The Whistle Blower

Windhoek – The findings of the 2013 Global Corruption Barometer by Transparency International (TI) published recently set off a series of reactions with countries either welcoming the reports or challenging and disputing them, regarding them as “misrepresentation”.

The Global Corruption Barometer 2013 is the world's largest public opinion survey on corruption.

TI interviewed 114 000 people in 107 countries and concluded that Sierra Leone and Liberia were the top most corrupt countries in Africa, while Rwanda and Sudan were the closest to being squeaky clean.

Looking at some of the voices responding to the report within the countries concerned, it is clear enough that they were shaken into motion and responded in ways that protected their interests.

The reaction by most African countries proved just how much impact the Transparency International reports make on the continent.

Sierra Leone Minister of Information and Communication, Alhaji Alpha Kanu responded in local newspapers saying “the corruption perception survey done by Transparency International was invalid and unreliable … the sample size that was obtained in the survey is inimical to the existing situation in the country”.

In response to the conclusion that police in Kenya were the most corrupt institution Inspector-General David Kimaiyo warned any officer found or accused of corruption that they would be sacked and charged in court.

“Let me warn here again. We have done it in the past but I wish to repeat that we will henceforth deal with the giver and taker in this thing,” said Kimaiyo

While Ghanaian lawmakers reacted angrily to Transparency International’s report, which ranked that country’s Parliament among the most corrupt institutions there, Malawi Police disputed the findings that its law enforcement agencies were the most corrupt institution in the Southern African nation.

Although some countries may have put up some defence against the unsavoury findings, it is certain that they have re-evaluated and tightened their stances against forms of corruption.

Many people don’t believe in TI’s objectivity, and their criticisms are largely founded, but that should not stop Africa from combating corruption regardless what we feel about Transparency International.

Fortunately, whistle blowing is on the increase in Africa and ordinary people – both in the public and private sectors – are starting to realise that they have a central role to play in combating graft across the continent.

Although not fully-blossomed, whistle blowing has to some degree become the fragmented version of Transparency International that will make the corrupt pause and consider their actions before getting their palms greased or before offering bribes.

Whistle blowers hold the promise of providing factual and credible information on graft with the advantage of being on the ground and observing things for themselves.

According to TI’s report, 69 percent of people around the globe believe that ordinary people can make a difference in the fight against corruption and that they would be willing to report an incident of corruption to the authorities.

Ordinary people can potentially provide tangible evidence of corruption and expose mismanagement from within organisations.

In consolidating the participation of ordinary people, the Transparency International report cites the example of a whistle blower who “sent the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists 2.5 million electronic files containing what the consortium calls ‘the biggest stockpile of inside information about the offshore system ever obtained by a media organisation’.”

Evidently, this shows how powerful ordinary people can be when it comes to exposing corruption so long as they feel that they will not be victimised for carrying out this civic duty.

Although most governments purport to be endeavouring to fight corruption, very few countries have actually enacted laws that protect whistle blowers.

In Africa, there has not been much done by way of promoting the protection of whistle blowers. In fact, for a start, beyond intermittent anti-corruption media campaigns, little is done to make people aware that it is their duty to report graft.

Much of this could have to do with the little faith some people generally place in the authorities taking action on the basis of their reports.

The anti-corruption crusade is seen and heard here and there on posters and in radio and television advertisements. Usually this is after one NGO or the other prods a government into action.

What is needed is a pervasive, year-round anti-corruption campaign that keeps the importance of fighting graft at the fore of people’s attentions. Furthermore, governments must start doing more to guarantee the safety of ordinary people who blow the whistle on corruption.

As whistle blowing increasingly becomes a viable weapon against corruption, there will be a need address it individually and not relay on bits and pieces of clauses from disparate legislation and legal codes.

September 2013
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