Finding words that accurately encapsulate all the evils that corruption represents is indeed a tall order. However, a look into the dictionary provides some guide: Corruption is “… lack of integrity or honesty (especially susceptibility to bribery); use of a position of trust for dishonest gains. It is degeneracy, depravation, depravity, putrefaction. Corruption means moral pervasion; impairment of virtue and moral principles. It is the act of destroying someone’s honesty or loyalty or undermining moral integrity. Corruption stands for inducement (as of a public official) by improper means (as bribery) to violate duty (as by committing a felony) – (WordNet 2.1).
All the above definitions are a drop in the ocean of the totality of what corruption is. To a large extent, corruption is a defiler of the human personality. It’s a viral infection of the human mind and soul.
Jesus’ explanation when Peter asked Him to clarify His statement, “Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man” (Matthew 15:11) provides valuable insight into the origin and effects of corruption. Jesus said, “Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceeds evil thoughts, murders … thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man…” (Matthew 15:17-20).
Corruption is a malady of the heart (mind and soul) that manifests as evil thoughts, murders, thefts, arsons, kidnappings, assassinations and the like. The menace of corruption is heightened by its ubiquity. There’s a potential for corruption wherever people are found, all it takes is for a person to be infected with the corruption virus. If serious precautions are not taken, others in the vicinity soon get infected with this deadly virus.
Effects of Corruption
Corruption affects the entire fabric of the society. Its effects on the society are many and myriad. Perhaps the most serious effect corruption has on the society is the moral hazards it causes. As corruption becomes pervasive, people no longer see the need for honest work. In specific terms, there’s the social effect of corruption. It manifests as social vices such as armed robbery, arsons, kidnapping, rape, police brutality, and assassinations.
The economic effect of corruption is probably the most destructive. It’s the root cause of other societal effects of corruption. It violates the essence of economic management: effective and efficient allocation of resources. With huge economic resources in wrong hands, any developmental initiatives at any levels of government are reduced to mere wishes that will never see the light of day. Economic effects of corruption manifest as frauds, embezzlement, and decadent infrastructure, amongst others.
On the political front, the effects of corruption are: prevalence of god-fathers, election rigging, nepotism, profligacy, politically motivated assassinations and so on.
The overall effects of corruption are glaringly evident by way of total breakdown of law and order, moral decadence, poor healthcare delivery system, dysfunctional educational system. Corruption brings about a poor showing in every facet of the society that requires human capital intervention.
In attempting to proffer solutions to the menace of corruption, it’s pertinent to identify the parties to every corrupt act. Since corruption can be likened to a diseased condition, the parties are: corruption pathogens (these are viruses that cause corrupt acts); corruption hosts or carriers, as the name connotes, these are the carriers of the pathogens; victims or patients are the people that suffer from the menace of corruption; and conditions are situations that enable corruption to thrive.
The victims of corruption can be categorized into direct victims and collateral victims. The direct victims are those that suffer the direct impact of corruption. The direct victim is, however, not cast in stone. For instance, if an individual in need of service (service needer) from a government parastatal offers the person at the service point a bribe, the service person is the direct victim whereas if the service person demands a bribe from the service needer, the needer becomes the direct victim of that corrupt act. In both situations, the society is the collateral victim because the society eventually suffers the adverse effect of the corrupt act.
In a situation where the corruption host fraudulently utilizes funds meant for the execution of public projects, the society is the direct victim of that corrupt act.
The distinction made above is important when a corrupt act has been committed and punishment is to be applied. The person that should suffer the consequences of corruption is the host not the receiver of proceeds of corruption. This is because some people have had to accept proceeds of corrupt acts for reasons of the dire consequences there could be for refusing to accept such proceeds.
The solutions to corruption are preventive and therapeutic solutions. Preventive solutions are meant to preclude situations that enable corruption to thrive. It entails putting structures in place that inhibit corrupt acts. The saying ‘prevention is better than cure’ is true. This is particularly so in the case of corruption where the alternative to preventive solution (therapeutic solution) has devastating effects.
