By Dr Sitali Lwendo
GOOD governance is a condition in which authority and its institutions are accountable, effective and efficient, participatory, transparent, responsive and equitable.
African governments should ensure that a comprehensive and credible budget exits, linked to sectoral priorities and policies for the consistent and efficient management of resources. In promoting good governance, it is vital to tackle the abuse of power.
The views of all oppressed groups, including women, youth and the poor must be heard and considered by governing bodies, because they will be most affected if good governance is not achieved.
Despite the growth of democracy and stability in Africa, corruption and conflict remain serious barriers to ending extreme poverty on the continent. In addition to the human and psychological toll corruption and conflict take on African populations, they also cost money and the continent loses billions each year as a result of corruption alone.
Research has shown that peaceful countries with a leadership accountable to its citizens will have the best chance at winning the fight against extreme poverty and disease. Transparent governments that respect civic participation and the rule of law are necessary to ensure that scarce resources are spent well and investments are made in the poorest people.
The reality though is that ending corruption in our societies and our continent lies in our own hands. It is our countries, our people and our continent that are victims of the underdevelopment that is caused by corruption and our people that suffer poverty and other preventable maladies as a consequence.
We cannot deny that corruption is behind a lot of the underdevelopment in our countries and continent at large. It causes, among others, poor quality goods and services, lack of efficiency, excessive costs and ineffective public programmes.
Corruption basically destabilizes societies. In many instances corruption also endangers the security of our states. Some scholars define corruption as a universal, historic issue that occurs in both developed and developing countries and in both the public and private sectors, as well as the nonprofit sector.
The leading causes of corruption are: abundant natural resources; autocratic and unaccountable government; unevenly provided and poor quality public services; low salary of civil servants and under-resourced/lack of independence for institutions or structures intended to provide checks and balances.
Some have argued that the responsibility to improve governance and security lies with Africa’s own leaders, media and civil society, but donor countries also have a role to play in promoting and supporting accountability, transparency and stability. In order for African leaders to reinforce the effectiveness of government and encourage the development of the rule of law, new measures and legal reforms are required.
Every close analysis of the way in which African economies actually operate shows that official laws are ignored, what-ever their quality and that the main factor leading people to behave as they do is precisely the wish to evade these laws. It is not the inadequacy of the law, which is the point at issue but the fact that people systematically flout it.
In order to counter the scale of embezzlement and lack of rigour in the administration of funds, aid donors should apply greater pressure and more detailed conditionality. However, such conditionality, when applied to rhizome-like states and in the context of the erosion of government, which has taken place in Africa, has often had results which are the opposite of those intended.
Some scholars argue that in order to reduce corruption, it is necessary to reduce opportunities for discretionary intervention by the government. The problem here is that the relation between corruption and the incidence of discretionary interventions in government is not at all simple. According to standard economic theory, discretionary interventions in the economy are conducive to corruption, and it is for this reason that a maximum degree of consistency and uniformity is desirable.
Although we have argued that the state in Africa has deep roots, it nonetheless remains true that public administration and institutions in Africa are weak, as a result of the rhizome-like nature of the state and of the organization of public power in general.
Administrative procedures and legislative or institutional rules are only one channel among many, which the public authorities use to manage countries’ affairs. Personal relations and personal networks, whether of an economic, political, religious or regional nature, frequently offer far more effective instruments of public management.
The values and principles that govern public administration in every sphere of government, organ of the state, and public enterprise that is free from corruption and bad governance are the promotion and maintenance of a high standard of professional ethics; the promotion of an efficient, economic and effective use of resources; the provision of services without bias in an impartial, fair equitable manner, as well as the fostering of transparency by providing the public with timely, accessible and accurate information.
Finally, corruption and economic governance are two key challenges to development that Africa’s emerging democracies must confront. Most African countries appear to be fully cognizant of these challenges and possess the legal framework (constitutional provisions and statutory laws) and anti-corruption institutions to tackle them.
However, the effectiveness of the institutions is severely constrained by structural weaknesses and inadequate human and material resources. No serious attempts have been made towards institutional reforms that could introduce good governance in both the public and private sectors. Political commitment seems lukewarm and evasive at best, and the high-level anti-corruption rhetoric is hardly backed with concrete measures.
• Dr Sitali B. Lwendo is a Lecturer at the University of Namibia (Unam) in the Faculty of Economics and Management Sciences.