Resistance to Reform and the Oddly Responders!

By Jumana Ghunaimat

تم نشره في Mon 15 January / Jan 2018. 01:00 AM
  • Jumana Ghunaimat

Responders to my “Corruption Triangle” series of articles, on petty corruption among employees in some branches of government, particularly those handling monetary citizen transactions, claim that I have made generalisations.

The most interesting replies I have received came from Tax Department employees, hurt by the Department’s recent decisions, arguing that corruption is not a generalizable case for all public servants, which is inarguably true. It is also a point that I made sure to highlight in both my articles.

For starters, everybody has the right to respond to my articles, obviously. Especially since they address issues we have long kept silent about, not as individuals only, but as Jordanians at large.

For years, instead of tackling the problem, many resorted to invest in it for petty individual gains. More so, governments have long preferred to disregard the problem, despite knowledge of its existence.

Naturally, this dismissal has only amplified the problem and encouraged unethical exploitation of office among many public sector employees and officials.

However, this is not the case for the vast majority of government employees, as I have repeatedly asserted and continue to reaffirm.

In the Corruption Triangle articles, I explicitly underlined the fact that there are, indeed, incorruptible employees, even in the very hard of the corruption-infested departments.

It is not my role as a writer to point fingers, but to bring such problems to light, as is my right, in an effort to help contain and tackle the problem.

More so, the corruption in these branches of government is no secret. It is equally safe to say that many of those who dealt with these departments know exactly the scale of corruption among the employees there. Still, I do not know why reforms to counter and tackle such an issue, which hurts the reputation of the government and dedicated public servant alike, are faced with so much resistance!

I was not at all trying to defend Finance Minister Omar Malhas, as some made it out to seem.

However, it was an attempt to support an unprecedented government effort to encompass change and reform in the public sector. Put an end to corruption, imbalances and deformities hindering progress.

In many instances, I have made contact with officials and tax department employees, who confirmed to me the need to advance counter-corruption measures. It was made clear to me, in more than one occasion, that the public administration needs the government to kick-start an engulfing endeavour to sever the hands of the corrupt. Many of those have exploited their offices to make gains simply because they hold the keys to the game and the law, with the ability to manipulate it.

By doing so, those cost the Treasury massive amounts in revenues every year.

More dangerously, they contribute to the decay of the public sector’s code of ethics and the moral constructs which government public service.

What I wrote was not an accusation. I know next to nothing about the details of their work and I am not authorised to pass judgement upon them. I see no reason why so many protested what is obviously intended to address and fight the phenomenon of petty corruption in the public sector.

One of the responses made it all sound made up, as if there is no corruption, at all, in these departments.

Another response made it out sounding as if I am supporting the Minister.

Both my articles addressed evidently existent issues in the public sector. Nothing changes this fact. These alleged claims are merely but attempts to cover up the truth about what they know, for a fact, to be true about their own departments.

There are countless examples of corruption among public sector employees, including Tax Department officials.

I do not need to go through the petty details of it to back up what everybody knows to be true.

In truth, I don’t think these articles were even enough to force the corrupt to see the truth that reform is both indispensable and surely inevitable. As for the many, who neither condone corruption nor take part in it, the moral of this is to assert that reformation requires the support of all, MPs, APs, the press, CSOs, as well as public servants and citizens.

The government’s recently enacted efforts to counter corruption, administrative and petty, are unprecedented, nationally speaking.

Without adding to the complexity of the situation, reform is already costly. Instead of making it more so, we need to stick together and back in the government in its attempt to finally cast out corruption, in practice. A success in this field is of the utmost importance.

Not once have I sided with anything but the truth. The issue of corruption is not of such novelty to me that I have failed to mention. Quite contrarily, corruption has been the primary topic of so many of my articles. I have often underlined the necessity to declare war on petty corruption, without ever —once again— accusing anyone in particular of the crime. I have also always refrained from making generalisations. More so, I have explicitly expressed the opposite of it. But I suppose these presumptuous leaps to defend corruption are all part of the resistance, naturally, to reforms.

That, I understand, as it is only expected that the corrupt would resist. But those who claim to be not so, leading the onslaught against administrative reforms; those I do not understand.

The fact is that Omar Malhas is doing what needs to be done.

Another fact is that he will have to look carefully into every decision he makes, to make sure that no public servant is unjustly persecuted in the government’s quest to make this right.

After all that is said and done, the truth is that I have heard news about employees who do not deserve what has come to them.

Sadly, reforms come at a cost, and not a small price, mind you.

However, we have all so long awaited the beginning of the long-promised reforms.

Resistance to these reforms does not constitute, in any way, a reason for the government to back down now, not after all these years that we have been waiting.

This article is an edited translation of the Arabic version, published by AlGhad.

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