Preventive solutions to corruption include: poverty reduction, enactment and application of relevant laws, motivated and well-equipped security agencies, independent Press, transparency and information technology (IT). A cursory look at the preventive solutions reflects the marked difference between the developed countries and the under-developed countries. All the preventive measures mentioned above are found in the developed countries.
The most prevalent situation that engenders corruption in under-developed countries is poverty. Leaders in these countries, for obvious reasons, institutionalize poverty! It is a veritable means of perpetuating themselves in power. In their thinking, the more impoverished the people are, the easier it would be to get them to do their bidding. These leaders’ much touted measures to reduce corruption are inherently self-serving.
Transparency is a viable solution in combating corruption because it’s a known fact that corruption thrives on secrecy. Corrupt people don’t ever want their corrupt acts revealed in the open. Threats of possible dent on their shield of secrecy often result in assassinations just to keep their secrets secret. The basic requirement for public servants to declare their assets before and after appointments into public offices which is aimed at entrenching transparency is never adhered to.
The importance of the enactment and application of relevant laws, effective security agencies and independent Press is compelling such that expatiating on them is needless. One of the key advantages of the use of information technology to combat corruption is the ease of implementation it has over the others preventive solutions. It’s also a useful tool for dealing with the menace of corruption. IT eliminates the need for human interface – a necessary condition for corruption especially when it comes to extortion of money from the citizenry. I believe IT is one singular measure that can be used to break the stranglehold of corruption on under-developed countries.
In all, it would take a spirited effort to come up with workable preventive measures against corruption because the perpetrators are almost always one step ahead. Corruption hosts in the affected countries ensure that corruption pathogens are injected into every policy at the formulation stage. For instance, the entrenchment of corruption is evident in the mandatory requirement by government agencies and department for service needers to be physically present before they can be served. All these steps are in place to facilitate corruption. Therefore, a formidable step to prevent corruption would be to make the operations of all government agencies and departments IT compliant within the shortest possible time.
Therapeutic or curative solution, on the other hand, is applicable when a case of corruption has been established. The virulent nature of corruption makes it imperative that the therapeutic solution be of equal match. Without mincing words, corruption is the biggest threat to the development of under-developed countries. It must, therefore, be treated as a big challenge it is. As I conclude, I will use a Bible story that gives an insight into how corruption should be treated. The importance of the story is underscored by the fact that the treatment meted out to the purported corruption hosts was administered by God. The children of Eli, the high priest, were accused of corruption. Their corrupt acts include stealing / robbery, sexual immorality, amongst other despicable acts. The details of their corrupt acts are contained in I Samuel 2: 12 – 17.
When it was time for the corrupt acts of the children of Eli to be dealt with, God sent His servant to Eli (not his children who were directly responsible for the acts). This has implication for leaders. Leaders are responsible for the actions of the people they lead. The punishments meted out to the house of Eli were: death of the two sons (corruption hosts) on the same day; premature death of the descendants of Eli thereafter (such that there will not be an old man in the family forever), those that do not die young shall be a source of shame to the family. Finally, God, through his servant, said to Eli: “…I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who shall do according to what is in My heart and in My mind. I will build him a sure house, and he shall walk before My anointed forever.” (I Samuel 2:35)
From the judgment God meted out to the house of Eli, one can deduce that the reason for their extermination is that their hearts and minds had been corrupted (defiled) such that they were no longer fit to be used by God. In effect, corruption ruins the human heart and mind and makes it impossible for them to produce anything good.
The best way to stamp out corruption is to exterminate the hosts. That’s God’s message in I Samuel 2:35 and that should be our approach too, if we are to make progress. Anything short of eliminating corruption hosts is an exercise in futility. If God found no use for corruption hosts but to destroy them, how dare we think that we could rehabilitate them?