Our Readers' Opinions
June 18, 2004
Corruption in public office

EDITOR: Corruption is described as all actions or omissions that constitute the diversion of a public official from the formal duties of his position, with the objective of obtaining pecuniary, political or social benefits and also involves any utilization of privileged information, influence, or opportunities for personal or political benefit.{{more}}
It is therefore a vice, and an abuse in the management of public business. This is not just a problem for government or the state machinery. It is one that must be tackled
by all.
The Committee on Standards in Public Life, London 1997, published seven principles by which the actions of officials should be judged to determine if corruption is present or not.
1) Public interest: Officials must act at all times in the best interest of the public and not in the interest of self, family or friend.
2) Integrity: Officials should not accept gifts or favours from persons or organizations that may seek to influence the decisions and actions taken by him/her.
3) Objectivity: The awarding of jobs, contracts, benefits and concessions should be based on merit.
4) Responsibility: Officials must respond to the citizens for their actions and must submit their functions to public scrutiny.
5) Openness: Decisions and actions taken by officials must be as clear as possible and be explained to the people (except in the case of sensitive information and issues of national security).
6) Honesty: Officials must declare all private interests that they possess with respect to their duties. All possible efforts must be made to prevent conflicts of interest which impact negatively on the public’s interest.
7) Leadership: The actions of officials must serve as positive examples to those whom they lead.
While a lot of emphasis is placed on corruption involving public officials, they are not the only ones responsible.
Transparency International identified two culprits: corrupt politicians and corrupt business people and investors.
Corruption traps entire nations in poverty; prevents sustainable development; and places private interest before the interest of the people and the economic development of their countries. It creates problems and obstacles for present and future generations.
Corruption constitutes an attack on the basic rights of the people, because it produces hardship and deprivation. The country is robbed of resources which could have been used to improve the lot of the poor and dispossessed.
Corruption inhibits the ability of those who come behind to propel the process forward in a meaningful and constructive way. Their actions and initiatives are thwarted by the effects of the misdeeds of their predecessors. The enormous burden prevents us from moving forward at the rate that we would like to. Resources have to be spent on entities and processes that bring little or no benefits.
It is amazing how those among us, whose actions and omissions have helped to trap us in poverty and prevent sustainable development, try to attribute the causes of same to others. Those who have created the problem now profess to have the solution without acknowledging the true origin of the problem.
While the evidence against them augments day by day they pretend to be more and more oblivious to their reality.
Corruption emanates from a mind-set of dominance, superiority, cleverness and the assumption that he/she can get away scot-free.
Those who are culpable must be made examples of. They must serve as a point of reference for those present and those to come.

Dr. Franklyn James