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departments should emulate Ministry of Education
June 27, 2012
One of the biggest
challenges that Zimbabwe faces in its quest to develop is the absence
of structures and institutions that ensure accountability and transparency
in the operations of government entities and holders of public office.
Many of the country-s public institutions have thus degenerated
into corruption hotspots, resulting in a failure to adequately provide
public services. The most affected institutions in this regard include
the Zimbabwe Republic Police, the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority
(ZESA), local authorities, the registrar-s office, the vehicle
inspection department and state hospitals. Resultantly, Zimbabweans
find it difficult to access fundamental services and human rights
such as access to health care, housing, passports and justice.
It was thus
refreshing to learn that the Ministry of Education Sports Arts and
Culture was engaging on a country wide probe of school heads to
ascertain whether or not they are engaged in any fraudulent activities.
The probe was reportedly necessitated by an unprecedented increase
in allegations of misappropriation of funds and corruption against
school authorities in schools across the country. According to the
Ministry of Education, one of the aims of the probe is to entrench
a culture of accountability in the operations of schools. The ministry
also recently revealed that such probes may become a recurrent trend
to ensure that the operations of school authorities are above board.
departments that are serious about ending corruption within their
ranks should emulate the ministry of education. While probing schools
may not be the magic bullet to end corruption in schools, it is
a commendable step towards righting the wrongs that have become
endemic in learning institutions. It is a concept that other government
departments should copy and adopt to their own circumstances. For
instance, Zimbabweans have in the past complained that ZRP traffic
section personnel are corrupt and demand bribes from motorists.
Instead of dismissing the allegations, the ZRP should probe the
operations of its officers and try to verify the allegations. It
is surprising that while bribes are exchanged in broad daylight
on a day to day basis on roadblocks all over the country, the top
brass are failing to identify the culprits and let justice take
its course. What they need to do is to put the interests of the
people of Zimbabwe first, like the ministry of education, and launch
a probe that will end all forms of corruption on the country-s
Putting up structures
to ensure accountability and transparency in the operations of government
departments has the merit of acting as a deterrent to corrupt practices.
A civil servant who knows that his/her behaviour may be investigated
at any moment will obviously be reluctant to engage in corrupt activities
as this would put his/her job on the line. This is in essence what
probes such as the one that the ministry of education is engaging
in achieve. Additionally, they provide a means to name and shame
those who take part in underhand dealings thus serving as mechanisms
for serving justice. Already the education ministry has announced
that the probe has unearthed 'serious irregularities in the
operations of some school heads.- The ministry has said that
such school heads will be prosecuted. Thus in addition to serving
as a deterrent to would be offenders, the probe will serve as a
mechanism to flush out unruly elements from the education sector
and punish them for their actions.
But the Education
Department itself should do more if it truly wants to deal with
corruption in schools for the ultimate benefit of Zimbabweans. Firstly,
it should make public the procedures that it is using to conduct
the probe and invite stakeholders such as parents and school development
associations to input into the investigations. Secondly, it should
publish the results of the probe to ensure that members of the public
are aware of the outcomes and able to demand justice. This is necessary
as stakeholder participation and availing of information to the
public are fundamental components of ensuring transparency and accountability.
It can be argued
therefore that what really lacks in Zimbabwe-s current fight
against corruption is lack of political will. Those who hold positions
of power seem reluctant to take concerted efforts to end corruption
in their institutions. Maybe they do not realise the amount of damage
that corruption is doing to Zimbabwe, even in monetary terms in
the form of misappropriation of funds that are meant for the treasury.
In Addition, Zimbabweans are being forced to spend exorbitant amounts
of money on public services such as access to passports, licences
and birth certificates because government employees are demanding
bribes. This is money that people could instead be using to start
entrepreneurial projects that could contribute to the country-s
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or help alleviate high unemployment.
It is high time the government and its various departments took
a stand against corruption, in the interest of the welfare of Zimbabweans.
The ministry of education has set an example, it would be folly
to ignore it. While the procedures and processes for carrying out
the probe have not been ascertained, it is nonetheless a leap forward,
by Zimbabwean standards, in the quest to inculcate values of transparency
and accountability in the operations of public institutions. Zimbabwe
seriously needs to deal with its high level of corruption in order
to develop and improve the lives of its citizens. Admittedly, more
will still need to be done. There is a need for people to free themselves
from their fawning attitudes towards political leaders, as this
puts politicians above their people, dealing a heavy blow to the
concept of people governance. There is also a need for a free press,
to guard the interests of the public, and fairness in hiring of
civil servants. But since every journey starts with one step, government
departments might as well in the meantime take a leaf from the education
ministry and engage in probes to ensure that the actions of their
employees are above board.
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