It has been said that government service is saddled with corruption. One spoof in an afternoon show while it bordered on amusement gave a brilliant response on the issue of corruption. The question that was expected to be answered in a funny way goes: “How do we stop corruption in government?” to which the joker answered that “Corruption cannot be stopped. Better we do away instead with government!” Of course, there was laughter. The people knew that it was impossible to do away with government, much more so abolish it so that there will be no more avenues where corruption could pass through.
Well, it can be done by privatizing what ought to be a government-sustained activity if it is marred and plagued with corrupt underbellies. It does not need emphasis. There is corruption because the bottom line is for want of efficiency. Hence, one must have to pay so much to seek efficient service. And efficiency is never a bedrock or quality of government service. When one speaks of government, it spells lethargy, stupor if not laziness.
If services are handled by the private sector, expect a high degree of proficiency.
This is something culturally learned and partly oriented from the people’s belief system. You want a grand baptism? Pay the church more. You want a grand wedding and exclusive? Pay the priest more. You want your sins forgiven? Pay the heavens through donations to your church.
In other words, you want good service? Pay a tip. Or, if conducted in public service, give a bribe. Is this fair? For the government worker it is. But his political superiors do not want it that way. Services should be given freely or else the worker is charged of corrupt practices.
But government is a political instrument and could not be expected to yield its power even if it means conceding competence. It is the biggest employer and therefore the largest political carrot to be dangled; an advantage, the so-called equity of the incumbent, the swing vote and there are almost 2 million government functionaries all over the country. Spoil them all and you get the vote on a silver platter.
As a consequence, public service grinds to a slow start. It projects authority and superiority on people it is supposed to serve. While as lip service, government workers declare themselves as civil servants, no way would they ever act as such if a client intends to seek service from their office. There is an air of supremacy that is felt and one must have to bow if not bribe himself to get near and acquire attention.
How to make bureaucrats jump towards fulfilling some action? Pay them handsomely. That is to say, offer them so much. This is when corruption is eventually introduced. It is not a phenomenon actually, it is merely a reasonable reaction but expressed in unfortunate terms.
What if the person seeking immediate action does not have anything to offer by way of “corruption?” Well, he gets nothing except a shabby treatment of being referred to one desk after another, over frown and jittery faces of clerks. Nevertheless, he gets what he wants only after a stretch of time.
In the final reckoning, computing on the expenses the poor fellow spent through regular trips, follow ups, meals and wasted man-hours that could have been utilized in productive activity, the amount is staggering and could have amounted if given to a fixer or any officer for that matter.
That is one common view of corruption. The other view is more daunting. This entails on government fund that would not reach its designated purpose. This is when scams get into the picture. It is not mere ghost delivery or skimming or commissioning but plain swindling of people’s money. Shades of plundering the coffers of government dry to the bones.
And those who succeeded in this game of plunder would still persist on the mission, unpunished as they were and with resources on hand, it could now be used to buy and convince the people to take them to higher offices. And they get the necessary respect and adulation, if not support and assistance by their political patrons, the professionals, the church and even media. It telegraphs the message that small time facilitations are corrupt practices but the greater and grander thievery are ignored if not overlooked.
Furthermore, as shown by public sentiments, imprisoned thieves splurging on their private loot in prison to be shared among fellow poorest of the poor is abhorred more than politicians whose thievery of government money, unshared and even deposited abroad, and yet they get the nod and appreciation of the very people whose tax money was squandered.
What a weird and corrupt world it is.