Human Rights Strategies to combat corruption

From a human rights perspective discuss specific strategies that your government can put in place to combat corruption highlighting the negative impact of corruption on the enjoyment of human rights, the International best practices and the challenges governments in Africa face combating corruption. APA referencing (20 page)

Order a paper like this one NOW


The government’s formal anti-corruption efforts face a very basic and formidable obstacle. Many officials and politicians, and often even the government in aggregate, stand to gain from corruption. The financial gains are large; political gains from reducing corruption may not be large enough to offset these. Therefore anti-corruption measures and their enforcement are often halfhearted, and any actions by one branch of the government are obstructed by other branches or departments with parallel or independent powers. The incentives of the business community as a whole are better aligned to resist corruption. In some situations business may collude with government officials to increase costs of public projects so both of these parties gain at the expense of the taxpayers. But on the whole the politicians’ and officials’s take is a direct hit to the bottom line of business.

Corruption is defined by the World Bank and Transparency International (TI) as “the misuse of public office for private gain” (Moyo, 2018). As such, it involves the improper and unlawful behaviour of public-service officials, both politicians and civil servants, whose positions create opportunities for the diversion of money and assets from government to themselves and their accomplices. Corruption distorts resource allocation and government performance. The causes of its development are many and vary from one country to the next. Among the contributing factors are policies, programs and activities that are poorly conceived and managed, failing institutions, poverty, income disparities, inadequate civil servants’ remuneration, and a lack of accountability and transparency. Evidence of corruption becoming “accepted behaviour” can be found in the comments of an elderly lady from Mbale, Uganda during the National Integrity Survey conducted in 1998: In fact, this is a common, daily and open practice, so that we think government has legalised the payment of bribes in the country. Public servants, lacking a service mentality, become more interested in serving themselves than serving the public, as pointed out by a Kasese man:
Public servants should realize that they are there to serve the public. That can only be done when government listens and implements community decisions. At that point a lack of political commitment and resources, institutional, human, and financial, hampers anti-corruption efforts. For the average person, a bribe is the most obvious evidence of corruption (Rose-Ackerman, 2016).
In many countries, applicants for driver’s licenses, building permits, birth certificates, etc. have learned to expect a surcharge from civil servants in order to obtain these documents. However, the consequences of corruption are more pervasive and profound than these bribes suggest. Corruption diverts leads funding resulting in services of poor quality or that are simply unavailable. A man from Lira expressed this when he stated: In both central and local government, corruption is the order of the day. Without producing cash, no one can attend to you. It is a cause of reduced investment and even disinvestment with its many downstream effects including an increase in social polarization. Combating corruption is instrumental to the broader goal of achieving more effective, fair, and efficient government. When there is inadequate transparency, accountability, and probity in the use of public resources, the state fails to generate credibility and authority. Systemic corruption undermines the credibility of democratic institutions and counteracts good governance. There is a high correlation between corruption and an absence of respect for human rights, and between corruption and undemocratic practices (Moyo, 2018).
Corruption alienates citizens from their government. International aid institutions’ decision to help its client countries attack and contain corruption is not because it is immoral, wrong, or even illegal. Rather, decision is based on the negative effect corruption has on economic development, the emergence of an enabling environment for the private sector, and its role in deepening poverty in the developing world; a situation that demands a response from the international community (Rose-Ackerman, 2016). There is considerable evidence that a strong negative relationship exists between the extent of corruption and economic performance.
Pervasive corruption reduces the efficiency of government in general and in particular reduces the effectiveness of private investment and foreign aid. The negative impacts of corruption have served as the impetus for international aid institutions to demand the establishment of good governance measures in recipient developing countries. These measures attempt to improve integrity, transparency, and accountability in government and private administrative transactions, to achieve sustainable growth and improved service delivery to the public (Schafer, 2018). Transparency, combined with the empowerment of the civil society, helps governments ensure the efficient use of resources and manage a change process that results in increased accountability and improved service delivery, two elements that assist in the creation of an enabling environment for private-sector development and economic growth (Krook, 2017).
In Zimbabwe, corruption and violence, actualized or implied, are integral parts of social life that define state–citizen relations when people interact with state institutions and agents. With this in mind, human rights, rights violations and corruption should never be disconnected from the socioeconomic order and mainstream politics. This is exemplified in Zimbabwe where, if people come in contact with law enforcement agencies, threats of violence and bodily harm are regularly used to force confessions and/or extort money from people and their families for release—often with more or less formalized state-sanctioned impunity (Moyo, 2018).
The situation has been described as a rule through law system in which the government secures its own power base by use of state institutions, including law enforcement agencies, and distribution of state resources (Rose-Ackerman, 2016). Monetary transactions such as paying of bribes or the activation of resource networks, be they political or economic, are common, and necessary to solve problems. So while people talk of torture and corruption as an evil, they engage in and condone disreputable, underhand and violent practices every day.
Human rights are an aspiration of a just and fair society, not an end-condition to be attained and completed through reforms, speeches or conferences, but constantly worked on and for. One can argue that they are the constitutive opposite of the corrupt society. Anti-corruption and the protection of human rights depend on accountable, representative government committed to equality and transparency (Rose-Ackerman, 2016). Yet violations are easier to identify and to voice than adherence. Forms of problems are the target of the work; compliance is not dramatic and rarely attracts wider public attention. Corruption matters in human rights and for human rights work because it is inseparable from perceptions of justice, fairness and equal access in the countries that are the sites of reform efforts.

