Combating corruption

Published October 31, 2012

THIS is with reference to the news report ‘Corruption split Pakistan, says BD scholar’ (Oct 21). Corruption is a global issue. Almost all the countries are confronted with the menace of corruption.

Pakistan is no exception to this plague. It stands in 134th place in the ranking by Transparency International. There is visibly corruption at all levels in all the public sectors. According to calculations by Transparency International, Pakistan has lost an unbelievably high amount, more than Rs8.5 trillion (US $94 billion), in corruption, tax evasion and bad governance during the last five years.

All this is happening despite the fact that Pakistan has ratified the UN Convention against Corruption in 2007. Pakistan may have ratified the convention due to pressure if international financial institutions.

Pakistan has formulated various polices and has made legislation on various issues to meet requirement of multilateral development banks and IFIs. Same must be the case with this convention.

Corruption has been roughly damaging the health of country in various ways. It badly tears down the values of transparency, accountability, responsiveness and good governance. In this way, it blocks the way of consolidation of democratic process in Pakistan.

Corruption also affects foreign investment process. Above all, taxpayers’ money has been grossly misused. All this is because of various reasons which include lack of good governance, public awareness about the fiscal issues, existing laws ensuring access of public to information, unwillingness of political parties to bring the issue on priority list and lack of public audit, lack of strong networks and above all, lack of political will.

Now, therefore it seems high time to adopt holistic and integrated contextual approach to combat corruption in Pakistan.

The masses have the right to question or to know about the actions and decisions of their leaders and to question about the public expenditure. Pakistan has Freedom of Information Act. But it stays unused by public by and large.

The government departments at all levels spend taxpayers’ money on various projects and schemes such as roads, bridges, schools, water supply schemes and other programmes. But all that is not audited publicly. Therefore, there is a need of educating public on this law. This could be most effective tool to combat corruption in Pakistan. It makes the officials responsible and answerable to the public. People can question from the officials how and from where they have used public taxpayers’ money. Civil society organisations and individuals have been using this tool in effective way to bring transparency and accountability in public sector expenditure.

Fiscal education is one of the key components to establish values of responsiveness, transparency, and accountability.

The more people are educated in fiscal matter, the more they will be vigilant in asking the government officials about how and where they make expenditure.

There is dire need of educating civil society, community, political workers and media personnel in fiscal matters. There is also need to lobby with government officials to incorporate fiscal education in the syllabus of educational institutions. Corruption fighter toolkit developed by Transparency International is one of the most effective tools that could be used by different sections of society.

JAMIL JUNEJO Hyderabad

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