Business & Economics Editorial Human Rights News Opinion

Technology Use: The Ultimate Game-Changer in Fighting Public Corruption in The Gambia

Dr. Assan Jallow

Recently, the fight against public corruption has gained increased importance, especially in developing countries. Public corruption is the betrayal of trust and conscience in which an individual (s) “uses government resources for personal use at the expense of the public good.” In the Gambia, we are losing the fight against corruption as we tend to be satisfied with the optics of adopting non-workable, indifferent, and imaginary strategies that are opaque, archaic, and counterintuitive and continue to place us in the cyclical seismic of failed policies, programs, plans, and regulations that provide shielding boundaries protecting corrupt public officials. Fighting corruption goes beyond punishing and taking people to jail; as such, incarceration comes with a cost for the government. Fiscal responsibility reminded us of this task that, at best, it is wise to deploy public resources to more needed critical areas to strengthen governance by captivating the culture of ethics through our schools and public institutions to build honest, dedicated, committed, truthful, highly-qualified, and competent present and future public servants whose roles are to exert citizens-centric authority and ensure that public resources are expended for general use based on ethics, professionalism, transparency, and accountability, and not as transactional personal funds through graft schemes.

However, public corruption has become an incentivized epidemic in the new Gambia with the visibility of seeing public officials living beyond their means. Because of this reasoning, public corruption has grown and, thus, is increasing at an unimaginable speed and form. That is beyond the speed of light and motion as one can see the status of this cancerous delight taking over our public resources by individuals and their cronies in the grand scheme of things as if the public purse is a private and family entity. Even if the evidence suggests that they are corrupt based on the display of their physical outlays, structures, and capital equipment, it will still be challenging to prove in a court of competent jurisdictions as laws are bankable on the principles of “presumption of innocence until proven guilty.” Therefore, one must be answerable for their crimes on the probability of uncontested evidence and under the fluid of excellent and identifiable audit trails to serve as the grundnorm and seeds of evidence before our law courts.

Furthermore, corruption is an effect and must be approached through the causation of its impact and not the symptoms if we are serious about fighting or taming it in our public institutions. It is a bane in our governance and building, enacting laws and instruments, and having an anti-corruption commission institution is critical, and not the definite answer to fighting public corruption, as most of our corrupt public officials employ charm tactics, engaging in public relations stunts through creative management and apparent displays of religiosity to create a façade of saint-like behaviors. These people will never cease to amaze me as they continue to live beyond their means, and that’s true. Equally, it is a known fact that they will continue to use their positions of power to propagate false narratives and manipulate our vulnerable as excellent honorable, with unblemished public records of public service. My two cents worth is that tactics and rhetoric of deception should not be expandable in our governance as they will not change the face of corruption in the Gambia. Having instruments is one thing, and enforcing them is another, as cosmeticized and compromised mechanisms can be rendered useless and expendable if not pursued on the efficiency theory of sustainable value outcomes and results-oriented perspectives. For example, if policy indifference or the legal framework is not anchored on economic realities, it will transform public corruption on the altar of convenience with the civilized facelift of extortions. Hence, public corruption and corrupt practices will go unpunished if the necessary detection, deterrence, and accountability tools are not built or ingrained in our public financial resource management framework, as legislations need to be clearly defined, oversight responsibilities, investigative powers, and boundaries of collaborations established to avoid duplication of duties and responsibilities. Otherwise, fighting corruption will be another waste of public resources and metamorphose into becoming a publicly anchored, politically motivated toothless bulldog, serving as a money-milking and perk-drawing incentive and compensation.

Apparently, corruption in the Gambia is made possible due to the absence of technology in the government’s public finance management framework. In other words, the lack of technology use has resorted to limiting the opportunities of evidently providing the definite and incontestable microscopic lens and tiered layers of accountability and drawing inferences of possibilities on its perceived associations and linkages on public officials’ corrupt practices in government institutions. Therefore, adapting and taking different approaches and perspectives using technology will make a difference with better outcomes. Technology is the game-changer that can harness data integrity, transparency, and accountability based on the government’s solid and uncompromising political will.

