Graft On the Rise

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– Namibian Citizens Say in Survey By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK While citizens of some African countries perceive official corruption to have decreased, Na-mibians say the country has registered an increase in perceived corruption over time. An Afrobarometer survey conducted in 12 African countries on how Africans perceive official corruption found that in many cases, perceptions of official corruption are sharply declining. But the survey results, which are a review of public opinion conducted between 1999 and 2006 entitled “Where is Africa going: Views from below” noted that with regard to national officials, only Namibia registered an increase in perceived corruption over time. The perceptions of corruption among government officials declined by 19 percentage points, while that of Namibia increased by 10 percentage points. At the same time, the perceptions of corruption were lowest in Namibia, where 25 percent of the respondents consider it less common compared to Lesotho with 30 percent and Botswana with 33 percent. While 25 percent felt that corruption among public officials and civil servants was fairly or very common, 19 percent said corruption among elected leaders was very common. The Namibian Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) yesterday could not comment on whether or not the survey reflects the reality on the ground because the close to 200 complaints that the office has received are directed at government and different institutions. Paulus Noa, Director of the ACC told New Era the commission is now entering the information in the Computer Management System to enable it determine to which institution the complaints are directed. The survey also found that the majority of the respondents (42 percent) felt corruption was a worse problem under the previous government. Twenty-seven percent strongly disagreed that corruption was a worse problem during the previous regime, 21 percent said it was about the same, while 10 percent of the respondents did not know. The survey also found that the proportion of survey respondents seeing official graft is significantly lower in 2005 than in 2000. The survey was conducted in three separate rounds in 2000, 2002 and 2005, during which Afrobarometer interviewed over 56 000 African citizens in Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Uganda and Tanzania. Contrary to popular belief that corruption in Africa is entrenched and worsening, Africans perceive corruption is currently less than it was six years ago. The survey results indicate that there is little evidence that Africans have a culturally unique understanding of what corruption is as they thought that actions such as channelling development projects to supporters, giving jobs to family members or demanding bribes for service were wrong and attracted punishment. In the most recent survey, conducted last year, the respondents were asked about three potential acts by government officials, namely locating a development project in an area where friends and supporters live; giving a job to a family member who does not have adequate qualifications; and a favour or additional payment for some service that is part of one’s job. The aim was to find out whether the acts were not wrong at all, wrong but understandable or whether they were wrong and punishable. The majority of people (61 percent) said that an official who locates a development project in an area where his friends and supporters live is wrong and should be punished, while 24 percent felt such action is wrong but understandable. One out of every 10 of the respondents, which represents 13 percent felt such actions are permissible. Three-quarters of the respondents were less willing to accept a public official who gives a job to someone who does not have adequate qualifications, as they considered it a punishable act. Equally, they took a dim view of an official who demands a favour or additional payment for services that should be part of his job, saying this is as well punishable. While many people believe that their leaders are involved in corruption, they also encountered corruption in their daily dealings with the state. In last year’s survey, which was conducted in 18 countries including Benin, Cape Verde, Kenya, Madagascar and Mozambique, one in every 10 of the respondents had to use bribery or its equivalent to get a document or permit to obtain medicines or medical treatment and also to avoid a problem with the police such as passing a roadblock. Seven percent said they had to resort to such tactics to get a school placement for a child or to secure access to household services. It also indicates that rates of corruption of people that did not try and seek the services were much higher. “Between one in five and one in 10 citizens who actually attempted to obtain an official document (17 percent), medical attention (15 percent), deal with the police (15 percent), get household services (11 percent) or get a child to school (10 percent) were victimized,” the results indicate. In this regard, Kenyans, Nigerians and Zimbabweans experience the most corruption as nearly one in every three Kenyans (29 percent), 22 percent of Nigerians and 21 percent of Zimbabweans had to take extra-ordinary measures to avoid problems with the police in 2005. The countries where corruption is least rampant, according to the survey, are Botswana, Lesotho, Cape Verde and Malawi. In comparison to countries where corruption is rife, just one percent of Batswana were forced to engage in bribery to meet their needs, while in Malawi and Cape Verde, three percent and two percent respectively engaged in bribery to meet their needs.