‘Quiet corruption’ undermining African development

Published on DW-world.de Deutsche Welle, by Asumpta Lattus (dc), March 18, 2010.

“Quiet corruption” involving small amounts of money and low-level civil servants, is having a destructive effect on African development, according to a report released this week by the World Bank.

It doesn’t make for headlines like cases of large-scale corruption, where huge sums are misused by members of Africa’s business community or the political elite. Nevertheless, quiet corruption, which can take the form of absenteeism among teachers or doctors, the distribution of fake drugs, or the sale of diluted fertilizers to poor farmers, is having a damaging effect on people in Africa, according to the African Development Indicators report released by the World Bank on Monday. 

“The idea of quiet corruption is when public services that are due to poor people are not delivered to them even though somebody has paid for them,” said Shantayanan Devarajan, the World Bank’s chief economist for the African region. “For instance, when a teacher who is paid a salary is absent from the classroom, or a doctor who is also paid a salary doesn’t show up in the clinic. This is a kind of a failure of service delivery. But if you look at it carefully, it looks like corruption, because somebody has been paid money and they are not doing the job that they are supposed to be doing” … //

… Cracking down on teacher absenteeism:

Government officials in Tanzania are attempting to crack down on the problem of quiet corruption in schools. In January of this year, Tanzania’s minister of education and vocational training, Jumanne A. Maghembe, summoned all senior education officials in the country and ordered them to act, not just against the absenteeism of teachers in schools but also against ghost teachers who appear to be on the ministry’s payroll.

“There was a case or two of teachers who had passed away and were not removed from the payroll, and because of this, we now have a team of experts going to every school in Tanzania to meet every teacher to record their personal employment details,” Maghembe said. “This information is then developed into a database that upgrades our current database, so that we know everybody, we know what they are teaching, when they are expected to retire, and so on.” (full text).

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