Consequently, the markets of looting and where looters survive based on mediocrity, low self-esteem, incompetence, masqueraded tactics of pretending to serve the public, capitalizing on the opportunity cost and advantages of exerting political power or being drawn to the corridors of power by friends, relatives, and colleagues has become the new oil with new converts and merchants of disasters in the new Gambia. This is made possible because the theory of motivation is partly shaped by extrinsic and intrinsic rewards of corrupt public officials holding the view that the public purse should be botched, misused, and personalized for self-serving aggrandizement and fulfilling desires at the expense of the public. It would be reasonable to assume that public officials, as recipients of intrinsic and extrinsic rewards, are more likely to succumb to private sector fraud-induced and corrupt practices or schemes while accepting bribes and okaying contracts of shady deals as if they are on the high heels of new christening honeymoons to enjoy the spoils of public funds. As such, there is a continued need to strengthen efforts to fight public corruption through technology and not based on the ascription of “fook naah” or let continue the temporal centrality of our governance on the continuum of the “status quo” in our resource allocation, use, and management.

We must not operate as if we were living in the 13th century. The global development ecosystem is changing rapidly. Failing to adapt and catch up with the rest of the world in technology and innovation, especially in our revenue generation and financial resource governance, will be a travesty. In addition, it will have consequential effects on the tapestry of the future we want for our children. Development should be pursued based on sustainability and not quick fixes that place us on the long-term effects of nothing but troubles. Thus, public service is not about occupying a public office. It goes beyond that description. Public service is about service delivery anchored on the dynamic of uncompromised governance of efficiency, quality, relevance, impact, and effectiveness of using ideas, policies, and vision, not on merely being present and occupying a seat in the boardroom as a recipient of perks with no pay-for-performance correlations.  

My basic argument focuses on technology use, accessibility, and how it will impact our resource allocations, use, and accountability. First, the use of technology has the prospects of not only deterring and detecting corrupt practices but also can improve data integrity, financial transparency, and accountability, as well as providing a mechanism for tracking and auditing spending to ensure that public funds are being used appropriately. Second, technology has the dominating logic and competitive parameters that must be harnessed and effectively used to fight public corruption if we are serious about data governance (i.e., accountability and transparency) as a country. Third, beyond providing us with the skills and tools of control, technology will critically impact our drive for effective, transparent, and accountable public finance management. In other words, it will allow us to shift from the accounts of manual transactions to digitization through e-government, which is central to our socioeconomic and political governance. It enhances better-institutionalized opportunities and provides the outlets and measures that constrain and frustrate corruption and corrupt practices to survive or take place in our public institutions. Fourth, the use of technology will provide financial reports that promote transparency towards the public and allow for tracing any misappropriation of public funds. As such, enabling and encouraging the buy-in technology use will help reduce the risk of corruption and help create more effective and accountable government spending. There is a direct and positive relationship between technology and resource allocation, in which accountability and transparency thrive through the visual aid of audit trails. 

Finally, public officials and citizens will value relational engagements, greater accountability, and data transparency on public funds through technology. In conclusion, fighting public corruption requires an uncompromising political will, commitments, efforts, and investment. It requires the government, mainly through the executive, to invest in technology that can help improve data integrity, financial transparency, and accountability, supported by laws, instruments, policies, and legislations where the legislature, the judiciary, the media, civil society, and the citizens of the republic have a critical role to play. Therefore, all hands must be on deck in the fight to starve off the evils of public corruption in our public institutions (central and local governments, including ministries, departments, and agencies), as the “care of human life and happiness of its citizens, is the first and only object of government. In other words, we must invest in technology to tame this nasty, greedy, evil cancer taking a thorn in our shared commonwealth of resources and denying countless individuals and communities access to quality drinking water, quality health care delivery, education, good roads, security, and energy provisions amid the rise in cyber-crimes and bullying in our polity.

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