Dealing with systemic corruption with a systemic approach
By Agha Iqrar Haroon
Corruption is considered as one of the most common social and administrative menace internationally and this societal sickness is a “Systematic Disease” of any governmental structure.
Administrative or governmental corruption is the use of powers by government officials for illegitimate private gains. An illegal act by an officeholder constitutes administrative corruption only if the act is directly related to his/her official duties and is done under the color of law or rules or governmental procedures.
No government on earth can claim that it is 100% free of administrative corruption but degree and volume vary from one country to another or from geographical location to another. In some societies, corruption has been customary and accepted as a part of social system while in some societies, corruption is the most disliked and unwanted practice.
Regardless of a vast array of tools designed to combat corruption, it still remains one of the main concerns and a problem as corruption decreases the effectiveness of the state administration and undermines the people’s trust in the government, so it eventually becomes a threat to national security.
In the recent years, China has adopted an interesting way of fighting corruption. Local officials are offered tours to jails, where their former colleagues serve punishment term for corruption they committed. This is of course innovative and interesting way to combat corruption. However, this method is not fully effective without comprehensive administrative reforms and without adopting a system that can ensure an effective check on corrupt practices. Social scientists believe that curbing administrative corruption requires a systematic approach to deal with systematic corruption.
In the region of Asia (Central Asia—South Asia and South East Asia), one can cite the example of Kazakhstan’s anti-corruption policy as an effective tool to deal with systemic corruption with systemic approach and operations.
Counteracting corruption was always one of the top priorities in Kazakhstan. Since its independence, Kazakhstan has created various institutions and mechanisms to oust corruption and a number of governmental programs working in the anti-corruption direction have also been realized. The results of these measures can be assessed according to the expert report made by the Transparency International (TI). In the world ranking, showing the effectiveness of the fight against corruption, compiled by the TI, Kazakhstan is ahead of its neighbours in Central Asia and is one of the leaders among the countries members of Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
The effectiveness of Kazakhstan’s anti-corruption policy can also be judged by the country’s economic indicators. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Kazakhstan demonstrates stable growth, indicating growth rate of 20 times in last two decades. During these years, Kazakhstan became one of the 50 most competitive countries in the world and established itself as a country with a very favorable investment climate in the CIS.
Now a methodological framework is being developed in Kazakhstan for the formation of the annual National Corruption Perception Index that will further help the country to deal with corruption issue. Nevertheless, Kazakhstani government admits that there are still problems to solve. Therefore the country continues to actively work on improving its anti-corruption methods. Since the beginning of 2015 Kazakhstan has toughened the punishment for corrupt officials. Corrupt officials cannot expect probation or parole once he is charged with punishment under anti-corruption laws.
Kazakhstan formed a special anti-corruption agency in 2014 and the mission of the anti-corruption program is assigned this agency that to an agency that employs a comprehensive approach to combating bribery, including the use of the scientific method. A center for scientific analysis was created to study and analyze the risks of corruption in all spheres of state and society. It is important to realize that dealing with the consequences of corruption is not enough and it is important to eradicate its causes and conditions that make corruption possible.
Kazakhstan’s Anti-Corruption Strategy is the guide to develop actions for the next 10 years. The strategy will highlight existing gaps in the fight against corruption and will determine the ways to address these gaps. Moreover, Kazakhstan has implemented an ambitious modernization strategy titled “100 specific steps”. Its purpose is to “cure all systemic diseases of the state apparatus, including corruption.
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev introduced “Five institutional reforms” for further modernization of the country. “National Plan – 100 specific steps” was adopted for implementation, which will help Kazakhstan enter the top 30 developed countries. However, the implementation of these reforms is impossible without prevention of corruption in the government, economic and social sphere.
Under this program, bribery will be eradicated at all levels of government. In order to achieve this, civil service will have to become a competitive sphere, in which the road to higher positions will start from the bottom. Hiring will take place on a competitive basis with a trial period (Job probation period). The process will also include comprehensive certification and salary based on the results achieved by the contestant. The program will provide increased accountability of judicial and law enforcement authorities and the state as a whole, which implies transparency in decision-making at all levels.
Kazakhstan is also working on a new anti-corruption legislation; the country plans to create a special unit in the current civil service agency for systematic prevention of anti-corruption law violations. The scale of planned changes and the new approach to solving old problems was met a positive response in the expert community.
Many social experts, when assessing “100 specific steps”, drew parallels with the modernization of Singapore which lasted almost the entire second half of the 20th century. Through large-scale changes that were accompanied by structural reforms and merciless war on corruption, this former third-world country (Singapore) with high crime rates and little natural resources, turned into a highly advanced and prosperous country with one of the highest living standards in the world.
Singapore’s experience has demonstrated that the fight against corruption is only effective when political will is present. Kazakh authorities clearly show that willingness and determination, meaning that the Republic can have a chance of an economic miracle of its own.
In this context, the Anti-Corruption Program is particularly important, as it is aimed not only at developing anti-corruption culture and “zero” tolerance to corruption in society, but also at ensuring legislative support for participation of civil society in anti-corruption activities.
It is worth mentioning that Kazakhstan government is taking input from anthropologists and experts at every level to refine and improve its measures against corruption. Government believes that implementation of reforms will create real conditions for strengthening of the Kazakhstan’s statehood, development of a liberal society, as well as prevention of corruption and improvement of transparency of the state apparatus.
It is pertinent to mention that State and Society have joined hands in Kazakhstan in the implementation of anti-corruption measures because anti-corruption measures taken only by the state, without active participation of society, will not give the desired effect and people of Kazakhstan as well as its government know that the State and Society must unite against corruption.
In this regard, government plans for enhancing the role of Public Anti-Corruption Councils for making these Councils the basic platform for coordination of measures on prevention of all corruption cases, deep analysis of the activities of all government agencies and implementation of social and party control.
Countries of Asia can learn from Kazakhstan a lot to deal with corruption if there is a will to do something. Anti- corruption strategies needs a social scanner that works from to top to bottom of the society.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Dispatch News Desk. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of Dispatch News Desk.