Thursday, April 26, 2012

Winning the Fight against Corruption through Innovation

A Case for A
National “Court” for Reward and Recognition of Probity

Watching the EFCC’s Chairman speak recently about the progress the commission has made in fighting corruption and financial crimes in our country got me seriously thinking the need for us to rethink how we fight corruption and how to replace this ugly menace by instilling a culture of probity .

In that short interview, I referred earlier; he stated that there is a lower level of corruption and financial crime tendencies in the country today because people are now afraid of committing economic crimes simply because of the fear of being dragged to EFCC. That fear is very real and palpable everywhere you go, just the mention of EFCC changes people’s behavior.
But the problem with this approach of changing people’s behavioral dispositions is that “smart” people will always look for a way to “game” the system and more importantly, it creates a negative image of the country and its citizens. It just gives the impression that all that is happening in Nigeria is crime and fraud. While EFCC’s effort has become very valuable because of the true nature of our society and the height of the seeming effectiveness of its strategies, the point however is that to shape people’s behavior on a mass scale, we need a more enduring, positive and powerful approach. 
Considering the foregoing, I began to ask myself what exactly is the ultimate goal of EFCC and all the other corruption fighting agencies, ICPC and Code of Conduct Bureau? Obviously to punish offenders, right? Wrong, I believe that the ultimate goal of these agencies is to achieve a country where corruption and other related offences are no more or are very unattractive to the citizens through any legal means possible. Fear and punishment is just one way of approaching the matter and is consummated in the court of law through Justice. And that word Justice also holds the key to an enduring solution to abolishing corruption and instilling that culture of probity in our country. Let me explain. What does justice mean? It means fairness or impartiality, which means is a middle point. Since in dealing with corruption, we have used fear and punishment, Justice is to take a look at the opposite direction and that brings us to what are the alternatives to fear and punishment? Reward and Recognition is the alternative way for abolishing corruption and crime. My recommendation is for us to exploit this option, by setting up a national process and court for rewarding and recognizing goodness and integrity at every level especially at the micro-community level. And I will explain why and how.
Here is why? What gets rewarded gets done! It is a timeless and tested wisdom that is very well utilized throughout the world, more extensively in the corporate cycles. But the fact and relevance to Nigeria is to ask ourselves the question; how many cases are brought before EFCC and other agencies every year? And how many cases do they prosecute to victory per year. From record, the figures are not up to 15 thousand cases and less than 150 victories every year. That means that out of over 150 million persons, below 0.01% corruption cases are recorded. This is not to say that there are no more corruption related activities going on than reported but it is a call to look in the opposite direction. What about the remaining 99.9% persons in Nigeria, what are they doing. Vast majority are doing good.
The Alternative
I was watching Who Deserves to Be a Millionaire a version of the other show Who Wants to be a Millionaire and this young man was  called up who had returned a total of 192 Million naira he found to the owner who happens to be a foreigner! It was just amazing and the only reward or recognition he received N8000. No one outside of this country heard about it.
Rewarding and recognizing publicly good conduct, behavior and activities at every level in our society is one sure way for motivating chains of such conducts.
Recruiting Champions
In that same line, there are millions of Nigerians I know who would never compromise their integrity for anything financial and otherwise. I also know of people who are touching lives in their communities through selfless activities.
I believe that these groups far out-number the bad eggs and could form the foundation for a cultural revolution in our country.
The solution therefore is to encourage a large scale of these kinds of behavior on a mass level. It will start by first of all realizing that there is more good than bad in the country today and devising a method for tracking them. 
The next step is to recognize openly those you have performed those acts. This way, those that have been reward will be more motivated to do more and there will even be a higher sense of responsibility because they have be openly recognized. They will also become ambassadors of probity in the society.
A very important aspect of this approach is that it deals off corruption at its core. The fundamental reason for corruption is greed. People wanting something they haven’t worked for. But by rewarding and recognizing small wins, people will begin to value another currency much more valuable than money and that is a good name. People will also be oriented through this program about the old wisdom that a good name is better than silver or gold.
Recruiting followers
Others who are watching will begin to see the benefits and impact on the lives of people who are leading honest lives, they will know that good conduct has a reward here on earth not only in heaven and they will so be inspired and motivated to go ahead and do good.
Recognition does wonders to human behavior. As a matter of fact, the need for recognition is one of the most compelling human needs.  There is an old adage that if you praise a strongman for what he has done, he will done more. Just by commending people’s behavior you catalyze the zeal to do much more and those who are watching will do your utmost to get to also be commended.
Success factor
An important key to the program will be authenticity, transparency and public engagement.
To make it authentic, nominations will only be just the way matter are brought to the EFCC, reports through others who have seen the recipient’s good works. On the street, at work in school or at government offices if you notice extra-ordinarily good conduct, all one needs to do is to “report” it to the probity office.
After receiving the reports, investigators will go and verify the claims and interview friends and relatives. The matter will be brought before the house before which the recipient will be summoned to appear and he or she will be reward openly with the same media ovation offenders receive.
On transparency, the matter will be deliberated and decided on openly possible on national television with a showcase of the works of the receiving persons. Viewing will be invited to comment on awards giving and afterwards they can report cases of future misconduct of recipients.
On public engagement, apart from the fact that nomination can be anonymous from a third-party, and viewers can comment of awards, entries from the general public will be made very easy through various channels, work-in offices, emails, websites, and through the mobile phone MMS, SMS and WAP portals.
Simple rewards: There will also simple rewards and benefits attached based on the scale of what is being recognized. This will range from simple brooches to wristband to car plate numbers and recipients will be accorded special privileges in the society.
Funding: all this can be achieved with the right political goodwill and support from the top especially the presidency with little funding and the remaining funds can be sourced successfully through corporate CSR sponsorships.
About the author: This article was written by Victor E. Kalu. He is currently the Chief Executive Officer of Ignovation International, a leading Innovation Consultancy focused on the African Continent. You can reach him on or 07061241887.

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