We are remarkably one point down in corruption. This we must celebrate with full zeal like we do the Independence Day every year. By any count and measure, it is a feat no country in the world has ever accomplished.
Our social ethos and governance mechanisms, in particular, deserve international recognition and emulation with all essential details, On a serious note – really.
Corruption – the misuse of authority – is ubiquitous and deeply entrenched. It cannot be rooted out with slogans or even legislation – both are already in abundance and overflowing. Honest officers, if any, are entrapped between a rock and a hard place. Honesty is no longer the best policy. You are doomed if you do not swim with the tides. How true Ibn Khaldun is in saying that nobody is at fault when all are at fault.
A few days back, I went through an internal audit report of a public entity which revealed the nature and volume of corruption in various transactions. To my surprise, corruption in Pakistan is not only institutionalised – eating into the system from top to toe – but also internalised – the corrupt do not feel guilt or shame. Nobody even cares to fill the belly of file – to fulfil the required legal formalities. The so-called SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) are mocked at and thrown into the dustbin.
Besides institutionalisation of corruption and erosion of personal ethos, corruption largely preys upon emergency and ignorance. Any disaster in Pakistan is a blessing in disguise for our unscrupulous public servants.
For example, the 2005 earthquake was a huge disaster which demanded urgent response for rescue and rehabilitation but there was no mechanism in place to deal with such a catastrophe. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), with its provincial wings, was formed later in order to predict and prevent a disaster or at least to mitigate its damage but sometimes the solution harms more than it cures.
During such an emergency, the response is supposed to be quick and precise. It is here that dishonest people play dirty. Formal rules and SOPs, although may not be helpful in unique situations, should at least have some semblance of probity and accountability. Compliance with external controls in the form explicit rules and procedures becomes inevitable in situations where internal controls (beliefs, values, and norms) are weak.
But the problem of excessive controls is even more damaging to the smooth functioning of public organisations and most often creates avenues for corrupt practices. On the one hand, you will see good people entrapped by bad systems as they cannot exercise discretion to respond creatively to unique situations, and on the other hand there are people who would not do anything worthwhile on the pretext of compliance to policies and rules.
Moreover, a layman finds himself stuck between a rock and a hard place whenever he interacts with public organisations for getting any work done. Even our judicial system has failed to do justice with justice! Whatever the underlying cause of bureaupathologies in Pakistan, the fact is that one has to have the life span of Noah (RA) patience of Ayub (RA) and wealth of the infamous Qaroon to get justice.
Instead of celebrating peanuts and trivialities, we need to take bold decisions to restructure the public machinery to make it more responsive, efficient, and accountable. The OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries have modernised their public sectors with visible improvement in performance.
It is simply illogical to cope with modern challenges using outdated structures and models. Dysfunctional institutions ultimately lead to failure of the state which we as a nation cannot afford to even think of.