state management, where there is significant reliance on measurement of socioeconomic progress, and that such an approach is intended to domesticate ‘development,’ with explanations that are due to chance greatly minimised.

A couple of weeks ago in this column I pointed out that over the past decade Rwanda has been trying to create a scientific state, that the country has established mechanisms for applying a systematic approach to state management, where there is significant reliance on measurement of socioeconomic progress, and that such an approach is intended to domesticate ‘development,’ with explanations that are due to chance greatly minimised.

It is becoming clearer that such a system can only succeed to the extent that the different actors in it have a thorough grasp of their respective roles. Moreover, it appears that it is this in-depth understanding that in turn shapes the very institutions in which they are deployed to serve.

Effectively, therefore, outcomes are tied to the extent to which the objectives of the institution and the disposition of its actors are in a mutually reinforcing relationship. Indeed, what should gradually come out of such a relationship is a sort of institutional complexity that is comparable to synchronised swimming.

So, why are our public servants not swimming together – synchronically? That is the question that has underlain the topical subject of this quarter: accountability. The answer, it seems, is that some of them are in it for themselves.

In the broader sense of things, therefore, corruption is a case of the hiccups in the scientific project. Its effects are apparently being felt at the local government level, where it has ‘hindered’ service delivery.

It follows, therefore, that some are holding hostage the scientific state. Moreover, recent studies have indicated diminishing public trust the lower one goes on the state administration ladder. Worse still is what all this translates into in the context of state building: Those unable to grasp their role in the scientific state are operating closer to the people, in the communities.

The scientific state is trying to create the ideal public servant who is perceived by the public as ‘genuine and caring’ – a servant leader. Such a leader would ‘lead by example’ and would be a ‘mirror of good governance,’ according to Francis Kaboneka, the Minister of Local Government.

Mr. Kaboneka is speaking of a public servant with a heart for the welfare of the people he or she leads.

Moreover, his message carries particular import in the context of recent revelations during the launch of the Governance Scorecard that, “Corruption at the local government level has hindered the delivery of some of the most important social protection services.”

The reported ‘hindrances’ were in the G’irinka and VUP Umurenge programmes whose intention is to give a “hand-up” to the most vulnerable members of our society. Further, one is reminded of reports of cases involving the misdirection of beneficiary contributions from the Mutuelle de Santé programme.

There is little wonder, therefore, that Mr. Kaboneka is speaking about matters of the heart. Indeed, it is simply heartless that monies intended for the most vulnerable are being targeted by these swindlers.

However, there was something else. Those who paid attention would have known that in the one hand, the Minister extended the olive branch; in the other hand, behind the Minister’s back, was the big stick.

“Local government is the mirror of good governance,” he started. “No one will impede our aim of good governance.” Let those with ears …

Most importantly, keen observers would have linked the messages coming from the National Leadership Retreat in Gabiro earlier this month, the Minister’s admonition, and the presentation of the results of the Rwanda Governance Scorecard, the tracking mechanism – with key variables and indicators of socioeconomic progress – of the scientific state.

The message is this: Those keen on misdirecting public resources towards private use are in for a rude awakening going forward because the option whether they are allowed to thrive or whether the scientific state will prevail in efforts geared towards the delivery of socioeconomic transformation is a false choice.

In other words, in the quest to deliver this transformation the scientific state must necessarily rid itself of the deadweight going forward. To paraphrase the Minister, no one will be allowed to hold it hostage.

Some – bringing neither the olive branch nor carrots, just sticks –were harsher in their antidote: “Instead of drawing back the intended progress” an official observed, “they should just leave public service.”

 

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