Types of Corruption (Moyo 2018; Schafer, 2018)
There are several types of corruption. The distinctions can be useful in designing and developing reform programs and strategies:
• Petty corruption- practiced by public servants who may be basically decent and honest individuals but who are grossly underpaid and depend on small bribes from the public to feed and educate their families;
• Grand corruption- high-level public officials and politicians make decisions involving large public contracts or projects financed by external donors. This corruption is motivated by personal greed. The money or assets from such corruption usually is transferred to individuals or political party coffers.
• Episodic corruption- honest behaviour is the norm, corruption the exception, and the dishonest public servant is disciplined when detected; and
• Systemic corruption- channels of malfeasance extend upwards from the bribe collection points, and systems depend on corruption for their survival; Corruption can also be categorized in other ways.
A distinction can be made between benefits that are paid willingly (bribery) and payments that are exacted from unwilling clients (extortion). Another way to categorize is to differentiate between bribes paid for what a client has a legal right to receive and bribes paid to receive benefits belonging to others.

Negative effects of corruption
Corruption reduces private sector productivity. Corruption raises the cost of doing business as bribes and drawn-out negotiations to bargain them add costs to a business transaction. The OECD Foreign Bribery Report shows that, on average, bribes equal 10.9% of the value of a transaction and 34.5% of profits (Schafer, 2018). Corruption also creates uncertainty as there can always be a competing firm willing to offer a higher bribe to tilt the business in its favour. By lowering profitability and raising uncertainty, corruption tends to discourage the entry of foreign players and thus also the benefits of competition and technology spill-overs. Research shows, for example that in the power infrastructure sector, investors’ decision to enter a market is significantly driven by theperceived risk of corruption. In a similar vein, corruption may lower the attractiveness of entrepreneurship, diverting entrepreneurial talent to less productive activities. The result is higher prices and lower quality products (Coltart, 2018).
The OECD report on the consequences of corruption at the sector level, prepared at the request of the G20, shows that corruption is associated with higher prices for medicines, health services, textbooks, and utility services, among others (Rose-Ackerman, 2016). Corruption may also distort investment, with firms preferring to use their resources for unproductive rent-seeking activities such as lobbying or corruption-specific know-how in order to be part of the exclusive market of insiders. Where companies prefer to invest insuch activities, fewer resources are available for productive investment into physical or knowledge-based capital. As such, corruption is hampering innovation. This effect is made even worse when corruption lowers trust in the rule of law, discouraging businesses from developing innovations or assets that could be stolen, extorted or expropriated. Research suggests that the probability of foreign direct investment is 15 percentage points lower in countries with a strong presence of corruption than in countries that are relatively free of corruption (Moyo, 2018).
