Citizens, made cynical by the number of allegations of corruption that the political parties in and out of government have made against each other over decades with little successful prosecution of those alleged to have been corrupt, must feel wary of another round of allegations contending for their attention.
The reality is that for the past couple of decades, elections have been fought on anti-corruption platforms by both sides—and yet the general feeling is that the country is more mired in questionable practices in government than ever before.
Acquiring the investigative services of the likes of forensic accountant Bob Lindquist, high-priced Queen’s Counsel from Britain and local senior attorneys for preliminary inquiries and commissions of enquiry has brought no more than associated scandals, and no concrete results—only large invoices.
How often is anyone put behind bars for these crimes? How much public money has been recouped through these efforts, rather than being expended? What is more, politicians on both sides now give the impression that they seek out and denounce corruption not because it is wrong, or because it drains valuable resources from the Treasury but simply as a stick with which to beat the other side.
Campaign financing by political investors, the old boys’ network and party allegiances conspire with the painfully slow pace of police investigations and a judicial system that is obviously stretched to its limits to create a Gordian knot of legal red tape and technicalities that prevents any progress.
The result that can be clearly discerned is the existence of a system for dealing with corruption that is simply not working. Put differently, the methods being employed to guard the Treasury against hustlers of every kind have not produced results to justify the massive expenditure.
Moreover, the corrupt have come to believe they are free to peddle influence and to distort the system so that justice cannot prevail. In this respect, the two major political parties and the smaller ones also have failed the nation on this issue by not establishing institutions which can penetrate the surface of corrupt activity and punish offenders.
What is needed is for both sides to put away partisan considerations, sit down with the judiciary, the police, civil-society groups that have considered the problem, even more expensive foreign experts, if necessary, and address it seriously.
In the present environment, allegations of corruption simply mean more fees for lawyers. The fact is that there are no consequences such as large fines, long jail sentences and disgrace. Therefore, as in the instances of murder and other such violent crimes, the way is left open for perpetuation of criminal activities of the white-collar variety against the State and people of the country.
As has been well established elsewhere, these forms of corruption deprive citizens in need of assistance from the State of vital resources. Corruption also prevents governments from enhancing the physical infrastructure of the country and also reduces the quantum of financial resources available to the Government to fund economic development.
With two elections in the offing, the politicians are once again up to their old games. The ultimate solution must be that the electorate must show itself wise to those games. If there are allegations of corruption without those deemed corrupt paying the price and in a reasonably quick period, the agitators must be held politically accountable and be replaced. Simply uttering condemnation and threats is not enough.