How Nigeria Can Eliminate, Not Reduce, Corruption By Abbas Inuwa Jnr
The idea of eliminating corruption in public sector always seems impossible, many argued that corruption can only be reduced but cannot be eliminated. This piece was borne out of academic class disagreement on whether corruption in Nigeria can be eradicated or not. Agreeably, elimination of corruption in public service is an enormous and onerous task; however it is possible and surmountable. The concept of elimination is to remove, and one wonders how can you possibly remove deep-rooted corruption in public institutions? How can you remove something that has become a way of life? Elimination may seem impossible when we look at it from the angle of ‘nip out’ or one-time-shot, and conversely possible if taken as a gradual and sectoral process.
Corruption is no doubt a common enemy, it has permeate all sectors and hold back national development; police collect bribes to offer security services, nurses extort patience for healthcare delivery, revenue officers siphons government revenue and judges undermine the judiciary and rule of law, from all aspects corruption has deeply affected public service in Nigeria. Therefore, eliminating corruption from the source is a task that must be done.
The source of every corrupt practice in public institutions starts from the budget. The fiscal document is prepared to include corrupt tendencies and unassuming figures that are hardly detected often by the management of an organization who are the sole recipients of the corrupt proceeds. These are evident in the budgets of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) in Nigeria; for instance, MDAs always budget for medical expenses for their staff despite being covered under National Health Insurance Scheme social contribution services. This is an irreconcilable manifestation of corruption in the budget system which virtually cut across all public institutions; examples are in 2014 budgets of Federal Character Commission, Federal Ministry of Niger Delta and many more. Budget corruption is indeed conceived from the onset and can be easily and carefully eliminated by the Budget Office and National Assembly before approving it.
Bureaucratic corruption is another source of concern, which impedes administrative processes and transparency in government. Public service rules are ignored, management staff seat on files for months before giving approval, processing officers collect bribes to process employees files (especially in promotions and pensions), victimization of junior staff has become a threat of the day and office equipments are used for personal purposes. These forms of corruption can be eliminated through office automation in the public bodies. Office automation digitally create, collect, store, manipulate and relay office information needed for accomplishing tasks. The process is expeditiously transparent, it holds staff accountable for any delay in reply or abuse of office thereby optimizing office procedures and storage. Automation includes; using customized electronic mail or intranet services for office correspondences, computer based test for employment and promotions and integrated payment systems. Simply put, e-governance. It is a prevention strategy that eliminates both open and hidden corruption and makes the system to function efficiently and effectively. Other forms of corrupt practices that undermine the integrity of the public service are the quite corruption such as absenteeism, tardiness, misuse of official information, lower level of effort in work place, etc. To eliminate this aspect of corruption, the public institutions must be made to work like their counterparts in the private sector. Public officials must work on target and measured on results and should form the basis of promotion, recognition and award. Absenteeism and lateness to work can also be reduced when biometric attendance machines are installed in public institutions.
The most argued and difficult to eliminate is the financial corruption in the public service. Financial corruption is the exploitation of the system to acquire illegal corrupt proceeds, either through inflation of contracts, ghost workers or siphoning government revenues. These forms of corruption directly affect public service delivery and can be eliminated through strict compliance to financial controls, implementing integrated payment systems and effective treasury management policies. The Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS) and the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) are classical examples of eliminating financial corruption in public service. The IPPIS in particular has recorded tremendous success since its implementation; it has eliminated ghost-workers in the Federal Government payroll and saves billions for the government. Furthermore, the new ‘single treasury account’ of this administration is another essential strategy of consolidating and managing government cash resources, thus eliminating corruption in the public institutions, especially revenue generating bodies. The strategy eliminates multiple revenue remittance accounts and enhances monitoring of agencies due to remit revenues and percentage of revenue remitted. It also ensures complete, real-time information on government cash resources, facilitates efficient payment mechanisms and helps preparation of accurate and reliable cash flow forecasts. In addition, financial regulations and memoranda are documents guiding financial transactions of public bodies and compliance to these regulations are key in eliminating corruption; therefore sanctions must be put in place for erring staff and organizations to serve as deterrence.
Privatization is another great tool of eliminating corruption, such as rent-seeking, business lobbying and coercive market monopoly. It improves efficiency, removes political interference, increases competition and free market and raises State revenue. Therefore, privatization of the downstream sector will go a long way in eradicating corruption in oil and gas industry.
There is a growing concern on judiciary regarding trials and decisions of cases, especially high-profile cases. The early proclamation that, judiciary is the last hope of the common man has in recent times been neglected. Instead politicians have become part of the system adopting new sections of the judiciary. This contributes to serious judicial corruption. Faced with the absence of rule of law in the courts, people often feel that to take any matter to court will be a futile exercise. Despite the fact that, eliminating judicial corruption is classed as toilsome and nearly impracticable; however, it can be reduced to barest level given institutional reforms that would guarantee judicial independence and impartiality, judicial integrity, judicial transparency and accountability. These can be achieved through effective cases management and court procedures – procedures that minimize opportunities for favouritism, reduce delay in trial and diminish opportunities for corrupt treatment of litigants; appointment of highly qualified judges on the basis of merit and not unqualified judges who owe their positions to political patronage or even corrupt acts; and also institutionalization of ethics and integrity code in the system and ensure its applicability and evaluation.
The modern tool for demanding transparency and accountability is the Open Government Data. It is the irrevocable release and authorize use and reuse of public sector information either through technology or otherwise. The information allows citizens to monitor government policies and projects and ask questions where necessary. Citizens participate in governance, demand need-responsive projects, and ensure transparency and accountability in the system. Simply put, we-governance.
More so, whistle blowing is integral to eliminating corruption; it prevents corruption from taking place if reported at the conceiving stage or leads to punishing offenders where the criminal acts of corruption has already been perpetrated. Therefore, whistle-blowers must be assured of incentives and protection through extant laws to encourage whistle-blowing and eliminate corruption.
The civic approach of value reorientation can also instill fear of God, advance social responsibility and eliminate corruption in public lives. It is a concept of public education and enlightenment on the vices of corruption and how to avoid being a victim and can be achieved through integrity outreach programmes, civic education and ethics training in our homes, schools, religious institutions and work place.
Therefore, elimination of corruption is feasible in Nigeria given committed leadership, political will, public sector reforms and citizen participation to rid the country of the menace.
Abbas Inuwa Jnr writes from Kaduna, read more of his write-ups at
www.abinjnr.wordpress.com, or follow him on twitter – @abinjnr