Corruption leads to a waste of public resources Corruption lowers public sector efficiency and effectiveness. Public investments are not allocated to the sectors and programmes which represent the best value for money or where needs are highest, but to those which offer the best prospects for personal enrichment of corrupt officials. OECD research indeedshows that high levels of perceived corruption are associated with lower spending on social services, including health and education, which can undermine social welfare (Schafer, 2018). Distortions in political decisions may also lead to sector regulations, trade barriers and subsidies that are not in the public interest. The quality of the civil service can also be weakened by corruption. Where public servants are appointed on the basis of nepotism or favouritism instead of merit and ability, their decisions may reflect the interests of those who hired them (Krook, 2017). In addition, corruption may prevent governments from attracting the best talent.
Corruption perpetuates inequality and poverty The poor suffer particularly from corruption in the form of deficient social programs that are underfunded or poorly managed. Addressing corruption is vital to successfully achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The social, political and economic impact of corruption and illicit financial flows on developing countries is more severe given their smaller resource base and often weak capacity of their institutions.
Corruption undermines peace and democracy. When rules and regulations are circumvented by bribes, public budget control is undermined by illicit money flows and political critics and the media are silenced through bribes, democratic systems of checks and balances are impaired. Corruption in political processes such as elections or the financing of parties undermine the rule of the people and thus the very foundation of democracy. If basic public services are not delivered to citizens due to corruption, the state eventually loses credibility and legitimacy (Rose-Ackerman, 2016).

Corruption Responsibility
Ultimately, all parts of society must share the responsibility for containing corruption because all are willing or unwilling participants. Each corrupt transaction requires a “buyer” and a “seller.” The government is responsible for dealing with civil servants who engage in extortion and bribery but it is businesses and individuals who offer bribes to civil servants to obtain certain advantages (Krook, 2017). In most countries, the demand for reform is being led by organisations of civil society and the international donor community. An active, involved and empowered citizenry is indeed essential to any anti-corruption campaign. Reformers can only achieve real gains when a society changes its expectations and understanding of its entitlement to a government that is not corrupt. For their part, government leaders, politicians and bureaucrats must provide the political will to address all forms of corruption. Schafer (2018) states that governments need to introduce appropriate legislation to reduce corruption and provide whatever means are necessary to ensure that appropriate steps are taken to build systems of integrity and rule of law. While all those who are part of the problem must be part of the solution, it would be unrealistic and cost-prohibitive to attempt to eliminate corruption completely. Such a strategy would be likely to create new inefficiencies in government.
Draconian anti-corruption programs, moreover, can have a negative effect on personal freedoms and fundamental human rights if regulations translate into excuses for public officials to become increasingly abusive toward the citizenry (Coltart, 2018). Additionally, bureaucratic discretion is necessary for effective administration. The aim, therefore, is not to achieve complete rectitude but rather a fundamental increase in the honesty, efficiency, and fairness of government. The responsibility of containing corruption must not ignore the participation of international firms, foreign governments and others engaged in corrupt practices either actively or passively. A number of instruments are available to curb cross-border corruption. The new “no bribery pledge” initiated by OECD is one (Coltart, 2018).

