The deliberations on the Anti-Corruption Report at the Parliament were thorough and important. It has to be, given that abuse of functions tops Anti-Corruption Commission’s list of complaints. To our policymakers and the society, this should be worrying because it indicates the power of power to corrupt those in positions of authority.
As the report acknowledges, complaints on alleged corruption offences give the commission the basis to inquire and investigate. That the commission received 149 complaints of abuse of functions last year, three every week or one every other day, suggests that abuse of functions by public servants are high and rampant for a small society like ours. How and why such practices abound in our society should be an issue worth investigating because it questions the ethics and values of our public servants.
The number of complaints the commission received last year are telling of the level of perceived corruption in the country. That a complaint is filed everyday shows the public’s trust in the institution to address their complaints. This is a good sign for it shows the impact of public education and awareness programmes that has been done so far. But this also shows the people’s lack of trust in public servants. Public servants are being watched, which could explain the increasing number of administrative complaints lodged with the commission.
But if complaints are the basis for the commission to initiate an investigation into alleged corruption, then it should not be overwhelmed by complaints that it sees as being administrative in nature. It becomes necessary to explain to the people what is “corruption per se” or “real corruption” when it comes across issues that could have the potential to be a corruption issue but starts with a surreal or a lame complaint.
Since the complaints involve public servants, these issues are bound to come into the public domain. It is good our parliament members are concerned about the morale of the civil servants. But to speak in their defence for the alleged offense committed does no one any good. By protecting the ‘clean’ ones, we risk covering for those who may only be perceived to be clean.
Allowing the commission to investigate the way it is mandated to would be a crucial move towards the fight against corruption. In saying no to corruption, we are fighting the corrupt, and there are cases when our policymakers must go beyond the rhetoric.