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The nation remains in shock, disbelief and confusion in the recent news of top officials and businessmen linked to corruption. I ask, what is so shocking and confusing about it? It is bound to happen! What is shocking is that it is basically the first time we have heard of something like this.
Now first of all, I should make it clear that the “innocent until proven guilty” system is still in place and for that I will not be passing any judgment on those currently in custody for corruption until I hear otherwise. Instead, I would rather mainly focus on the issue of corruption and what it really does to a nation.
Corruption can occur in many different scales. There is the kind of corruption that involves small favors; the kind of favor that people wouldn’t notice and if noticed wouldn’t really think anything of it. This kind of corruption is as common as the number of people you see every day and it is referred to as ‘petty corruption’. It is very common in poor countries where civil servants are underpaid.

According to Transparency International’s 2011 survey, petty corruption has accounted for £ 554 million globally. Not so petty when the number addsup and mind you this is a survey done two years ago.
The other kind is called ‘Grand corruption’ and the term ‘Grand’ says it all. This mother of all corruption occurs in the highest level of government institutions and results in significant sabotage of the political, legal and economic system. Such corruption I read, is prevalent in countries with dictatorial government with no or poor anti-corruption policies. This level of corruption is not an everyday occurrence, in a sense that it is there but it is not flashed across the news because, well, the whole system is corrupt.
The third kind is called ‘Systematic corruption’. This is the kind of corruption officials of the Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority (ERCA) along with others have allegedly been involved in.
Systematic corruption is corruption which is predominantly due to the weaknesses of an organization or process. It can be contrasted with individual officials or agents who act corruptly within the system.
This kind specifically deals with acts of bribery, extortion and embezzlement. Systematic corruption is encouraged by unrestricted powers, monopolistic powers, lack of transparency, low pay and the culture of impunity.
Under this specific kind of corruption, there is what is called ‘abuse of discretion’ which means the abuse of one’s powers and decision-making facilities. An example for that, as provided by Wikipedia, is when a judge improperly dismissing a criminal case or a customs official using their discretion to allow a banned substance through a port.
According to Transparency International 2012 report, Ethiopia’s was rated 33 out of a 100 (0 being the most corrupt and 100 being most clean). This shows that there is a lot of dirty laundry that needs to be aired out.
Although the recent and ongoing crack down on those claimed to be corrupt by the Federal Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission is commendable, some feel that the problem is bigger and runs deeper. Other government offices should also be investigated is what pundits insist.
Many philosophers such as Plato, in fact, have regarded the physical world as inevitably corrupt. This seems evident as no country has ever been able to eradicate corruption. It can be kept at a minimum, noting less scandalous. And that is where Ethiopia should be heading.
Corruption’s primary victims are the poor. It translates into human suffering, with poor families being extorted for bribes to see doctors or to get access to clean drinking water. It inevitably leads to failure in the delivery of basic services like education or healthcare. The destruction it brings is too many to list down.
The other inevitable truth is that corruption cannot be hidden. The skeleton in the closet will almost always be discovered. People cannot get away with millions of birr that belongs to somebody else.
Like all immoral doings in this world, the corrupts will have to face the consequences. Is there anything more embarrassing than being a top official preaching against bad deeds but only to be found that you have been doing all bad deeds yourself? And very publicly I may add.
Moral of the story? If you keep biting more than you can chew, you will eventually choke. Stick to what you can handle, and what you can handle must be your own.