Caritas Chipata governance unit programmes coordinator John Mthaziko Zulu says there is too much corruption in service delivery in Zambia. Zulu is right. No one can sensibly dispute this.
Corruption has very serious negative consequences on the socio-economic development of this country.
In Zambia today, corruption is visible in all sectors of the economy, the public service inclusive.
It is a known fact in Zambia that corruption has negatively affected the ability of government to provide essential services in education, health, water, electricity and other infrastructure facilities.
Corruption in the public service is a major impediment to effective service delivery to the Zambian populace. Due to the privileged position of the public servants to public resources and information, they tend to abuse these privileges to the detriment of the Zambian people.
This, therefore, calls for, among other measures, a culture of relative openness, effective supervision and monitoring of programmes geared towards provision of essential public goods and services.
Corruption is no doubt a national phenomenon that has threatened and still continues to threaten the developmental efforts in our country. In Zambia, eradicating corruption has been a major concern because of its negative impact on good governance and effective service delivery. Corruption exists in one form or the order in almost all aspects of our national life.
And what is really worrying many Zambians of good will today is the extent of its pervasiveness and its implication for good governance, its value system and political culture in particular. An average Zambian seems to have accepted corruption as inevitable and uncontrollable, believing that the society as a whole is corrupt and beyond remedy. Additionally, many Zambians seem to believe that nothing meaningful will ever get done to correct or punish those perpetuating these crimes. Today corruption has reached an alarming rate and has eaten deep into every facet of Zambian society. It has indeed become an integral part of the administrative, political, socio-economic and cultural system as well as a way of life of the citizenry. The situation in the Zambian public service can succinctly be described as one in which government officials have become progressively indifferent to propriety of conduct and show little commitment to promoting the general welfare of the people and the public goods. Government and all its agencies have become thoroughly corrupt and reckless. Members of the public have to bribe their way through in ministries and parastatals to get attention.
Despite the structures put in place to combat the malaise or at least reduce it to its barest minimum, corruption still continues to be endemic, particularly in the Zambian public service with its attendant implications for effective service delivery and welfare of the people. The effect of this is that the majority of Zambians are yet to enjoy the dividends of democracy and good governance. The question is what is the magnitude and dimension of corruption in Zambia, specifically in the Zambian public service? Does it have any implication for effective service delivery? The issue of corruption can be looked at from various perspectives, depending on how it is being perpetuated or practiced. Corruption or corrupt practices has to do with fraudulent activities, especially siphoning of funds that are meant for the general populace for ones aggrandisement only. Clearly, corruption is as an anti-social behaviour conferring improper benefits contrary to legal and moral norms and which undermines the authority’s ability to improve the living condition of the people. In this sense, corruption is the misuse of entrusted power for private gain. It is a selfish and dishonest act that deprives a vast majority, apart from the perpetrators and their cohorts, of desired benefits, that is social, economic, political and other legitimate benefits.
We are looking at corruption here from the political and bureaucratic perspective. Political corruption occurs at the highest level of political authority amongst politicians and political decision makers, who are entitled to formulate, establish and implement the laws in the name of the people. These people thus make and formulate policies and legislate laws that are intended to benefit themselves. It is characterised by greed because it affects the manner in which decisions are made to manipulate political institutions, rules of procedure and distort the institutions of government. The bureaucratic corruption on the other hand, occurs in the public administration or the implementation end of politics. In Zambia, this type of corruption occurs daily in places like the hospitals, schools, licensing offices, police, and tax offices, and so on and so forth, where citizens must have to offer bribes to access what they are legally entitled to. The other variant is the outright embezzlement of public funds by public officials in their places of assignments. In Zambia, the embezzlement of public funds is one of the most common ways of economic accumulation, perhaps due to lack of strict regulatory systems.
There is no doubt that the high rate of corruption in the public service has great implication for effective service delivery. This is because the public service is the major implementer of government policies and programmes geared towards providing essential services that impact on the well-being of the general citizenry. It is, however, unfortunate that the citizens that are supposed to enjoy the benefits of these services are rather subjected to all forms of ridicule and frustration. For example, public officials collect bribes from the citizens before accessing some of the services. They are equally ridiculed and frustrated should they refuse to give the bribes. Beside the skeletal nature of the services provided, they are also most times denied even services they pay for – electricity, water, health and other essential services.
Thus there is a symbiotic relationship between corruption in the public service and effective service delivery.
We therefore need a government that imbibe a strong political will to combating corruption in the public service and of necessity punish offenders regardless of who is involved. It’s impossible to have such a government if we have a corrupt president who is busy trying to enrich himself in the shortest possible time and in every way possible.
And we the citizens of this country must be involved in the process of monitoring and evaluation of programmes and projects geared towards our wellbeing. We should start to insist on getting the right quality of services from government and other service providers.
‘The church should criticise politicians so that they do the right things’.