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CHINA: FIGHTING CORRUPTION WITH PREVENTIVE MECHANISM

By NBF News

At the beginning of his tenure in 2005, Justice Emmanuel Olayinka Ayoola, chairman of Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, said he would put on the front burner outreach programmes, which fulcrum shall be preventive mechanisms designed to fight the hydra-headed monster - corruption.

Almost five years down the line, he has been true to that resolve. He has been vehement in the campaign and has never shied away from it. Wherever he goes, home and abroad, and indeed, wherever people congregate to discuss strategies at taming the monster, through seminars, workshops, the various anti-corruption events organized by the commission or other agencies across the world, even during religious programmes, his message has remained strong and same-'Nigerians, both at home and in the Diaspora, flee from every appearance of corruption and you shall enjoy life in abundance.'

Or better put: 'seek ye a corruption-free society, and every other things shall be added unto thee.'

But till date it seems, Justice Ayoola's campaign of employing preventive weapons against graft has been slow in converting most Nigerians to transparent ideals. Like John the Baptist, Justice Ayoola's cry can be linked to 'a lone voice in the wilderness'.

Or so it seemed until a former President of Malaysia stormed Nigeria a couple of months ago, and told his enraptured audience at a public lecture in Abuja that there had been a paradigm shift in the war against corruption. That the war had since shifted, in the main, from arrest and prosecution to preventive mechanisms that push for the transformation or re-orientation of the entire citizenry.

In April, on the invitation of the Chinese Government, the ICPC Chairman and six members of the commission visited China to study that country's various initiatives aimed at taming corruption.

In all the agencies and institutions of the Chinese Government visited, the National Bureau of Corruption Prevention of China, our first port of call, holds the most interesting significance.

The Bureau's Director, Madam Ma Wen, at a working meeting, said the success of anti-corruption war in China was due mainly to preventive measures designed and vigorously pursued by the government, through her agency. She enthused that the catch phase against corruption in China is: 'We will fight corruption in a comprehensive way, address both its symptoms and root causes and combine punishment with prevention.'

She said the Chinese government had attached greater importance to fighting corruption and upholding integrity.

Through this, she said, 'Much progress has been made and this, in turn, has led to the promotion of large scale economic and social development.' In China, one could feel and see how the government has been carrying out the strategic anti-corruption policies in addressing both symptoms and causes of the socio-economic cancer.

There is discipline and order in all the facets of life in China. For of the country's 1.3billion population, discipline and respect for the sanctity of the rule of law is a philosophy that most of them rehearse, recite and practice daily like a religion. Little wonder, the country has not only joined the league of topmost economies in the world, it has also become the world's most beautiful bride in terms of economic power, desperately sought after by other super powers.

Indeed, China's prime position in the league of developed countries is no fluke. It is a resounding reality. And to say the Chinese achieved this pre-eminent position in just 30 years! To the Chinese, every dollar counts. Therefore, they spare no effort, from the people at the grassroots to the leadership, in ensuring that integrity and transparency are strictly followed in the expenditure of national budget for the overall development of the country and, more importantly, the general welfare of the people.

Consequently, Madam Wen emphasized to the ICPC delegation that the establishment of the National Bureau of Corruption Prevention is an important measure taken by the Chinese Government in a bid to deepen its preventive measures, demonstrating its resolve to keep corruption in check and reflecting it from commitment of fulfilling its obligations to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. Madam Wen then took time to explain the responsibilities of this Bureau.

The first, according to her, is to establish corruption prevention co-ordination mechanism, organize research on the problems faced in anti-corruption work and co-ordinate the corruption prevention work in different areas. Second, strengthen overall planning; regularly evaluate the corruption prevention work in various regions and departments.

Third, formulate corruption prevention policies and build institutions and push forward the corruption prevention work more forcefully and place it on a more solid legal frame. Fourth, offer guidance to the corruption work in enterprises and public institutions and help standardize corruption prevention in them.

Fifth, help relevant trade organizations establish self-discipline systems and mechanisms so that self-discipline and fair competition in these trades and industries will be promoted.

Six, make precautions against bribery in the fields of business and commerce in order to promote healthy development of the market economy. Seventh, carry out corruption prevention work in rural autonomous organizations and urban communities in order to promote more complete involvement of all aspects of society in corruption prevention.

Eight, carry out education on integrity, strengthen and promote integrity-oriented culture; disseminate the methods and measures of corruption prevention, in order to enhance people's ability and awareness against corruption. It is true that China has entered the crucial phase of reform and development and, in truth, most Chinese people are now living in opulence. They are flaunting it to the rest of the world and this is so because of the upbeat tempo in the campaign against corruption.

The system frowns at cheating as they see it as the bedrock of corruption. Right from the low placed farmers, traders, and artisans, to the big time businessmen, top government officials, transactions are deeply rooted in openness and cloaked in integrity. They have long been familiar with such sayings as 'preparing against possible trouble' and 'repairing the house before it rains.' To many nations, including Nigeria, the prevention of corruption is a long standing, complex, and comprehensive project.

And from the briefing from Chinese officials, I come home with the impression that the prevention of corruption is a task no single nation can face alone. It is a war that the whole world must engage in. This demands that all countries in the world should co-operate and support one another. This is why Nigerians should change their mindsets from entertainment mentality of wanting to read on the pages of newspapers, daily, how many big fishes that were arrested, paraded and accused of having allegedly mismanaged billions of naira.

The process of prosecuting such suspects has been so unduly long that at the end of the day, most of them get away with light sentences or what some people have rightly dubbed a slap-on-the-wrist punishment.

If China could start her reform 30 years ago and has been able to achieve much, Nigeria, 50 years after independence, has no excuse not to move forward.

In China, petty and grand corruption is given equal treatment. China's approach to these two issues is to inculcate integrity in the system. It ensures that every Chinese sees the need to imbibe the spirit of integrity.

The Chinese government believes the system relies on each individual, and that lack of it destroys the effectiveness and efficiency of the system.

Go to any of its public office, effectiveness and efficiency walk on all four. Their public offices are manned by committed workers who would not demand a cent or any form of gratification before they render service. According to a Chinese official: 'Those who were found corrupt in the discharge of their duties were summarily dismissed and jailed.'

We were taken round most of their government establishments. We saw how the message of transformation had sunk in, and how majority of Chinese had transformed their lives for better and continue to make China an envy of other nations. The ministries and agencies in China have in-built mechanisms that make the system credible and transparent.

Every office visited had discipline and composure entrenched. No loitering, chatting or lazing around. Every one was busy at his/her desk, contributing his or her quota to the nation's development and the welfare of its people. The Chinese citizens have been so sensitised to know that it was corruption that impoverished and made them so backward for 30 years when they basically lived on vouchers to survive.

No wonder, they rose against corruption in unison and fought it to a standstill. Today, they are enjoying the dividends of their struggle. And this is the beauty of preventive mechanism against corruption.

Olamiti is the resident consultant to the ICPC.