Corruption and Development

By Morgen Makombo Sikwila

Corruption is the single greatest impediment to economic and social development. A lot of money is paid in bribes and billions lost annually through corruption.

  In developing countries, according to the United Nations Development Programme, funds lost to corruption are estimated at 10 times the amount of official development assistance.

  But corruption does not just steal money from where it is needed the most; it leads to weak governance, which in turn can fuel conflicts; organized criminal networks and promote crimes such as human trafficking, arms and migrant smuggling, counterfeiting and the trade in endangered species.

Corruption affects everyone. Corruption stifles economic growth, undermines the rule of law and squanders talents and previous resources.


  Where corruption is rife, companies are reluctant to invest as the costs of doing business are marginally higher. In corrupt countries with abundance of natural resources, the population often does not benefit from this wealth. Corruption also weakens safety and security structures such as the police services. Ultimately, corruption prevents people, countries and businesses from fulfilling their potential.

Corruption undermines democracy, governance and human rights by weakening State institutions that are the basis for fair and equitable societies.  Vote buying at election times harms the democratic processes and justice is challenged when criminals are able to bribe their way out of trouble.

 Indigenous people and women are vulnerable to corruption.  Given geographic and social exclusion and lack of access to legal protection available to other members of society, their economic, social and cultural rights are threatened by corruption.

Corruption diverts funds intended to provide essential services such as health care, education, clean water, sanitation and housing.

  When officials are corrupt, this represents a major hindrance to a Government’s ability to meet the basic needs of its citizens.  In countries where international aid is meant to improve the quality of life, corruption denies this and can put future funding in limbo.

When jobs are given not on merit, but through nepotism, opportunities are denied. Often for the poor, women and minorities, corruption means less chances and or access to jobs.  Additionally, corruption discourages foreign investment and this leads to fewer employment opportunities.

When lucrative contracts are up for grabs, bribery, fraud and embezzlement can plague large-scale infrastructure projects.  Corruption can lead to money being stolen and infrastructure development strolled or can result being half built or sub-standard and at times dangerous infrastructure.

 Money can be allocated to sectors where needs are not the greatest, but which offer the best prospect for personal enrichment.  Contracts can be awarded to inferior companies and the quality of work is compromised.  Economic ruin can result, thereby further perpetuating underdevelopment.

Aftermath of disasters can provide opportunities for corrupt operators to thrive.  Bridges, schools, roads and perhaps the entire communities have to be reconstructed.

 Corrupt accounting and tendering practices, poor workmanship, bad planning and design; issues with land rights in disaster-hit areas are order of the day , hampering long term recovery or reconstruction.

In the education sector examples of corruption is abound.  Academic fraud is rife in many countries and is a serious threat to integrity and reliability of certification in higher education.

  Procurement wastage in the education sector, including school building, false maintenance costs and textbooks paid for but never received, costs the public dearly.  Ghost or absentee teachers who feature on the list of active teachers in schools are a huge drain on public spending.  Corruption results in the loss of enormous amounts in limited public health resources.

  In some countries, the public health systems are perceived as most corrupt public service institutions; an issue which undeniably affects development.  According to the World Health Organization, countries with higher incidence of corruption have higher child mortality rate.

  Corruption leads to national health budgets being depleted reducing Governments capacities to provide essential medicines increasing the risk of unsafe or ineffective products on the markets. It also diverts investments in necessary infrastructure such as medical schools, hospitals and clinics.

 Corruption in the water sector put lives of people at risk and slows down development and poverty reduction efforts.  Large water infrastructure projects such as dams, canals, tunnels, wells and drains are vulnerable to bribery and procurement fraud or contracts can be awarded to inferior companies.

Preventing and combating corruption require comprehensive approach in a climate of transparency, accountability and participation by all members of the societies.  Governments, private sector, the media, civil society organizations and the general public need to work together to curb this scourge.

 We all have a stake in fighting corruption.  Corruption undermines Governments’ abilities to serve their peoples by corroding the rule of law, public institutions and trust in leaders.  Corruption acts as a brake on development, denying millions of people around the world the prosperity, rights, services and employment which they desperately need- and deserve.

Morgen Makombo Sikwila is a holder of MSc Peace and Governance

BSc Counselling

Diploma in Environmental Health Health Health

Certificate in Marketing Management (0772823282)

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