Thursday, December 4, 2014

Graft rises, but we’re among the best in EA

Transparency International says bribes and

Transparency International says bribes and backroom deals don’t just steal resources from the most vulnerable, they undermine justice and economic development and destroy public trust in government and leaders. PHOTO | FILE 

By Frank Kimboy, The Citizen Reporter

Dar es Salaam. Tanzania has dropped eight places in Transparency International’s (TI) Corruption Perceptions Index--from 111 last year to 119 this year. But the country’s score has improved from 33 last year to 35 out of 100 in the new index released yesterday.

The index ranks 175 countries by perceived levels of public sector corruption and draws on 13 surveys covering expert assessments and the views of businesspeople.

Botswana maintained its global position at number 31, one place down from 2013--making it the least corrupt in Africa. Rwanda dropped from 49 last year to 55 this year but maintained its status as the least corrupt country in East Africa.

At 119, Tanzania is the second least corrupt country in East Africa. Uganda follows at 142 and Kenya stands at 145. Burundi is the most corrupt country in the region at 159.

Denmark tops the list of good guys and eight European countries rank in the top 10 slots. Somalia is at the bottom while five African countries are on the list of the 10 least-performing countries.

“Poorly equipped schools, counterfeit medicine and elections decided by money are just some of the consequences of public sector corruption,” said Transparency International. “Bribes and backroom deals don’t just steal resources from the most vulnerable, they undermine justice and economic development and destroy public trust in government and leaders.”

According to the organisation, the 2014 index paints an alarming picture as no single country gets a perfect score and more than two-thirds score below 50, Tanzania included, on a scale 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).

“Countries at the bottom need to adopt radical anti-corruption measures in favour of their people,” said TI Chair Jose Ugaz. “Countries at the top of the index should make sure they don’t export corrupt practices to under-developed countries.”

Efforts to reach government officials for comment proved futile. Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) Director General Edward Hoseah would not comment on the grounds that he had yet to see the report. “How did we fare in the report?” he wanted to know. Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chairman Zitto Kabwe urged the government to take the TI report seriously and address “systematic and endemic” corruption, which have compromised the country’s development. According to him, petty corruption is hurting the country’s efforts to overcome poverty at lower levels while grand corruption has impeded the government’s development efforts.

“If we don’t take action, Tanzania may end up like Nigeria, where petro-dollars have ended in the pockets of a few individuals,” Mr Kabwe added. “We have to address rent seeking in order to ensure that people don’t use their political offices to enrich themselves.”

Mr Rajabu Mbarouk Mohammed, the chairman of the Parliamentary Local Authority Accounts Committee, argued that lack of transparency in investment contracts fuels the rise in corruption--along with a decline in public leadership ethics. “The public perception of corruption in the government will never change if there is no transparency on how the resources are used,” Mr Mohammed added.

The executive director of health rights NGO Sikika, Mr Irenei Kiria, told The Citizen Tanzania’s ranking did not come as a surprise and he does not expect any improvement in the near future because the perpetrators of grand corruption are presumably protected by the system.

According to him, proof of this lies in the constitution re-writing process where all proposals by the Warioba Commission that were designed to ensure accountability and transparency were shot down by politicians in the Constituent Assembly.

“It is now a trend that when a president’s term comes to an end, there must be a mega-corruption scandal,” Mr Kiria added. “Remember the Epa scandal when the Mkapa administration was coming to an end and now we have the Tegeta Escrow account scandal.”

Tanzanians should get used to such scandals, he went on, because the perpetrators of the scandals are the ones in power.

Morogoro-based lawyer Emmanuel Gideon reckons the country missed a great opportunity to end corruption during the constitution re-writing process.

“The second draft of the new constitution not only gave Parliament the power to oversee the government but also made provisions that would ensure accountability and transparency,” Mr Gideon said, “But, for reasons known only to them, the Members of the Constituent Assembly removed them.”