Wed | Jul 18, 2018

Jaevion Nelson | Talking corruption to death

Published:Saturday | June 23, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Isn't it uncanny that despite the commitments by political leaders to tackle the pervasiveness of corruption, countless news stories and features/documentaries exposing corrupt practices, and a handful of organisations working tirelessly around transparency and accountability, we don't seem to be making much progress at all?

Why is it that every year, administration after administration, we seem to be talking about and dealing with the same type of controversies related to corruption? Why do you continue to pussyfoot with addressing this issue? Are we not concerned about how our country's development is being stymied as a consequence? Or does the party we support take precedence over the nation's resources and welfare?

I have come to the conclusion that very little will change over the next few years because of citizens' attitude and how we continue to pander to the piecemeal approaches to address such a grave problem.

I am worn out by the banter in both traditional and social media about corruption. It's the darn same script every year with a different cast, where we point fingers, expose individuals for political mileage, retort with a laundry list of even more corrupt practices allegedly perpetrated by predecessors, call for someone to be sacked, and then, by day nine, we drink rum, we party, we move on, and we sleep as if we addressed the problem in a sustainable way.

It's rather worrying how the traditional media pander to all of this.

The situation is quite unfortunate. Unless we improve our systems, ensure greater transparency in the administration and use of public funds, increase accountability, and reduce corruption, our country's economic growth and development will continue to be strangled.

If indeed we want better for our country, if we want prosperity for all of us, we have to be more concerned as a people. It means that as citizens, we have to have more sober discussions about corruption and what we all need to do to be less complicit. We have to become more solution-oriented.

 

Focus on the issue

 

We have to focus on the issue broadly and not solely on the individual or party that is in question at a particular time. We have to appreciate that merely calling for someone to be sacked, as is the custom, is hardly a solution when weak systems remain intact for the individual's replacement to perpetrate the same wrong until they are exposed.

Civil society must also play its part. More organisations have to be concerned about transparency and accountability regardless of the issues they tend to work on. They must partner with, and lend support to, entities like the National Integrity Action (NIA), which, I believe, is the most resourced and leading entity working on the issue.

The NIA and its partners must recognise that they are hardly speaking to the populace. As my friend said to me the other day, "NIA is so important and could be more effective, but the problem I have is that the language they use is not accessible to the common man." I've heard this quite a lot.

We have to find more innovative ways to engage us in the fight against corruption. Until then, we'll continue to banter, point fingers, turn a blind eye and survive.

The media, too, have a crucial role and responsibility. Save for discussion programmes on radio and TV and opinion pieces in the paper, it must play a greater role in setting the agenda around how we treat with corruption as a country. News reports have to focus less on the sensationalism and do better in shaping public opinion and strengthening society.

Let's all play our part to make our country, our little rock, better.

- Jaevion Nelson is a human rights, economic and social justice advocate. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and jaevion@gmail.com, or tweet @jaevionn.