OPINION: Bureaucracy can only succeed in breeding corruption

Thursday November 14 2019

Professor Zulfiqarali Premji

Professor Zulfiqarali Premji 

Last week two interesting incidents took place and I wish to bring these forward with some analysis.

Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa in Mtwara informed the Mtwara regional leadership that the town council (halmashauri), through the district director wrote to a potential foreign investor to pay about Sh30 million so that the council could meet to discuss and perhaps give their approval.

This was supposed to be the sitting allowance for the council members.

One of the committee meetings was even non-procedural and the PM was not aware of its existence.

This visibly angered PM and he reprimanded the town council including the acting DED, in fact he directed the Regional Commissioner to deal with DED possibly meaning to take disciplinary action. Sadly this is same as taking the case of a monkey to a baboon. Why?

In the first place the RC represents the government at the regional level so why was the RC not aware of this.


Why should it take national leaders to come to solve problems in the region and districts? We see this trend repeatedly.

The other message I get is that the policies and value system of the fifth phase government have not adequately percolated to the regions and districts.

The drive is to remove unnecessary hurdles for investors whether from within or from outside. Investors are encouraged so as to create jobs and participate in making our economy strong.

This incident reflects a tactful sabotage of this policy and efforts. Was it necessary to direct the RC to deal with the acting DED, why is the PM showing weakness? He has the powers to dismiss incompetent and corrupt workers; according to me the DC or RC should also be held accountable.

Seems at regional and district level the culture of sitting allowance is still entrenched and propagated? And why? Seems, regions and districts are not in sync with the policies of the central government. This is not incompetence but an intentional motive to make money beyond one’s salary.

This has been the cancer of our civil service for a very long time.

The other incident is about Volkswagen; Europe’s biggest carmaker moved their investment of assembly factory to Rwanda from Tanzania to escape deep-rooted bureaucracy.

Former Home Affairs minister Charles Kitwanga reported this in Parliament.

This claim needs to be investigated and the involved civil servants should be taken to task. Seems the fight against corruption is relatively getting lukewarm.

This should not be the case since corruption is still rampant and more resources and better systems are needed to fight corruption. This imperturbable approach is inadequate to fight corruption and more needs to be done.

Prevailing peace as many politicians boast about is not the only factor that attracts investors.

I have asserted in the past that PCCB on its own cannot sustain the fight against corruption.

The most important missing link is the participation of community to combat corruption.

Unless it is addressed adequately by spiritual, emotional, legislative means and involving all stakeholders taming corruption shall remain a distant dream.

Ignorance, apathy and disempowerment are recurring drivers of impunity.

Social accountability, on its part, aims to empower citizens with information and provide effective channels through which to exercise agency.

For this reason, social accountability plays a pivotal role for anti-corruption practice.

There are many different social accountability tools that development practitioners can use.

The ease of doing business, Tanzania is ranked 141 globally, why cannot we be under 100 or even 50, can the concerned ministry explain this? We boast that we are very welcoming, polite and friendly people so what are the hurdles for doing business in Tanzania and why they cannot be addressed?

The high level of bureaucracy in state institutions is appalling. Services that would ordinarily be given in a couple of days are deliberately made to entail complicated, lengthy and totally unjustifiable procedures that usually drag on for months.

There has definitely been improvement with discipline amongst civil servants but efforts should be made to sustain and perhaps increase efficiency and accountability.

There still are civil servants who do not show any commitment or dedication to the work they do.

While this could be blamed on low wages, it is also clear that some civil servants do not have a single iota of patriotism.

Creating bureaucratic processes breeds’ frustration and desperation and the only way around it is through bribery and corruption. Institutionalized bureaucracy is thus the mother of corruption.

Institutionalised bureaucracy derails the economic development of individuals and a nation.

In this era of globalization, leaders should embrace information technology that can totally cut out state bureaucracy.

This is a clear illustration that with political will, bureaucratic tendencies can be done away with.

There is an urgent need to transform the nature of the state machine from one that is simply there to administer to one that represents the wishes and aspirations of the people.

A new breed of patriotic and nationalist leaders can only achieve this because some current and past leaders have clearly betrayed the country.

On the reverse side far from greasing the wheels of commerce, more corruption means even more red tape.

Zulfiqarali Premji is a retired MUHAS professor. His career spans over 40 years in academia, research and public health.