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Ethical remedies to cancer of corruption

The cancerous growth of corruption destroys the economic growth of a country. Corruption deprives the general public of resources. Corruption manifests itself through rent-seeking behaviour which raises the transaction costs on many public and private activities.

It does not only raise the costs of doing business and lead to squandering of public resources, but it is also corrosive to the national psyche. It erodes the culture of trust that is necessary for the deepening and broadening of markets.

In short, corruption is evil and those holding public offices and position of trust should lead by example in order to combat corruption. Adequate legislation with firm punishment for corruption is imperative.

Envy and the Pull Her Down Syndrome

Envy can be seen as a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities or luck. It can also be perceived as the desire to have a quality, possession or other desirable thing belonging to someone else.

As Victor Hugo said, “the wicked envy and hate; it is their way of admiring.” In the same vein, Nicias Ballard Cooksey noted that “envy and jealousy, twin sisters, come with the cunning of the fox to steal away your peace and happiness.” Instances are abound where innocent and deserving Malawians have been condemned instead of being commended because of envy.

The fact that the Malawian National Anthem touts envy as the enemy of the State means that Malawians should take deliberate efforts to eradicate envy in their communities.

 

Exclusion of the Socially and Politically Disadvantaged

There is a tendency in many communities of marginalizing the socially and politically disadvantaged.

The result of this socio-political discrimination is that where one is born poor chances are that they will die poor. Taking employment as an example, some decision-makers have employed people on the basis of technical “know-who” as opposed to one’s technical know-how thereby accepting mediocrity―the so-called “Malawian Standard”.

Some financial institutions have also deliberately sidelined small enterprises in the provision of their services. A typical example is the requirement of collateral, which is not always available for small traders.

Access to market and determination of prices for agricultural produce by cartels also tends to exclude the poor farmers in the chain and who eventually do not have control over fruits of their labour.

Also, inequalities affect policy-making in cases where even democratically-elected officials respond more attentively to the views of affluent constituents than they do to the views of the indigent.

This explains why some analysts have called for regulation of political party funding, for example, because the “more that wealth is allowed unrestricted roles in funding elections, the more likely it is that economic inequality will get translated into political inequality.”

In this respect, the poor, who are also most affected by these policies; do not have a say in these policies which implies their interest are not properly considered.

Gender Inequality and Discrimination against Women

Gender equality remains one of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that the country is yet to meet.

There are three key factors that explain the dynamics of women’s participation in job markets in Malawi: limited job opportunities; differences in education; and power dynamics in households.

Many communities still have cultural practices that hold back women’s empowerment in communities. Although the government has made commendable efforts in improving equality between men and women in decision-making, women are still not empowered to be self-sufficient and have their voices heard.

Women are generally at higher risk of poverty than men as they are less likely to be in paid employment and they tend to have lower pensions than their male counterparts. Women are more involved in unpaid caring responsibilities and when they are in work, they are frequently paid less.

Hillary Clinton is certainly correct when she says “women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world”. There is also wisdom in what the former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher said, “if you want something said, give it to a man; if you want something done, give it to a woman.”

As a way forward, therefore, instead of competing against women, male professionals should cooperate with, and support women.

Lack of Patriotism and Indifference to Policy Debate

On the one hand, selfishness has eroded patriotism to the extent that several perpetrators do not put the best interest of the country at heart.

For example, unscrupulous individuals exploited the weaknesses in the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) through collusion to defraud the government, resulting in theft of public funds.

On the other hand, Malawians are generally reluctant or unwilling to contribute to policy debate that affects their lives. For example, although the population growth in Malawi is alarmingly high while the national cake remains the same if not smaller, professionals have not raised the red flag or offered concrete suggestion to control this ticking bomb.

Apart from the first democratic elections in 1994, most if not all subsequent presidential and parliamentary elections in the country have been shrouded in irregularities; and yet professionals have not embarked on a comprehensive audit to rectify the electoral processes.

Understandably, illiteracy may limit the citizens’ participation in policy formulation but the debate on thorny and perennial issues such as abortion, witchcraft, same-sex marriages and electoral irregularities has often taken place in casual talk than being resolved in professional fora.

Professionals should use their knowledge and skills to shape policy debate for the good of the country.

Lack of Access to Justice

Human rights law guarantees every person the right to recognition before the law, the right to access to any court of law and the right to an effective remedy in case of violations of one’s rights and freedoms.

The Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor estimated that at least four billion people globally are excluded from access to justice, especially fair application of the rules, and access to secure property rights.

A cursory survey of the people in prisons in Malawi reveals that it is mostly the impecunious who are in custody.

Does this mean the rich do not commit crimes? It is incumbent upon professionals within their sphere of influence to ensure that people are equal before the law and provide access to justice by removing barriers for the poor to access courts.

Cultivating a Culture of Ethical Professionalism

The auditing and banking systems in Malawi have failed in crucial instances to identify unusual transactions and conflicts of interest thereby allowing fraud, theft and unethical actions to take place resulting into massive loss of public funds that could have been used for development.

For example, the Baker Tilly report has noted that the failure of the three lines of defences of the organisations (operational management and internal controls, compliance, risk management and secondary review as well as internal and external audit) to control their assets to operate effectively, either collectively or in isolation contributed to the ‘Cashgate’ opportunity.

Professionals need to do everything in their capacity to operationalise the principles of national policy entrenched in section 13(o) of the Constitution. For a long time, auditing has been limited to “examination and evaluation of financial and other records to secure sufficient and reliable evidence to enable expression of opinions on financial statements of accountable entities”.

However, it is clear that auditing is beyond analysis of financial records―it includes “audit of probity and propriety of administrative decisions taken within audited entity”.

A diagnosis of the “Malawian Malaise” shows that the factors that have retrogressed the country or slowed progress can be cured by ethical professionalism.

Even the State President, Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika, has called for “character development because Malawi needs serious mindset change” for the country to develop.

For professionals, this supposes embracing ‘ethical professionalism’ by adopting professionalism and work ethic guidelines that are built around an internal moral system or code of ethics.

Morality and ethics usually represent the personal beliefs an individual displays working performing one’s work. In this sense, practicing ethical professionalism may be seen as “walking the walk” regarding one’s personal morality and ethics.

Ethical professionalism can be manifested in terms of discrete attributes, which may typically include:

Patriotism

Generally speaking, patriotism is emotional attachment to a nation which an individual recognizes as one’s homeland.

A patriot is a person who is on the side of one’s own nation or its leaders. Patriotism, which involves the social conditioning and personal behaviors that support a state’s decisions and actions is different from nationalism, which involves national identity.

The essence of “ethical professionalism” has been succinctly illustrated by the United States President Barack Obama when he said “[w]e, the People, recognise that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which only asks what’s in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defence.”

As President Mutharika has also aptly noted, Malawians need a common spirit and character for pursuing their national destiny.

According to the State President, “the national pursuits must be within the common spirit of patriotism, with the common character of integrity, and a common culture of hard work.

In terms of ethical professionalism, therefore, the words of former US President John F Kennedy resonate with inescapable pertinence that: “[a]sk not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”

In this case, a patriotic professional should not just pride oneself for being professional but rather utilizing one’s professionalism for the best interest of one’s country and its people.

Obedience of the Law

Law is a system of rules that are enforced through social institutions to govern behaviour. Laws can be made by legislatures through legislation (resulting in statutes), the executive through decrees and regulations, or judges through binding precedent.

Private individuals can also create legally binding contracts, including arbitration agreements that may elect to accept alternative arbitration to the normal court process.

In terms of ethical professionalism, one’s obedience of the law should not be based on fear of a legal suit or being imprisoned but rather for the sake of preserving peace and order in the community and good neighbouriness.

Obedience of the law is a hallmark of ethical professionalism. It is pleasing to note that the Code of Ethics for Institute of Internal Auditors Malawi (IIAM) requires its members to “observe the law” and that they “[s]hall not knowingly be a party to any illegal activity, or engage in acts that are discreditable to the profession of internal auditing or to the organization.”

Integrity

As the saying goes, “integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.”

Integrity is the first and foremost form of ethical professionalism. Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.

For a professional, integrity is moral uprightness which is seen when faced with the choice between what is convenient and what is right. Ethical professionalism, involves choosing one’s thoughts and actions based on values rather than personal gain. In terms of ethical professionalism, it is not just a personal choice to uphold oneself to consistently moral and ethical standards but also a responsibility owed to the profession and the general populace.

A classic text for integrity is a secret ballot or the giving of tithe and offering in a house of worship. A profession with high integrity would do what is right for the profession and the populace at all times and in all circumstances, whether or not someone is watching.

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