Corruption, The Sirleaf Administration, And
By Alphonso W. Nyenuh
CHANGING MINDSETS is a critical aspect in the fight
against corruption. The public’s attitude of adoration
towards corruption and corrupt officials is unhealthy
and is a function of the culture of corruption and impunity
that has existed for decades in our country. This culture
can only be uprooted by the boldness of the government’s
actions against corruption, the institutions of accountability
that it establishes as well as its own adherence to
a high standard of accountability and transparency.
This can also be accelerated by the caliber of people
who are appointed to public offices.
The Johnson-Sirleaf administration can demonstrate its commitment to fighting corruption by doing a number of things, the following included.
CORRUPTION IS EVERYBODY’S BUSINESS
Corruption hurts everybody and the fight against corruption is a fight that must be waged by everyone- citizen and friend alike. When a revenue collector takes a bribe and waves a businessman’s tax burden he has deprived the government of money that could have gone to provide a pregnant woman or group of pregnant women with necessary pre-natal care and thus has endangered the health and life of the expectant mother and her unborn child. When a District Education Officer submits a payroll containing names of ghost teachers he is depriving unknown number of children of real teachers and the opportunity of an education. When a customs officer receives a bribe and neglects to assess the necessary tariffs on imported goods he is depriving the government of revenue that could go to provide social services. Corruption hurts everybody that is why it must be fought by everyone.
CIVIL SOCIETY’S OBLIGATION
Civil society organizations such as human rights and pro-democracy NGO’s, the media workers and professional unions, interest groups, citizens’ movements, etc have an especially important and unique role to play in the fight against corruption. Civil society institutions such as human rights and pro-democracy NGO’s can design programs that educate the people about the harm that corruption causes and of their role in fostering democracy and accountability. They can design programs that empower the people to demand accountability from their elected representatives and appointed officials; programs that prepare people to look for and report suspected corrupt activities: these are the linchpin of democracy and the fight against corruption.
The media can play a critical role in spotting and exposing corruption. The media, as the fourth estate, the independent, unbiased representative of the people can be more aggressive in demanding transparency and accountability from public officials. Reporters can go out and ask government functionaries to open up their books to the public and to report on their daily activities. Reporters and media institutions can set up a quarterly accounting mechanism whereby legislators are called upon to give an accounting of their accomplishments to their constituencies or give the constituencies an opportunity to ask their representative about their accomplishments. Government officials realizing that these demands will be made of them will likely be forced to do the right thing.
Corruption is not only carried out by government or government officials. We as citizens are equally guilty of corrupt acts and attitudes that undermine national development and progress. If we connive with or bribe an employee of a public utility such as the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) or the Water and Sewer Corporation (LWSC), for example, to provide us services without paying the required bills we are committing a corrupt act that deprives the government of money to improve upon or extend those services to other citizens or to put the money into other services where it is needed. Government is not an abstract entity nor is it made up of people from Mars or Pluto but us, citizens. If we are corrupt our government will be corrupt. A government is a reflection of the values of the citizens of which it is made of and a mirror image of the society of which it is born. Until we all do our part in the fight against corruption our country is doomed: poverty, ignorance and disease will take deeper roots and flourish; the injustice, deprivation and inequalities that corruption engenders will generate discontent and our peace will only be but temporary.