Corruption is a universal problem but developing countries are hit the hardest when it comes to the repercussions of this vice. Corruption is responsible for inequality, it is responsible for poor social services, it is responsible for the paradox of plenty, and it is responsible for declining foreign investments and poor socioeconomic growth and development.
According to Transparency International, over two-thirds of the 176 countries and territories in its ‘Corruption Perception Index 2016’ fell below the midpoint. The global average score was a paltry 43 out of 100, indicating endemic corruption in a country’s public sector. Corruption manifests itself in many forms including embezzlement of public resources, bribery, nepotism, extortion, graft, influence peddling and parochialism.
The public sector chronically suffers from effects of corruption due to weak institutions that have systems that are frail, resistant to change and contain loopholes that can be easily exploited by unscrupulous self-centered public officials.
The need to reform public administration is dire and attempts to reform public sectors are sweeping across Africa. Public sectors need to be more efficient, accountable and transparent as they play a critical in ensuring microeconomic stability and enhancing public trust.
The road to public sector reforms in developing countries is long and treacherous and usually characterized by numerous hurdles. Reforms have to deal with complex political and social frameworks for them to succeed.
Lack of political will and commitment is a major setback to public sector reform efforts. The political cost that comes with reforms and upsetting the status-quo usually prompts some elements in government to pull in the different direction and marshal necessary support to derail the reform process. Fundamental changes in public institutions can take decades to take shape and come into effect. Political will plays a vital role in expediting reform process.
The exchange of a favor in return for a favor (quid-pro-quo) is another impediment to public sector reforms. Individuals who yield substantial power can take advantage of weak institutions to gain favors and unfair advantage in return for their political support. This leads to institutions being led by officials who are essentially puppets dancing to the tune of external forces.
Rules that govern social cohesion but don’t attract legal repercussions can also interfere with public sector reform efforts. In many cases, most jurisdictions do not prohibit informal norms thus render the justice route futile. Being banished from the society probably the epitome of severity.
When it comes to public sector reforms, reform efforts need to bring onboard all stakeholders including marginalized groups in the society. Lack of inclusivity widens the discrimination cleavage rendering marginalized groups disadvantaged in the access to essential services. Constitutional reforms are needed to ensure equal opportunities for all members of the society.
Advancement and adoption of technology and automation will play a critical role in curbing graft. Payment systems in government are being automated. The processes of applying for public services such as renewal of driving license and passports are being done online. This not only improves convenience but also bolsters accountability and transparency.
The emergence of blockchain technology and the push towards making this technology mainstream will be vital to safeguarding public records. For instance, land records. Crooked land dealers will not be able to sell the same piece of land to several unsuspecting buyers. Records in this case will be tamperproof.
Abraham Lincoln defined democracy as a government of the people, by the people and for the people. In today’s context however, with governments marred by grand scandals and smeared with parochialism, those principles of democracy don’t apply. Public sector reforms will ensure that the arms of government operate seamlessly to the benefit of the general public, emergence of strong public institutions, and ensure the rule of law actually rules.