Complexity of handling fraud and corruption in the public sector

Procurement is a key area in the public sector that intersects financially with the private sector.  Unfortunately, it is a principal area for fraudulent and corrupt practices.

Procurement is a key area in the public sector that intersects financially with the private sector.  Unfortunately, it is a principal area for fraudulent and corrupt practices.

We cannot overemphasise the potential damage that fraudulent and corrupt practices ensure; well beyond just financial loss.  Fraud and corruption pose serious threats to the ability of the state to achieve its operational objectives. 

 They can hamper implementation of programmes and projects.  The presence of corruption in any institution poses a serious risk of its credibility, efficiency and its effectiveness is at stake. That is why we should get concerned when it grows.

The persistence of many cases of corruption in various fields in Rwanda reveals how complex the issue is. There is a spider-web like network that seems too complex to unravel.

But in many cases, things go wrong when the officials involved in offering a tender for instance, are virtually given the task to make a general follow up of executing the project.

Automatically, any input into the procurement process by a party with vested interests in the outcome, creates a conflict of interest. 
The entrepreneur is aware of this inevitable interest and exploits it to the maximum.

He or she starts bribing the already corrupted public official. Inadequate skills of the personnel, of course, compound the tragedy as it increase exposure to risks, especially supplier fraud.

The situation worsens further when the government allows a short cut process in the name of an ‘emergency’.

Here risks of rackets rise dramatically, as both suppliers and personnel act on insufficient information.

So what should be the way forward?

The solution is not simple. But logically, the officials involved at any point in offering tender should not be the ones to follow its implementation. There should be another completely independent party to do so.

Unfortunately however, the other party too, may trace the entrepreneur or vice versa, to strike a deal. That is the complexity of the matter. Nevertheless, the latter is far better than the former.

It is a quite remote approach compared to the one where an individual(s) traverses through the whole process. There should be some degree of centralizing procurement procedures anyway. It is debatable, but decentralization increases the gap, hence paving way for corruption and fraud when it comes to offering tenders.

Many cases of corruption for instance in districts across the country, make one wonder whether we decentralised power or corruption. We should thus be extra careful when we prepare to decentralise further to the sector level.

Here local official are more ill prepared to handle the new responsibilities. Like ‘some’ of their big ‘brothers’ at the district and Provincial levels, they will be excited to handle greater amounts of money. But what will follow? I do not want to be pessimistic, but time will judge us right or wrong.

In a nut shell what we are failing to get is men and women of integrity. Integrity is a fundamental pre-condition for forging trustworthy and effective framework for economic and social life of citizens.

Which is why, countering corruption and promoting public integrity are critical for sustained economic development.

Otherwise, preventing corruption is as complex as the phenomenon of corruption itself.

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