EDITORIAL: Transparency International Pakistan’s National Corruption Perception Survey report released on Friday shows a serious lack of public trust in the system. With some small variations between the provinces, police gets ranked as the most corrupt institution followed by those responsible for tendering and awarding contracts of government projects; the judiciary, and the education sector, especially in Sindh.

Over all, majority of the respondents considered anti-corruption bodies, including the National Accountability Bureau, ‘ineffective’ in curbing financial corruption, citing three factors for the opinion: (i) inordinate delays in deciding cases of financial wrongdoing; (ii) use of state institutions by public office holders for personal gains; and (iii) administrative incompetence. Most of the people also expressed disquiet over non-application of income and assets declaration requirement to judges and military officials.

All this affirms what is an open secret: that financial corruption is endemic in Pakistan. It comes at a cost to service delivery to the people, especially the poor and vulnerable sections of society in terms of access to justice, healthcare facilities, education, employment, means of safe and reliable transportation, even clean drinking water and unadulterated food items and drugs.

Notably, there is the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority, yet more often than not contracts for various projects get granted either to cronies of holders of high public office as well as bureaucrats, or in exchange for bribes.

The result is that infrastructure projects, such as roads in some areas either exist only on paper or are so poorly built that they need to be rebuilt again and again. Then there is the phenomenon of ghost schools and teachers, also politicians sanctioning import of expensive equipment for hospitals —never used — to take their cuts. Besides, it is all too common for staff in various government departments to ask for money to do their routine duty. Without a doubt, corruption is the number one issue impeding socio-economic progress and prosperity of this country.

Corruption, of course, exists in all societies at some level, including in the developed ones. But Pakistan continuously gets placed among the world’s most corrupt countries in different international agencies’ annual assessment reports. This is not because the people here are more greedy than others and have an insatiable appetite for wealth accumulation, but because the deterrence mechanism is utterly useless. Those in charge of anti-corruption entities are either unable to resist pressure from their fraudulent political masters or themselves lack integrity.

Clearly, holding the corrupt to account is imperative. The place to start is those at the top echelons of power, but how? There is no easy answer to this challenge.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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Jai Dec 23, 2022 10:09pm
Raise the pay of civil servants (while reducing headcount) to deter petty corruption and enforce strict sentences on those found to be corrupt from the bottom to the top.
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