Corruption and Integrity in Public Service: A Voice from Doha, Qatar
January 9, 2020
By: ML Deen Rogers
On the twenty-first floor of the Movenpick Hotel in the West Bay Area in Doha, I was thrilled at the elegance of the glistening skyline overlooking this magnificent city dotted with skyscrapers stretching wide on the banks of the Persian Gulf. Even the lavishness and ambiance of Manhattan, New York cannot beat the architectural presence of the West Bay area of Doha. At night, Doha was just too magical for a country with 2.7 million people, with hot and humid weather, vegetation and fauna limited by every stretch and a land agriculturally unproductive.
The question that repeatedly haunted me throughout my seven (7) days in this gas and oil-rich country was, why not Nigeria or loosely why not Sierra Leone? The answer to the question finds itself in the very reason why I was in Doha.
From 9th -10th December 2019, the Shura Council or Parliamentof the State of Qatar hosted the 7th Global Conference of Parliamentarians Against Corruption. The Global Organisation of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC) is by far the largest organisation of parliamentarians solely committed to fighting corruption and improving governance by holding governments to account and to prevent corruption at all levels in governance. The theme for this year’s conference is“Integrity Matters”.
The State of Qatar has proven to be a deliberate example of the theme:“Integrity Matters “and it is also a shining testament as to how Parliament should hold the Executive to account and at the same time ensure its own House is in order with unreserved commitment to raising the bar high on personal integrity by keeping public interest at the core of its work.
Qatar is being rated as the least corrupt country in the Middle – East and North Africa with a score of 63 on a scale of 0 (very corrupt) to 100 (very clean). The rating indicates that the Qatari state is doing better than many western democracies in the fight against corruption. (Transparency International U4 Expert Answer, p6, 2018)
My conclusion was that strong leadership in the fight against corruption is the magic bullet behind the grandiose of this small but huge country in the Persian Gulf. With a strong leadership in the fight against corruption in Qatar, the country is able to give a stipend of around $ 7000 per month per citizen, free health and medical services, free quality education at all levels and employment rate at 99 %.What Qatar is doing inthe twenty-first century under the leadership of SheikhTamim, the Crown Prince reminds me of Jeffrey Sachs’ prescription in his book, “The End of Poverty”.
At a global level, the parliamentarians and parliamentary practitioners gathered in Doha attempted to reset the button on the fight against corruption as citizens’ expectations for good governance of public resources have never been higher than at the present. Governments around the world have been subjected to unprecedented pressure to “do more with less”, that is, provide more and better services with fewer resources. Parliaments by their very nature should ensure value-for-money and better service delivery through their oversight functions.
On the theme “Integrity Matters”, the global Assembly in Doha agreed that integrity is at the heart of the Anti -Corruption fight and today’s parliamentarians need to take ownership of their own integrity and demonstrate how they can be held to account. From the budget process to oversight activities of Sectoral Committees, modern parliaments are now using technology and listening to the voices of their constituents so as all the citizens can be confident that the legislative process is being conducted with the utmost integrity and transparency.
In the Africa Regional Chapter Meetings, our country’s fight against corruption was made evident in the Index of Public Integrity. Sierra Leone is ranked 87 among 117 countries with a score of 5.79 better placed than China ranked 98 with a score of 5.20, Rwanda 101 with 5.13 and Nigeria ranked 104 with a score of 4.74. ( Index of Public Integrity, European Research Centre for Anti- Corruption, and State –Building, www.againstcorruption.eu)
At the national level, our Parliament has passed into law one of the most progressive Anti-Corruption laws in the African region. In the recent past, our fight against corruption is being sustained and measured. Corruption is becoming unattractive in Sierra Leone and at the moment, the vestiges of the enterprise are tilted towards the culprits themselves. However, there is a tacit sandwiched between personal and public integrity in the fight against corruption. In the coming months, I would like to see the peoples’ Assembly and the Anti-Corruption Commission working together to draw a fine line between personal and public integrity. Two questions need to be asked in this respect; can a vigorous outreach programme on personal integrity be launched as a preventive measure in the fight against corruption? Can we double our efforts in accelerating public integrity in our governance architecture?
From a parliamentary viewpoint, the answers to these fundamental questions find a perfect place in what we refer to as the “Legislator’s Dilemma”. As an elected official of the state, who do u represent? Yourself, Your party or Your country? This everyday triangular dilemma for parliamentarians can find suitable interconnectedness with the elements of personal and public integrity in the fight against corruption. The constitutional provisions relating to the legislator’s dilemma are still backward and not very helpful in our democratization process. For instance, Section 77(k&l) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone (Act No. 6) of 1991 takes away some independence and allegiance from parliamentarians and whips them to primarily think along party lines though the oath of office in the Third Schedule of the Constitution places the country first – “that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Republic of Sierra Leone…”
My stay in Doha was a short one but the takeaways will ever remain to guide my thinking in the fight against corruption and how the fight against it can positively impact economic growth and prosperity in state-building. In our land of plenty, if we win the fight against corruption, Sierra Leone with a population of 7 million will be able to give stipend per month per citizen, make health and medical services free for all, scale-up free and quality education at all levels, reduce unemployment to the barest minimum, create a thriving middle-class and end extreme poverty by 2030.