A corrupt person is one who acts in a crooked or dishonest way because of monetary gratification or empowerment. Therefore, corruption in public life could be construed to mean the use of public office, either political public office or civil service office, to gain illegal monetary gratification or for power. Corruption among public office holders take many forms including embezzlement of public funds, contract inflation, failure to follow due process, misappropriation of public funds, conversion of public property for personal use, bribe giving and taking, nepotism, and covers up of crime.

The Chronic Effects of Corruption in Public Life

Corruption is rife in public places in many countries, especially developing countries where political office holders wield disproportionate amounts of power. Corruption in public life can be likened to an octopus; spreading its ugly tentacles to every sector of public life or like cancer; eating deep into every fabric of the society. Corruption is difficult to eradicate because it works through a system that is essentially corrupt in all facets and therefore difficult to isolate and eradicate. In countries with the worst cases of corruption in public life, it affects the police, the judiciary, the civil service, the political office holders, government agencies, and even the military. It is no exaggeration to say that corruption under develops countries that are afflicted by it. Corruption diverts public funds that are meant for the development of critical infrastructure and public service into private accounts thereby leading to stunted industrial and economic growth, obsolete, inadequate and decaying infrastructure and widespread poverty. A clear indicator of the negative effects of corruption in nations is ridiculous income inequality among the populace. Several countries including Brazil, India, and China have been severely affected by massive corruption in public places at one time in the history of each of these nations. Many African countries such as Nigeria are currently being affected by this menace. Also many rebellions and insurgencies that have arisen in many countries worldwide were attributable to the dire socio-economic conditions occasioned by widespread corruption in public life.

Corruption in public life is a worldwide phenomenon but it is more pronounced and of greater impact in developing countries with fragile economies and weak institutions. Corruption in developing nations negates all attempts to achieve meaningful economic or industrial growth or attain set national objectives. The most damaging aspect of corruption in public life is that it lulls peoples sense so that they are no longer affronted by flagrant violation of public trust, instead believing that ill-gotten wealth is now a normal way of life. By so doing, corruption erodes the social and moral norms that were held sacred not too long ago. In Nigeria for instance, siphoning public funds was once regarded as ‘taking one’s share of the national cake.’ Corruption tarnishes a country’s image thereby discouraging foreign investment. It has been noted that nations that have abundant natural resources are especially prone to corruption. Public officials seem to be particularly susceptible to corruption due to the enormous power and resources that are vested in their care.

The Role of Transparency International in Fighting Corruption in Public Life

Transparency International (TI), an international organization, based in Berlin and formed with the aim of fighting corruption worldwide publishes annual reports based on its international watch list. It must be noted that because of its secretive nature, corruption is impossible to measure with any degree of accuracy but informed estimates exist. Transparency International says that the cost of corruption to developing countries is about 1.2 trillion US dollars annually. The organization further lists North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia and Sudan as the most corrupt countries in the world in its 2014 edition of its corruption perceptions index.

Most countries recognize the danger that corruption poses to the society and therefore make efforts to curb the menace. These efforts include the setting up of special anti-corruption government agencies, enactments of laws aimed at curtailing corrupt practices and revision of due processes in governance as well as the investigation and prosecution of corrupt public office holders. International agencies and organizations such as the United Nations Economic Commission, International court of Justice and Transparency International are also involved in the fight against corruption. However, the battle is far from being won at present because corrupt governments tend to have a lukewarm attitude to fighting corruption as well as the fact that corruption is not only difficult to unearth but also hard to isolate and eliminate.


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