TRUTH, LIES AND CORRUPTION

Corruption has a long history dating back to the 14th century. The Latin etymology of the word corruptus means to “destroy” or “spoil” but the truth is that the earliest Book of the holy bible, Genesis chapter 6 verse 12 similarly describes a world before the flood where ‘everyone on earth was corrupt‘ (New Living Translation of the Holy Bible). Genesis 6:12 describes a world filled with structural violence and in the absence of any well-regulated government it is easy to imagine what evils would arise. The influential, rich, powerful and connected did what was right in their own eyes, and having no fear of God, destruction and misery are in their ways.

The Mechanics of Corruption

To understand the mechanics of corruption, you have to pay attention to the extensive conflicts of interest, intricate web of connections, widespread clientelism – where goods or services are exchanged for political support – and the intimate relationships between wealth accumulation and politics are the distinctive features of corruption. And they are all too common in the political world.

Corruption arises from institutional attributes of the state and societal attitudes toward formal political processes. Institutional attributes that encourage corruption include the wide authority of the state, which offers significant opportunities for corruption; minimal accountability, which reduces the cost of corrupt behavior; and perverse incentives in government procurement and contracting, which induce self-serving rather than public-serving behavior. Societal attitudes fostering corruption include allegiance to personal loyalties over objective rules, low legitimacy of government, and dominance of a political party or ruling elite over political and economic processes.

Rolling Back the Lies and Corruption

Possible responses to these underlying causes of corruption in Guyana include institutional reforms to limit authority, improve accountability, and realign incentives, as well as societal reforms to change attitudes and mobilize political will for sustained anti-corruption interventions. A strategy must be tailored to fit the particular circumstances of this country, the Government needs to design a strategy that requires assessing the level, forms, and causes of corruption for Guyana as a whole and for specific government institutions.  In particular, strategy formulation requires taking a hard look at the level of political will for anti-corruption reform in government and civil society.  Corruption in state agencies does not exist in isolation. To some extent, it is a manifestation of the prevailing ethical standards in the public sector. If ruling politicians and senior civil servants, who are supposed to uphold integrity in the public sector, are seen to be corrupt, if public office is generally viewed as an asset to be exploited for personal benefit, if public servants have no compunctions about flaunting ill-gotten wealth, it becomes very difficult for officers to remain immune to the lure of illicit enrichment.

Opportunities for reform must stem from reformists’ tendencies within the government, public outrage over scandals or an opposition movement.  Civil society must take the lead and focus on societal measures to increase awareness of the problem and develop a constituency for reform.  The real issue which needs to be addressed, however, is the environment within Guyana which permits public officials to stray so far from their mission in the first instance. It starts at the top. If people in the society or within the public sector don’t have confidence in or respect for the politicians or executives managing the government, it’s going to be reflected within the ministries and agencies.

I would therefore encourage the government to seriously consider aligning the anti-corruption agenda to national initiatives such as a National Anti-Corruption Policy (NACP) as an explicit national integrity agenda that would emerge with commitment to succeed, shared jointly by civil society, the private sector community and the government.

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