Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The effects of corruption

Stated simply, corruption is a crime of opportunity. The typology of corruption and corrupt practices is wide and varied, but they all entail the misuse and abuse of office for selfish or personal gain. Corruption can entail acts of omission or commission. It may involve legal activities or illegal ones. It can be internal to an organization (e.g. embezzlement) or external to it (e.g. extortions). But wherever it is it hurts the poor.

Augustine Ruzindana the former Inspector General of Government, 1986-1996 observes that: “Widespread corruption signals that something has gone wrong in the relationship between the state and society. Public service has been replaced by private greed. When corruption is pervasive, everyone suffers – ordinary citizens, the state and the private sector.”

On the other hand Peter Eigen, Founder of Transparency International also observed that: “As we enter the new millennium, we are conscious that corruption, to a greater or lesser extent, poses a threat not only to the environment, human rights, democratic institutions and fundamental rights and freedoms, but it also undermines development and deepens poverty for millions the world over. If it is allowed to continue to provoke irrational governance, one driven by greed rather than the people’s needs, and to disrupt the development of the private sector, corruption will even deny that most fundamental of human needs – hope.”

Therefore, there is a wide view that corruption denies citizens their rights and is a source of suffering and poor service delivery.

The effects of corruption are most severely felt by the vulnerable who include people onto whom society endows comparatively lesser entitlements; children, the elderly, women, girls, persons with disabilities and people affected by conflict . The vulnerable are denied the critically needed public resources such as medicine, water, sanitation, planting and stocking materials, justice, security, production tools etc because of corruption. Yet it is through distribution of public resources that governments address inequalities in society. These categories of the vulnerable also are often unable to circumvent corrupt individuals and institutions because they cannot afford bribes and lack the voice to air their concerns. It is the vulnerable therefore who suffer eternally in silence and die due to totally preventable conditions caused by the corrupt.

The other effects of corruption are four-fold: political, economic, social, and environmental. On the political front, corruption constitutes a major obstacle to democracy and the rule of law. In a democratic system, offices and institutions lose their legitimacy when they are misused for private advantage. Though this is harmful in the established democracies, it is even more so in newly emerging ones. Accountable political leadership cannot develop in a corrupt climate. Economically, corruption leads to the depletion of national wealth. It is often responsible for the funnelling of scarce public resources to uneconomic high-profile projects, such as hosting CHOGM, power plants, junk military equipment and dams, at the expense of less spectacular but more necessary infrastructure projects such as schools, hospitals and roads, or the supply of power and water to rural areas. Furthermore, it hinders the development of fair market structures and distorts competition, thereby deterring investment.

The effect of corruption on the social fabric of society is the most damaging of all. It undermines people's trust in the political system, in its institutions and its leadership. Frustration and general apathy among a disillusioned public result in a weak civil society. That in turn clears the way for despots as well as democratically elected yet unscrupulous leaders to turn national assets into personal wealth. Demanding and paying bribes become the norm. Those unwilling to comply often emigrate, leaving the country drained of its most able and most honest citizens. Environmental degradation is yet another consequence of corrupt systems. The lack of, or non-enforcement of, environmental regulations and legislation has historically allowed the North to export its polluting industry to the South. At the same time, careless exploitation of natural resources, from timber and minerals to elephants, by both domestic and international agents has led to ravaged natural environments.
Environmentally devastating projects are given preference in funding, because they are easy targets for siphoning off public money into private pockets.

Corruption is very harmful to society. In Uganda and all over the world, corruption impacts on people's lives in a multitude of ways. In the worst cases, corruption costs lives. In countless other cases, it costs their freedom, health, or money. Here are a few examples: Loss of Global and GAVI funds in the Ministry of Health cost the lives of many HIV/AIDS patients and un-immunized children, respectively. Thousands die annually because of poorly constructed roads. Government loses hundreds of millions of American dollars annually to corruption. This implies lost opportunities to deliver services to the population. Other examples of the impact of corruption abound: take the residents of shanty towns, who need to pay off city officials so that the little bit of living space they have built does not get torn down; or citizens harassed by police in their daily activities, having to pay left and right only to go about their business. Some bureaucracies only work if they are enticed by additional "rewards". In any case, grand and petty corruption is making life more difficult or outright threatens the lives of many people all in Uganda.

With regard to gender, girls and women are more vulnerable than boys and men . First they have lesser entitlements in their households and communities hence public goods and services would be a major approach to addressing the inequalities they face. Public goods and services delivery in reproductive health, maternal and child health, education and skills development, water and sanitation, planting and stocking materials, justice, and security. Production tools would alleviate the gender based inequalities through improving the lives of females, freeing their time to engage in economic activities, enhancing their rights and providing social protection. When resources that would improve lives are lost due to corruption, the status of women is not improved.

1, Langreth, P. and Simpkins, P. (eds.) (1996) Integrity Workshop in Uganda II: Final Workshop Proceedings. Washington DC: The Economic Institute of the World Bank. Pp.11.
2. In the ‘Preface’ to Pope, J. and Transparency International (2000): TI Source Book 2000: Confronting Corruption; The Elements of a National Integrity System. Berlin: Transparency International.
3. Henry Manyire, Socialization Processes and Patterns of Corruption in Uganda, Makerere Univer. 2008

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