Maputo — The fight against corruption should be waged from within both public and private institutions, through internal control mechanisms that can detect frauds, argued Alda Manjate, director of the Sofala Provincial Office against Corruption, interviewed in Monday's issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”.
Manjate said that, in the cases that came before her office, most of those involved were public servants. She rejected the argument that corruption is caused by low wages in the public administration. “It's not a question of poor wages, or of poverty”, she said. “It's a question of mentality and morality”.
“We're living in a very consumerist, materialist society”, she said. “People confuse happiness with wealth, and look for easy wealth. We have to recover our integrity as a nation”.
“We are in a situation where corrupting a public servant is normal”, Manjate continued. “But it's not normal, it's a crime”.
She said that in the first nine months of this year, the Sofala anti-corruption office had processed 162 cases, including some inherited from the previous year. In the same period of 2016, Manjate's office had handled 124 cases, so the trend, she said, was for an increase in corruption cases.
The amount of money involved in this year's cases, she said, was about 43.9 million meticais (around 720,000 US dollars). The types of crimes committed included illicit charges for public services, extortion, abuse of office, and theft of public funds. Often these officials gave themselves salaries to which they were not entitled, and this type of theft could go undetected for years.
Manjate denied that only those guilty of petty corruption are prosecuted. “Perhaps people talk about petty corruption, because it is what is most often seen, and has most impact on citizens. It's what violates citizens in their day to day lives”, she said. “But there are also cases of large scale corruption which have been taken to court. The Anti-Corruption Office deals with all of them”.
Large scale corruption, Manjate added, was often only understood when it was exposed by the press, since it was not something immediately visible.
“It should be mentioned that crimes of corruption are complex”, she said. “Normally they happen in situations where there are no witnesses, and so they demand a type of investigation different from ordinary crimes. It takes longer”.
Internal control mechanisms should be strengthened within all institutions, she urged, and citizens should not be complicit with corruption”.
“We have to break the vicious circle”, Manjate declared. “If a public official demands a bribe from a citizen, the citizens should denounce him, because this will create a multiplier preventive effect”.
Manjate wanted to see more efforts made by the courts to try corruption cases. This follows a complaint made by the Attorney-General's Office (PGR) in late September that the country's courts are not dealing with corruption cases forwarded by prosecutors, but are allowing them to accumulate with no dates fixed for trials.
Manjate said she understood there is a great deal of pressure on the courts, “but there really is a need for more trials of corruption cases”. She suggested that matters should be speeded up by setting up specialised sections in the courts to deal exclusively with economic and financial crimes.