Integrity as an indispensable ingredient in public service

Integrity as an indispensable ingredient in public service

Now, the questions to address here are: How did we reach there? How come that a ‘lootocracy’ has thrived this long literally beating the wits of everybody except one person, this courageous soul going by the title of Controller and Auditor-General?

Going by the title of this perspective in motion, is there any semblance of integrity left in men and women in public service today given the colossus sums of money, which have been detected by the CAG as having been squandered or looted?

Is ‘integrity’ something to be aspired by all governments if they have to claim legitimacy to govern? Another set of questions: What was the level of cleanliness or integrity in the first two decades after the independence of this country before the emergence of ‘market forces’ or neoliberalism? Is there today a binding code of ethics in public service in place, which is being scrupulously adhered to as was in place before? Certainly, these are serious questions – they even deserve separate ‘dissertations’ on their own!

But let us start with the latter set of questions. For those still around and who served in the first administration of the founder President of this country, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, even salary scales in the civil service were classified. Those earning more than a thousand shillings those days were classified as “leaders” who were not supposed to earn an extra salary elsewhere. Not only that.

They were not supposed to play the role of landlords – having extra private houses to let. In other words, people who opted for public service were expected to be dedicated to their jobs only and not to nurse ideas to become “rich”. If the latter was their choice, then they were not welcome in public service.

Simple! As someone put it the other day in the course of my weekly TV show: ‘When the Queen of Great Britain appointed Governors to Tanganyika, she was appointing one to become a Governor not a hunter of game in the hinterland of Tanganyika!’ to which anecdote we all exploded in prolonged chuckle, quickly getting the message!

And that message is - in today’s ‘market forces’ or capitalist Tanzania away from a socialist country that the founder President was trying to build in the first two decades of the independence of this country – holders of public office, invariably, have become ‘hunters’ and not plain holders of public office! Where before there was a ‘leadership code’, which spelt out ethics for holders of public office, there is practically none today that is binding or a sine qua non.

The consequence of this drawback is that people in public office have almost all become “hunters” – playing dual roles, confusing personal to public office! What is worse is that nobody raises an eyebrow and institutions that are supposed to play checks and balances are looking away. A minister, for instance, is not worried or does not look beyond his shoulder, nor is his conscience bothered when he puts up close to a million dollar private mansion! Speaking of ‘conscience’ is, in retrospect, an overstatement given the current state of affairs.

The wider questions are: How did they reach there to be made ministers? What was their ‘integrity trait’ before assuming office? To respond to these questions, it is necessary to reflect on the state of affairs today for people who are able to make it to elective office. In the first two decades of independence of this country, during the socialist era, for one to be moneyed was a disqualification rather than a qualification for elective public office.

Ask anybody today; to have money is qualification number one! And if you have no money and yearning for public office, just forget it! A culture of money has permeated the very fabric of this society today! Unfortunately nobody is worried nor raising a moral voice of conscience against this culture of money! If this is the case, then where is integrity? It is only a child who needs to be educated about the corrupting influences of money across the board. Not only has money a corrupting influence.

It has a ‘blinding’ influence too! And this is easy to see. There are many people in the midst of the crowd amongst us who not only have integrity, but also are well read and competent in their respective fields on all strata of folios. But since they have no money, nor ‘god-fathers’ with money connected to the powers that be, where do these people end up and what becomes the fate of this country?

But the side effect of the absence of integrity is immorality. If the society has been corrupted that far, thanks to the influence of money, what follows is cronyism. In this context, it is difficult to argue against someone building a case that positions in public office are largely a result of political rewards or personal connections than pure merit and competence. Here then follows my blueprint.

This country urgently needs a Campaign Financing Act that will oblige aspirants to elective office to declare their sources of revenue in their quest for elective office. The advantages of these are not difficult to see. But this may minimise the prospect of the adage of ‘who pays the piper’! We need also to revive the old leadership code seriously so that we do not wind up having in place where there are more hunters than governors, if you see what I mean!

Since we will be re-writing the Constitution, we need to have checks and balances on the powers of the Executive, that is the presidency of this country. We should have in place parliamentary oversight committees when it comes to appointments. These will take care of a proposed candidate for a given public office in terms of personal traits such as integrity and competence. Otherwise, the way we are moving, given the cancer of a culture of money, which has eaten up our society, we are in for real trouble!

E-mail: wakuhenga@gmail.com


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