Corruption, especially which occurs in the public service, has far-reaching implications especially in the developing world where every cent is desperately needed. Corrupt officials have changed their tracks and tactics. They no longer dig their filthy hands deeply into state coffers but – as evidenced by the mass arrest of teachers in the Zambezi Region this week – they do so incrementally and at a pace slower than a snail. The end result of corruption, whether committed at the pace of lightning or a turtle, is destructive and cancerous. For example, the N$10 million that government allegedly lost to ‘ghost teachers’ in Zambezi took place over a period of five years – between 2011 and 2016. It is money that could have fed a drought-hit community in the dry Kunene Region or put up accommodation facilities for expectant mothers at Outapi. These are just examples. Namibia is still reeling in shock from revelations that the country has lost N$3.5 billion through a tax fraud syndicate, featuring Chinese nationals, Namibian business people and officials in the government bureaucracy. It’s a huge sum that could have come in handy when the government, just last week, received threats from Salini over unpaid invoices worth N$600 million for the job done so far at Neckartal dam. Salini has already laid off armies of workers due to financial difficulties experienced as a result of non-payment by government – which itself is grappling with woes of its own. Such is the tragedy of corruption – too much national resources for a small group and zero for the majority. Also, there is currently another ongoing court case in which government lost another N$114 million through fake VAT refunds. Overall, the list is endless. The point is, if all these isolated cases were lumped together, the total sum of lost state money would eclipse, by a country mile, funds lost at SME Bank and in other major corruption scandals haunting the republic. Officials within the government bureaucracy are well aware that more often than not, too much scrutiny is placed on the higher echelons of the spectrum. Little attention is paid to what happens below those ranks. While all eyes are fixed on ministers and executives of state institutions – clerks and administrative assistants at the lower end of the hierarchy are left with so much space to steal. Soon there would be nothing left – even to steal. Government must address these concerns by demonstrating the will to tackle corruption across the spectrum. What worries us most is particularly the fact that these incidents are detected after many years of plundering – bringing into question the effectiveness of state systems deployed to detect such activities. This could be due to a myriad of reasons – which possibly include incompetence and/or the poor design of such systems. Whatever it is must be dealt with. Let’s not create a Zaire situation where, some decades ago, dictator Mobutu Sese Seko allegedly had more money than the government he was leading. He even, rather unashamedly, apparently quipped that he could lend government money from his personal bank account but didn’t trust it would reimburse him. This is a typical case of greed beyond measure, which is currently rearing its ugly head in our country. As the saying goes, a fish rots from the head. The reluctance to deal with corruption decisively at the top, often for political expediency and other ‘homeboy’ reasons, inspires those below the top hierarchy to steal. As PLO Lumumba said recently in Windhoek: locking away a top official for corruption – and there are plenty of candidates here at home – would be the best civic education ever imparted to citizens of the republic.
2017-09-22 09:43:55 11 months ago