Zimbabwe: Meaningful Participation Can Deter, Fight Corruption

opinion

Rudo Grace Gwata — Corruption, one of the chief obstacles to development, signifies the misuse of entrusted office or power for private gain, leading to an entity (individual, group or organisation) being advantaged over one of more other entities.

The vice is also perceived to be among the most expensive aspects of product and service delivery, as well as a major barrier to economic growth, good governance and basic freedoms in most communities.

Corruption can take many forms, heavily burdening the poorest members of society as it adversely changes the rules of resource allocation, as well as create and/or perpetuate exclusion.

Anti-corruption experts often underscore the prevention of corruption, acknowledging that detection and punishment are ordinarily more complex and time-consuming.

This is primarily because individuals, companies, or organisations are often highly skilled in devising new corrupt activities and means for covering up the associated traces; factors that make the disposition of corruption ordinarily tricky.

Besides, the prosecution of some corrupt activities is rendered difficult by missing or unclear laws governing them.

Prevention, through various measures thus becomes the preferred option.

Such measures include deterrence by way of effectively revealing and prosecuting offences, strengthening institutional capacities for enforcing compliance with moral and ethical principles, as well as devising protective barriers against corruption.

Participation, a basic tenet of Results Based Management (RBM), has proved to be a potential remedy for reducing corruption itself, the less than optimal allocation of resources plus exclusion.

The notion refers to providing opportunities, to individuals, groups and organisations, to contributes towards decision-making on issues that directly affect their lives, mainly through expressing their opinions and exerting influence.

Participatory processes can take many different forms including collaboration and mutual agreements, soliciting input for identifying the needs of stakeholders, collecting citizen complaints and facilitating whistle blowing.

Utilisation of the expertise and resources that these stakeholders possess plus meaningfully engaging the same in monitoring the implementation of development initiatives and processes are also other forms of participation. Both literature and experiential evidence show that participatory planning, monitoring, and review processes are critical for identifying potential or existing corrupt practices as well as options for addressing the same.

Explicitly, participation boosts efficiency and effectiveness in the allocation of resources by reasonably guaranteeing that the available resources are efficiently allocated to activities that will contribute most to the achievement of the desired results, hence equally boosting good governance and reducing chances for corruption, right from the outset.

In addition, it instils integrity in business and development practices while also realistically supporting its comparable governance principles, transparency accountability that help to minimise its occurrence.

That is, participation possesses the capacity to address both the drivers of corruption plus conditions that promote the menace as well as detect acts of corruption in project processes.

In addition, participation fosters a sense of ownership and commitment to initiatives, among stakeholders.

Such commitment, ultimately, translates into continual effort towards the improvement of performance.

In addition, the commitment motivates stakeholders to continually defend the associated development efforts against all barriers to success, including corruption.

That is, participatory activities ordinarily display strong capacity to drive the quality and sustainability of development initiatives, while contributing immensely to the elimination of negative behaviour, including corruption and theft.

Corruption can take place within all business processes; a characteristic that makes meaningful participation in all project processes namely planning, execution, learning and review, an excellent tool for identifying potential or existing corrupt practices as well as options for addressing the same.

Typical examples of corrupt practices encompass bribery, falsification, extortion, favouritism and kickbacks in procurement, nepotism, patronage in the allocation of resources for service provision and sub-standard work by contractors.

These illegal activities introduce significant costs to economies such that preventing or minimising its occurrence improves the availability of resources for implementing authentic initiatives.

Participatory planning, entails a clear definition of measurable development goals and objectives, by stakeholders with beneficiaries taking the lead in providing input into the process.

The necessary processes and resources requirements, closely aligned to the achievement of the objective, performance indicators plus performance measurement tools are identified with all the decisions are supported by evaluative evidence.

Such decision-making is also essential for promoting integrity, identifying instances of corruption plus effective ways of combating the same.

Specific indicators for monitoring enhance the analysis and prevention of corrupt practices, can generally be adapted to the needs of each environment.

Responsibilities plus mutual accountability for the achievement of identified results are assigned accordingly.

This also introduces an element of transparency that leads to reduced chances for corrupt activities relating to procurement.

Execution entails the production of the required goods and services plus performance measurement, namely monitoring and reporting.

The latter entails checking whether or not the allocated resources are making the intended difference and feeding back the derived information into decision-making (future planning & adjustment).

Such monitoring, if involving multiple stakeholder groups, helps to identify corrupt activities as well as limit opportunities for corruption

This multi-stakeholders approach proves to be useful in for addressing the prevailing relating to an outcry regarding the prevalence of corrupt activities in the distribution of basic commodities on the market, notably subsidised maize meal plus sugar and flour.

Mutual accountability plus participation on the form of demand and supply of formation relating to the distribution process can be instrumental in ensuring the functionality of the system.

That is, market players can effectively monitor, gather and supply authentic information to authorities, which they use judiciously to use to remedy the situation, particularly penalising wrongdoers and improving the processes for the common good.

A typical success story from such strategy, where stakeholders effectively participate in monitoring activities relates to a reforestation programme in rural Chita, in the Mashonaland East Province, where deforestation had gone out of control to the extent that indigenous trees were almost non-existent.

Innovative local authorities placed a complete ban on chopping down these trees with a fine imposes on all offences.

Every resident was assigned the responsibility to monitor and report any incident of wrong-doing (whistleblowing), albeit with evaluative evidence to discourage falsehoods.

In the same context, the authorities commit to act on all the information provided towards improving the potential of the project.

Funds collected from offenders are donated to the informer, as a token of appreciation, an incentive which turned out to be highly effective.

Consequently, the results have been consistently impressive for decades now, as demonstrated by thick bushes budding almost everywhere and providing shelter from ghastly winds that characterise the area.

There is also a general improvement of the environment in terms of reduced soil erosion, availability of fruit plus shade, for the population and their livestock.

This experience also demonstrates the essence of maximum, active stakeholder participation, accompanied by mutual accountability, in driving change in behaviour and ultimately contributing towards reducing corruption and improving people's lives.

In addition, the increased potential for detection wrongdoing plus enhanced vigilance in monitoring helps to accelerate development.

Also, stakeholders can identify opportunities and strategies for action, and build solidarity to effect changes in their environments towards continued improvement.

However, the level of participation and its effectiveness is determined by the willingness and ability of stakeholders to assume the associated roles.

Mutual commitments to roles and responsibilities, concerted efforts to utilise all information contributed as well as protecting whistle-blowers often proves instrumental in motivating such willingness and ability.

The three elements of good governance namely participation, accountability, transparency create the backbone of integrity, a characteristic that effectively prevents, or at least restrains, corrupt practices.

For enhanced effectiveness in the prevention of corruption, all stakeholders need to fully understand the risk of corruption, including the conditions that fuel corrupt practices, how to mitigate, as well as prevent the same.

Equally, entities ought to fully understand their responsibilities in handling corruption and the available tools for discharging such responsibilities.

Dr Rudo Grace Gwata-Charamba is an Author, development Project/Programme Management Consultant and Researcher with a special interest in Results Based Management (RBM), Governance and Leadership.

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