Government utilizing International NGOs
The topic of anti-corruption has recently generated substantial academic interest as well as support from the highest levels of the World Bank, IMF and the international community in general. More and more development experts have come to the conclusion that it is impossible to alleviate poverty without first curbing corruption (Moyo, 2018). Most donors are concerned “not with the exercise of state powers in the broad sense but specifically with the appropriate management of the public sector and the creation of an enabling environment for the private sector. Some multilateral donors’ mandate dictates that they can only become legitimately involved when corruption is treated as an economic phenomenon and its actions or reactions to corruption must have economic development at their core.
More specifically, corruption can be addressed by World Bank and IMF staff as an economic concern within the framework approved by the Board for governance issues 9Coltart, 2018). This framework allows for activities in which the Bank and IMF can advise countries on economic policy reform and strengthening institutional capacity. However, the Bretton Wood organisations’ mandate do not extend to the political aspects of controlling corruption, and though civil society is crucial to sustaining reform, there are limits on the extent to which the Bank, as a lender to governments, can directly support civil society’s efforts. As an example of a framework for addressing corruption “at home” the World Bank works at four levels (Coltart, 2018):
• Preventing fraud and corruption within Bank-financed projects;
• Helping countries that request support in their efforts to reduce corruption;
• Greater consideration of corruption in country-assistance strategies, country-lending considerations, policy dialogue, analytical work, and in the choice and design of projects; and
• Adding its voice and support to international efforts to reduce corruption. The ultimate goal of most donor’s strategies on corruption is to help countries move from systemic corruption to an environment in which a well-performing government minimizes corruption’s negative effects on development.
Schafer (2018) states that the strategy is based on action coming from three directions:
(a) economic policy reform,
(b) institutional strengthening and
(c) international action. The model assumes that corruption is a function of weak institutions and of policies that create economic rents. The majority of donors believe that tackling corruption is less a matter of new instruments than of reducing corruption through existing ones.

Government taking a preventive strategy
The approach to promote good governance through among other things, prevention, is to help client countries curb corruption and build integrity, and therefore, improve their public services and create an enabling environment for the private sector. The Governance and Anti-Corruption program comprises three principal activity areas (Krook, 2017):
(a) improving public sector service delivery by focusing on public sector accountability and legal reform in order to re-introduce rule of law;
(b) building integrity by promoting governmental accountability and transparency; and
(c) building an prevention and anti-corruption capacity of the public sector including parliament, watchdog and enforcement agencies, and the judiciary and of civil society, particularly by strengthening non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the media. Schafer (2018) states that the program dovetails with other reforms such as:
• Public Sector Management programs, which focuses on prevention through civil-service reform and public-expenditure planning and management, as well as, on supporting governance activities, research and dissemination of findings.
• Legislative reforms to strengthen parliament role in overseeing the executive but also the passing of new anti-corruption legislation Legal reforms; that strengthen the rule of law Building “integrity”, which means “using public powers for the public good,” is the flip side of fighting corruption. Experience gained from work with client countries demonstrates that it is preferable to focus on prevention through the building of integrity, which suggests a positive, pro-active preventive approach. It is often easier to get various stakeholder groups tosupport preventive measures through the creation of a system of national integrity rather than specific measures designed to fight corruption.

The former Zimbabwean head of state, President Robert Mugabe, stated in 2016 that the country had lost around $15 billion from the illegal smuggling of diamonds, predominantly from the Chiadzwa diamond fields since 2008. Many of the respondents interviewed by the reporters mirrored the public outrage that was discussed in the newspapers at the time. Corruption was described by one as “Zimbabwe’s cancer” whilst another stated that “corruption had been entrenched in the minds of Zimbabweans who now believe it is the only for one to succeed.” Most people believe that corruption exists at the higher echelons of politics hence it is difficult to stop. Most of the top officials seem untouchable, therefore, the countries resources are likely to be abused. Some respondents openly stated that if they were in positions of authority, they would do the same thing (Schafer, 2018).
A closer look into the affairs of people shows that most already do the same thing, albeit at a smaller scale. The researcher interacted with some vendors who purchase goods in South Africa and Zambia for resale in Zimbabwe. Most admitted that they find ways of avoiding paying duty. From paying bus drivers and attendants to hide products to paying the customs officers to turn a “blind eye”, sellers do not conduct their businesses according to the law. The main reason stated for this was that duty percentages were to high and would lead to them hiking their prices above what most consumers are able to pay. Some stated that the government must lower duty fees to encourage optimum trade to take place and lower prices. According to one respondent, he will never pay duty because he believes Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) officers to be corrupt. He quoted an article published in the Chronicle in July of last year that stated 21 employees had been suspended and $120 million recovered. Whilst the action taken was commendable, he stated that “the country still had a long way to go if business was to be conducted legitimately (Moyo, 2018).
Another issue that was popular in the media was the issuing of tenders by the government and its parastatals. A tender is an offer made in response to an invitation to offer. The party inviting tenders may require a definite quantity of goods or services to be supplied, in that event the person who responds to that invitation is said to have made a definite offer and would become bound by it if it is accepted. An example of this is the suspected tender fraud scandal involving ZESA and controversial businessman Wicknell Chivayo. An article published in the Chronicle (April, 2018) stated how various ministers were being summoned to parliament to explain how the businessman managed to access some tenders without following due diligence and without respecting protocol. Another article published in the Dailynews (March, 2018) stated that when various officials visited the developmental cites, they found that next to nothing had been done despite the businessman being advanced up to US$7 million. The article also cites that the businessman had close links to the former first family. This is a familiar theme when it comes to various projects that have been done by the government or extended to the private sector. Projects are given to those with ties to influential people. All these events were described by various literature as evidence that the country was a haven of corruption. The views of the people were that, one can only prosper if you know influential people.

