It was thus refreshing to learn that the Ministry of Education Sports Arts and Culture was engaging on a country wide probe of school heads to ascertain whether or not they are engaged in any fraudulent activities. The probe was reportedly necessitated by an unprecedented increase in allegations of misappropriation of funds and corruption against school authorities in schools across the country. According to the Ministry of Education, one of the aims of the probe is to entrench a culture of accountability in the operations of schools. The ministry also recently revealed that such probes may become a recurrent trend to ensure that the operations of school authorities are above board.
All government departments that are serious about ending corruption within their ranks should emulate the ministry of education. While probing schools may not be the magic bullet to end corruption in schools, it is a commendable step towards righting the wrongs that have become endemic in learning institutions. It is a concept that other government departments should copy and adopt to their own circumstances. For instance, Zimbabweans have in the past complained that ZRP traffic section personnel are corrupt and demand bribes from motorists. Instead of dismissing the allegations, the ZRP should probe the operations of its officers and try to verify the allegations. It is surprising that while bribes are exchanged in broad daylight on a day to day basis on roadblocks all over the country, the top brass are failing to identify the culprits and let justice take its course. What they need to do is to put the interests of the people of Zimbabwe first, like the ministry of education, and launch a probe that will end all forms of corruption on the country’s roads.
Putting up structures to ensure accountability and transparency in the operations of government departments has the merit of acting as a deterrent to corrupt practices. A civil servant who knows that his/her behaviour may be investigated at any moment will obviously be reluctant to engage in corrupt activities as this would put his/her job on the line. This is in essence what probes such as the one that the ministry of education is engaging in achieve. Additionally, they provide a means to name and shame those who take part in underhand dealings thus serving as mechanisms for serving justice. Already the education ministry has announced that the probe has unearthed ‘serious irregularities in the operations of some school heads.’ The ministry has said that such school heads will be prosecuted. Thus in addition to serving as a deterrent to would be offenders, the probe will serve as a mechanism to flush out unruly elements from the education sector and punish them for their actions.
But the Education Department itself should do more if it truly wants to deal with corruption in schools for the ultimate benefit of Zimbabweans. Firstly, it should make public the procedures that it is using to conduct the probe and invite stakeholders such as parents and school development associations to input into the investigations. Secondly, it should publish the results of the probe to ensure that members of the public are aware of the outcomes and able to demand justice. This is necessary as stakeholder participation and availing of information to the public are fundamental components of ensuring transparency and accountability.
It can be argued therefore that what really lacks in Zimbabwe’s current fight against corruption is lack of political will. Those who hold positions of power seem reluctant to take concerted efforts to end corruption in their institutions. Maybe they do not realise the amount of damage that corruption is doing to Zimbabwe, even in monetary terms in the form of misappropriation of funds that are meant for the treasury. In Addition, Zimbabweans are being forced to spend exorbitant amounts of money on public services such as access to passports, licences and birth certificates because government employees are demanding bribes. This is money that people could instead be using to start entrepreneurial projects that could contribute to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or help alleviate high unemployment.
It is high time the government and its various departments took a stand against corruption, in the interest of the welfare of Zimbabweans. The ministry of education has set an example, it would be folly to ignore it. While the procedures and processes for carrying out the probe have not been ascertained, it is nonetheless a leap forward, by Zimbabwean standards, in the quest to inculcate values of transparency and accountability in the operations of public institutions. Zimbabwe seriously needs to deal with its high level of corruption in order to develop and improve the lives of its citizens. Admittedly, more will still need to be done. There is a need for people to free themselves from their fawning attitudes towards political leaders, as this puts politicians above their people, dealing a heavy blow to the concept of people governance. There is also a need for a free press, to guard the interests of the public, and fairness in hiring of civil servants. But since every journey starts with one step, government departments might as well in the meantime take a leaf from the education ministry and engage in probes to ensure that the actions of their employees are above board.
Zibusiso Dube is the Information Manager at Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA). He writes in his personal capacity. He can be contacted on [email protected]Post published in: Education