Catch Me If You Can!

By: Mohammad Aburumman

تم نشره في Wed 4 May / May 2016. 12:00 AM
  • Mohammad Aburumman

According to a report issued by “Transparency International”, 75 per cent of Jordanians believe corruption has increased over the last year.

Obviously, from the general data in the survey, the focus was on “petty corruption”, not major, especially bribery in return for “public services” or the facilitation of paperwork procedure in government department; 4 per cent of the surveyed segment —a large segment to be realistic— admit to having bribed for “public service”.

This phenomena; “bureaucratic corruption”, was once very limited in Jordan, in decades past. Our bureaucratic device generally retained higher efficiency and credibility compared to counterparts in the Arab World, renowned for its integrity; the Jordanian public servant was exemplary in terms of dignity, dedication, and integrity; known for not accepting bribery.

Over the past years, however, this image began to shake among citizens. Indeed, now we often hear news confirming this, over the media, about people trying to facilitate their procedures, or alter their administrative and legal discourse, through paying off employees in government and public departments.

Bribery varies as much as does the case; between those who pay thousands for a considerable interest or an illegal service, and those who pay small amounts to facilitate a procedure or avoid a small violations.

The disparity is in that Jordan —once a model in terms of limitations to bribery, now outscales most Arab countries in regards to popular conviction no the prevalence of bribery; in third, after Lebanon and Yemen, according to the survey, and above Egypt, Algeria, and other states.

Some officials will say that this index is inaccurate, being reflective of people’s attitudes, not fact. And while that may be partially true, this does however dismiss a very important basis in politics and media; that impression is more important than the reality on something, should this reality be all bright and colourful of course, were it not in reality even worse!

It is imperative, nonetheless, that we do not get stuck in a blame game and get drawn into a pointless debate on whether or not the index is accurate or true. It is vital that this be taken seriously, and that the state does not take this sort of thing lightly; an assignment must be made to task out a thorough study on the phenomena, its spread, causes, and how to put an end to it before it “bureaucratic corruption” becomes acceptable!

Notably, there are economic factors to the surge of the trend, especially given the scalable financial disintegration of the middle class, whose individuals operate the public sector, rendering this segment of society less resilient to economic transformations and daily burdens. But the economic term does not exclusively explain the phenomena; other factors have to be considered, including employees lacking a sense of accountability or sensing the absence of an effective monitoring device able to uproot these practices.

The most important factor, more or less to my estimation, lies in the dynamics by which corruption and manipulation diffused top down the bureaucratic ladder. When public servant and employees see their administrators and ranking officials lead by the “Catch me if you can” example of the moral from the movie of the famous American counterfeiter, they are —for the part at least, bound to follow down the same path. Contrarily, should employees see corrupt officials being held accountable, and should they catch a sense of a prevalent integrity in the stead of manipulation over the law for financial gains, corruption would not become the threatening spectre to Jordanian administrations.

Still, we trust a large portion of Jordanian bureaucrats. But the limited some who derailed the course of integrity threaten the credibility of Jordanian bureaucracy; something that could destroy any aspiration to attract investment in the future.

Once again, it is important to carefully, and attentively read the survey and its indications, and we should not accept the typical “denial and rejection” response perfected by ranking officials!