Other Ways of Dealing with Corruption
In the context of corruption, the norm would be not to give bribes to public officials in order to win licenses or permits or to speed up the process of getting these. The sanction would be that any businessperson who is found to have violated this norm will be ostracized by the rest of the community. Since the winner of a license will need contact with many other members of the community of various essential purposes—supply, subcontracting, marketing, trade credit from other firms, longer-term credit from banks and other financial institutions, accounting services, and so on—a boycott from all or even many of these providers will severely reduce the values of the illicitly won license and of future business opportunities. If this threat is sufficiently severe, winning the license by bribery becomes worthless. The model of The Supply Side with the Business Institution section derives the conditions for this to work. I find that, in combination with the government’s own demand-side enforcement efforts, it can make a significant contribution to reducing the level of corruption (Rose-Ackerman, 2016).

Dealing with Public procurement Corruption
Sound management of public procurement contracts is critical for a transparent and accountable spending of tax payers’ money. At the same time, public procurement is the most recognised high-risk area for corruption in government. High-level commitment and dynamic and strategic leadership are essential to achieve fast public procurement reforms. Recognising that public procurement is a high-risk activity thatrequires transparency and integrity end-to-end, adopting measures against conflicts of interest and corruption, as well as limiting exceptions to the use of competitive tendering should also be standard. Countries could also consider taking advantage of opportunities provided by digital technologies and open data throughout the entire public procurement cycle to address rising expectations of transparency and access to information. Promoting effective cooperation between anti-corruption and competition enforcers at national and international level is also crucial to ensure that anti-corruption policies (especially transparency requirements) are not unnecessarily narrow to the point that they end up facilitating collusion and consequently reduce competition (Rose-Ackerman, 2016).
Another strategy is targeting high-prestige, high-impact and high cost projects: large-scale public infrastructure Large-scale infrastructure projects are particularly vulnerable to political capture, corruption and mismanagement. Ensuring the integrity and value for money of large-scale publicinfrastructure is critical for productive and equitable results that build trust in government (Schafer, 2018).

Utilizing ICT
In recent years, many countries have enthusiastically embarked on major e-government projects, using new technologies to improve and modernise government processes and make them more efficient. They have also enabled citizens’ empowerment by
(1) enabling downward flows of information, from government to citizen,
(2) creating the possibility of upward flows of information, from citizen to government, essential to informed decision making, and
(3) enabling horizontal flows of communication, flattening hierarchies (Bailur and Gigler 2014).
While many initiatives do not primarily and explicitly aim at addressing corruption challenges, there are many expected anti-corruption benefits associated with e-government (Moyo, 2018):
• reducing information asymmetries between office holders and citizens, enabling the latter to assert their rights without corruption interfering
• limiting the discretion of office holders, reducing their opportunities to extract bribes
• streamlining and automating specific processes to reduce interactions between office holders and citizens that can create opportunities for the development of corrupt networks
• removing intermediaries that often facilitate bribery
• reducing red-tape in public bureaucracies and thus remove potential entry points for corruption
• increasing the transparency of transactions with public officials, making them audit-able to deter corrupt behavior
• providing a growing repertoire of collective action tools and platforms for citizens to organise, report and mobilise against corruption
• receiving feedback and reports from service users to regularly track satisfaction, identify problems, report corruption and improve service quality

