Mar(k): Travel, Hiking, and "Doing Good"

musings on our life of travel and volunteering

05 May 2010

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Quiet corruption: a sure way to start walking backwards

(originally published in the May 2010 edition of The ADVOCATE)

One of the issues that inevitably gets raised in a development context is the issue of corruption.  We often hear of investments being made (in people, projects and capital) here in Ghana because we are fortunate enough that this country is considered a comparatively “safe” place to invest; meaning that it experiences less corruption than many other countries.  This is true.  But it is also true that corruption is an insidious disease, and one that can be hard to eradicate.  And it is often a “slippery slope” to determine what constitutes corruption.  For example, it is easy for us as development workers to “point the finger” at government officials, and say that it is THEY who have a responsibility to not take bribes, to not appoint family members to particular posts, etc…  But I believe we ALL have a responsibility to ensure that we are acting with integrity and do not become victims of what I will call the disease of “quiet corruption”.

Quiet corruption is something that doesn’t attract media headlines; it goes on behind the scenes and can almost become a way of life.  However, if Ghana really wants to move itself forward and into a greater prosperity, we need to take action on addressing issues such as this.  It can be as simple as primary school teachers not being in school.  Without guidance by teachers, how can students learn?  Or what about in the health care realm?  Children’s deaths are occurring due to such “quietly corrupt” issues as drug theft, absence of providers in health centres and diagnostic equipment that has never made it to its intended recipients.

When we turn a blind eye to matters that are potentially corrupt, we are also at fault.  So if money is not being given to the intended recipients, or we alter receipts to make it seem that things cost more than they do, or if goods are “diverted” away from the truly needy;  all of these matters are a form of corruption and need to be stopped. We are also complicit if we accede to the demands of an official who requests an additional few cedis to “make things go quickly”.  Just because we wear a “development or NGO” hat, does not mean we are free from reproach.  We need to demand good governance from others, but also deliver it ourselves.

The examples given above all tend to marginalise the poor, who are, in fact, the people whom we are supposed to be helping.  Sometimes it is indeed hard to see how our small, seemingly insignificant actions can make a difference.  But it is only through a collective effort to truly “do good” that we will finally see Ghana rise up and meet its challenges – including the fulfilment of the Millennium Development Goals.  Otherwise, quiet corruption will have far longer and more harmful consequences for the country.  It was Lao Tzu, the Chinese Philosopher who said that “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.  Let’s all take a step – together – to put an end to corrupt practices.

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Written by Mar(k)

May 6, 2010 at 2:09 pm

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