Tuesday, November 23, 2010

TO BATTLE CORRUPTION, PAY UP

THE Inspector General of Government, Raphael Baku, this week released the annual report on corruption in Uganda.
I have not read the entire report but there was nothing to raise any eyebrows.

Infact, it was rather understated in cementing the perception that corruption is alive and kicking. On 94.8 fm’s Talk of the Nation this week, the issue of teacher absenteeism came up.

I heard how dedication to the vocation was lacking and teachers these days do not appreciate the huge responsibility they bear. The suggestion was that they don’t make teachers like they used to.

And then again on Press Chat on the same 94.8 fm, Richard Baguma narrated a heartbreaking but hilarious story of how in his earlier days as a public servant he went to the bank to check whether his salary had made his account.

The teller took one look at his account balance and, writing it down on a slip of paper, said his salary had not made the bank yet. It had, but it was so little as not to register with the lady behind the counter.

Earlier this year I saw a list of salaries for various levels of civil servants and at first thought the civil service pay was not so bad after all, until someone pointed out the figures published referred to annual salaries.

I believe that corruption is thriving because we do not pay our public servants enough. They may be other reasons but they are all secondary.

Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a useful framework from which to analyse human motivation. Basically, his theory suggests that human motivation is dictated by the pressing needs of a person.

At the bottom of the hierarchy are the basic physiological needs of food, water and breathing, climbing up to safety needs – family, health and housing, and on to belonging needs to esteem needs – achievement, respect, confidence to the ultimate, the self actualised person where issues of morality, creativity and lack of prejudice reside.

The theory says that if you do not fulfill the needs at one level it is difficult to rise to the next level and even if you do, chances are you will always regress to the lower level to resolve the needs unattended to at that level. It is impossible to belabor this point.

As long as the Government continues to pretend to pay, people will continue to pretend to work while devising other means to meet their basic needs. It is blindingly obvious.

The lowly paid civil servant lives in Nakasero, Bugolobi and Ntinda, is building in Namugongo and Buwate and is unstintingly loyal racking up five, ten, 15 years in the civil service.

This would be an illusion if they were conjuring this lifestyle out of their payslips.

In arguing against corruption, some sanctimonious people argue that if you signed up to work for that pay you should honour your contract or get out.

And I suggest to them that if the Government is unwilling to up the pay and yet wants to plug the leakages maybe they should hire monks, who are sworn to poverty and celibacy.
But of course government planners, being civil servants, know all this.

The argument that there are no resources to improve civil service pay, fly in the face of the fact we are willing to shell out sh500b-plus to host CHOGM, a four-day event, which has had little residual benefit to the majority of the population.

The high profile figures we see getting billion shilling kick backs are the tip of the iceberg.The incessant gnawing away at public resources by lesser cadres pilfering a few thousand shillings from the office imprest, soliciting a bribe here and there to conveniently look away when the law is being broken, is where the real havoc is being wrecked.

There are the rare, blameless individual, but we can not organise society on the strength of a few outliers.

This in no way justifies corruption. If we are serious about fighting corruption let’s pay our civil workers the minimum to survive through the month and then, the fight against corruption will truly have begun.

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