There are many examples across the developing world of how ICT interventions have been used as anti-corruption tools to meet these objectives. They can be can be government or civil society led and be broadly categorised into (Dupuy and Serrat 2014):
1) transparency portals – platforms that offer timely publication of key government documents online;
2) open data portals – platforms that provide free access to data sets in machine-readable formats;
3) service automation – platforms that replace discretionary decision making by public officials with auditable software processes;
4) online services – platforms that allow citizens to self-serve for public service access;
5) online right to information platforms allowing citizens to file right to information requests;
6) crowdsourced reporting – platforms that allow citizens to report corruption or grievances and publicly share data on reports and trends;
7) online corruption reporting – platforms that allow citizens to report corruption or grievances; and
8) issue reporting – platforms that allow citizens to report problems with public services. Except for service automation, most of these interventions relate to transparency reforms.
There is positive evidence confirming a beneficial potential of new technologies to reduce corruption. Some studies empirically confirm that egovernment, ICT development and internet penetration are negatively correlated with corruption (Shrivastava and Bhattacherjee 2014; and Elbahnasawi 2014), suggesting a causal relationship between e-government and corruption. There are also examples of the positive impact that some ICT interventions have had on the perception of corruption, such as the well documented Seoul Metropolitan Government’s Online Procedures Enhancement for civil applications (OPEN) system (Kim, Kim & Lee 2009).

Corruption is intimately linked to human rights violations in people’s everyday lives, and in their dealings with authority, whether formal or informal. To overlook corruption in human rights work is to somehow ignore many of the dynamics and processes that are at the root of human rights violations. In Zimbabwe we don’t get to know the extent of corruption in human rights violations, simply because it is rarely registered and the incidents that are solved before rights have been violated violently do not come to the notice of human rights activists—it could be a matter of corruption or misuse of authority, perceived to be within a governance domain. But, we could ask: are threats of violence not a human rights violation? Second, how can we prevent human rights violations, the realization of the latent threat, if we don’t understand the dynamics and the processes of the relations between citizens and authorities and their interconnectedness to the wider social and political context, such as rule of law practices and corruption? A police officer’s transgression of the law and citizens’ integrity is hardly an isolated singular extraordinary occurrence completely detached from the surrounding society. On the contrary, it is an effect of larger social, economic and, especially, political configurations. As Rose-Ackermann states, widespread corruption is a sign that something has gone wrong in the relationship between the state and society (Rose-Ackerman, 2016). Corruption matters for human rights and in human rights work, because it is a promising entry point to analyse and understand many of the acts and events that precede the violent act of the human rights violation.
The researcher believes we should not approach corruption as an anecdote in human rights work, analysis or activism. Corruption and rights violations are manifestations of the same root causes and produced by the same conditions of failing rule of law, inequality and oppression and opportunism by elite minorities.

Moyo, L., 2018. Corruption in Zimbabwe: Implications for Social Work Practice. Journal of Human Rights and Social Work, pp.1-7.
Rose-Ackerman, S. and Palifka, B.J., 2016. Corruption and government: Causes, consequences, and reform. Cambridge university press.
Krook, M.L., 2017. Violence against women in politics. Journal of Democracy, 28(1), pp.74-88.
Coltart, D., 2016. The struggle continues: 50 years of tyranny in Zimbabwe. Auckland Park: Jacana.
Schafer, R., 2018. Zimbabwe’s Predatory State. Party, Military and Business. Strategic Review for Southern Africa, 40(1), p.134.


We also write articles for various websites such as The Success Guardian, FootballAxis, and BestWebHostToday.

We are also in writing partnership with England Editors and Mzansi Writers.

Open chat
Contact us now