Government’s reluctance fuelling private sector corruption IPPR

Windhoek Government is to a large extent responsible for creating an environment for initiating and allowing private sector corruption to take place. This is according to a report titled The role of private sector in tackling corruption which was released on Wednesday by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR). The report was compiled for IPPR by local academic and researcher Johan Coetzee, and was produced with the support of the Open Society Initiative of Southern Africa (Osisa).

If political and public office bearers who are responsible for drafting, approving and implementing legislation, policies, regulations and by-laws tolerate accepting bribes, the private sector will most certainly offer bribes in order to increase profits. For example, if public servants would refuse to accept bribes and report them to the appropriate authorities for efficient processing, investigation and prosecution, providing all other variables remain constant, bribery will not take place, Coetzee concluded in the report.

Coetzee noted that public servants are tempted to accept bribes partly because of a culture of ingrained corruption in the public service, as well as a culture of entitlement that could be the consequence of historical imbalances of injustice created by apartheid, colonialism, neo-colonialism and the liberation struggle.

Political connections and relatively lower salaries than privately employed people with similar skills and experience, contribute to corruption. Based on a history of unsuccessful ad hoc attempts to reform the public service since independence, it is of limited value for the private sector to wait for reform of the public sector. With a two-thirds majority in Parliament, the government is very secure in terms of voter support with no emerging competition on the horizon. Because of the government's secure position on the political landscape, it has very limited motivation to initiate public sector reform, reads the report.

In the conclusion, Coetzee added that through public sector reform, the ruling party can lose substantial support and that a significant number of public officials are direct or indirect beneficiaries of the ruling party through institutionalised patronage, nepotism and favouritism.

These public servants have become so dependent on corruption that they will resist any attempts at reform. Politically connected and/or ignorant and incompetent public servants form such a large portion of the employed personnel in the economy that reform will have a severe negative socio-economic impact on them, which will in turn impact negatively on the ruling party, the report reads.

Coetzee recommends that, based on international best practices of sustainable reform, the private sector should take the initiative and put pressure on politicians to increase efficiency and productivity in the public sector, so that delays and waste are minimised. He argues that a more efficient public sector will reduce the costs of the private sector to do business.

The private sector should collaborate with civil society in creating and funding public dialogue about issues of national importance. The private sector should use the media much more effectively, especially the social media, e.g. Facebook, to inform, organise and mobilise public support to expose corruption networks. For the private sector to be credible, respectable and to have leverage on government, it must get its own house in order to voluntary regulate unethical and immoral behaviour of its members, e.g. not to offer bribes to politicians and public office holders, read the recommendations in the report.

Coetzee notes that participation and transparency have the potential to reduce maladministration and corruption in the public and private sector interaction with lucrative opportunities for corruption.

The report also recommends that the private sector initiate civil and criminal cases to investigate corruption and increase public awareness about corruption issues of national importance. In addition, the the private sector and civil society are urged to coordinate in order to form a united front to negotiate with government on alternatives to reduce corruption in the public and private sector interface, such as in terms of border control corruption, delays in the approval of licences and permits, corruption in allocation of tenders and large capital-intensive projects.

In general, it is recommended that the private sector collaborates and synergises its resources to influence the government in terms of advising on legislation, policies and regulations and monitor the implementation of such instruments, reads the report.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia