1.1 Background to the Study
One of the greatest problems of Nigerian public service is the prevailing incidence of corruption. Corruption therefore has become a persistent cancerous phenomenon which bedevils Nigeria public sector. Misappropriation, bribery, embezzlement, nepotism, and money laundering by public officials have permeated the fabric of the society. Any attempt to understand the tragedy of development and the challenges to democracy in most developing countries (Nigeria inclusive), must come to grips with the problem of corruption and stupendous wastage of scarce resources. This is not to suggest that corruption and prodigality are peculiar to the developing countries. Certainly, corruption is neither culture specific nor system bound. It is ubiquitous.
However, the severity and its devastating impact vary from one system to the other. The impact is undoubtedly more severe and devastating in the developing world with weak economic base, fragile political institutions and inadequate control mechanisms. According to the Executive Director, Office of Drugs and Crime at the United Nations, Dr. Antonio Maria Costa, about US $400 billion was stolen from Nigeria and stashed away in foreign banks by past corrupt leaders before the return to democratic rule in 1999 (http://allafrica.com). Most people would argue that poverty definitely contributes to corruption. In many poor countries, the wages of public and private sector workers is not sufficient for them to survive (Otive, 2008).
It is ironic that Nigeria is the sixth largest exporter of oil and at the same time hosts the third largest number of poor people after China and India. Statistics show that the incidence of poverty, using the rate of US $1 per day, increased from 28.1% in 1980 to 46.3% in 1985 and declined to 42.7% in 1992 but increased again to 65.6% in 1996 (Obasanjo, 1995). The incidence increased to 69.2% in 1999 (CBN, 1999:95). If the rate of US $2 per day is used to measure the poverty level, the percentage of those living below poverty line will jump to 90.8%.
It is against this background that sectoral distribution of the nationwide corruption survey in the Nigeria Corruption Index (NCI) 2007 identified the Nigerian Police as the most corrupt organization in the country, closely followed by the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN). Corruption in the Education Ministry was found to have increased from 63 per cent in 2005 to 74 per cent in 2007, as against 96 per cent to 99 per cent for the Police in the corresponding period. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), was the only new organization identified as corrupt among the 16 organizations on a list which included Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, the Presidency, and the Nigerian National Petroleum
Commission (NNPC).While the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) have been identified as the least corrupt organizations with respect to bribe taking from the populace as at June 2007 (Abimbola, 2007).
Corruption has therefore reached an unprecedented level in Nigeria. It has pervaded every facet of the nation and has even metamorphosed into a way of life for most Nigerians. The Nigerian civil service has the potential to transform the collective challenge of Nigeria as a nation if its immense energies are properly harnessed; but the situation seems different after its radical reform between 1960 and 1976; during which period, the civil servants were in control of government political process due to the emergence of military rulers in political administration prevailing in the African continent then, coupled with their lack of experience of political leadership in governance. Some scholars blame the institutionalization of corruption in Nigeria on military rule. Amongst these scholars is Ribadu (2006:1) who asserted that:
The history of corruption in Nigeria is strongly rooted in the over 29 years of military rule, out of 46 years of her statehood successive military regimes facilitated the wanton looting of the public treasury, decapitated institutions and free speech and instituted a secret and opaque culture in the running of government business. The result was total insecurity, poor economic management, abuse of human rights, ethnic conflicts and capital flight.
Against the above views of Ribadu however, are also other contending postulations that did not restrict the issues of corruption in Nigeria to preponderance of military rule in Nigeria alone. In this regard, Yinusa and Akanle (2008:297) have asserted that:
Corruption has become a way of life in Nigeria, which no one can ignore. Corruption and cronyism have long haunted Nigeria while military has been castigated for generally misruling the country. It must be noted that the military did not emerge from another planet. They are made up of people who come from the various parts of the country and therefore are a reflection of the society. The first, second and third Republics failed essentially due to corruption from our political gladiators.
From the above views; it is evident that corruption has permeated every facet of our national life; and has remained unabated under both the military and civilian administrations in the country.
However, there have been efforts aimed at curbing the menace of corruption in Nigeria. This anti-corruption war in Nigeria dates to a very long time. The fight against corruption in Nigeria one must acknowledge, is one of the most daunting and challenging task to embark on, but with political will and commitment by her leaders and the right attitude by all Nigerians there is no doubt that someday, the Transparency International will in her report rank Nigeria as one of the least corrupt countries in the world (Ameh, 2007).
Every community in Nigeria has mechanisms for dealing with corruption with appropriate sanctions for corruption. The anti-corruption fight in the public sector came to the limelight in 1966 when the military identified corruption of the politicians as one of the reasons for taking over political power. Each of the past regimes contributed to the problem of corruption. According to Nwaka (2003), corruption became legitimized, especially during the Babangida and Abacha regimes (1985-1998), with huge revenues, but wasteful spending, and nothing to show in terms of physical developments.
Experience has shown that the military is probably more corrupt than civilian politicians. The military ruled Nigeria from 1966-1979 and handed over power to Alhaji Shehu Shagari administration in 1979. But barely four years later, the Shagari administration was overthrown by the Buhari/Idiabgon regime. The Buhari/Idiagbon regime launched a war against corruption, tried and jailed many politicians and dismissed many civil servants. But when the Ibrahim Babangida regime overthrew the Buhari regime, it released many of the politicians that were jailed by the Buhari regime and reduced the sentences of others.
In fact, it has been argued that “Babangida’s government was unique in its unconcern about corruption within its ranks and among public servants generally; it was as if the government existed so that corruption might thrive (Gboyega, 1996). Scholars no doubt agree that corruption reached unprecedented levels in incidence and magnitude during General Ibrahim Babangida’s regime. It is ironic that the regime also had its own re-orientation and anticorruption programme, christened MAMSER. By the time President Olusegun Obasanjo came back to power as a civilian President in 1999, corruption had reached unprecedented proportion that it formed a major portion of his inaugural speech.
Ideally, in a democratic setting like Nigeria, the public service consists of the civil service, parastatals and agencies with structure that is systematically patterned to serve as a lasting instrument through which the government drives, regulates and manages all aspects of the society. However, the Nigerian public service has performed below the expectations of the public as a result of corruption in the service. Thus, corruption has become a cog in the wheel of efficient and effective service delivery. Corruption has eaten so deep into Nigeria that corrupt practices are even encouraged in most businesses (private or public) nowadays. Nigeria is the major oil producer in the world, but the average Nigerian on the street is poor and there is poor infrastructure like power supply, roads, schools, hospitals etc. The Nigerian public service is filled with stories of wrong practices such as stories of ghost workers on the pay roll of Ministries, Extra-ministerial Departments and Parastatals, frauds, embezzlements and setting ablaze of offices housing sensitive documents and award of contracts without recourse to due process mechanisms (Okwoli, 2004). According to Bello (2001), huge amount of Naira is lost through one financial malpractice or the other in the country, which to say the least, drains the nation’s meager resources through fraudulent means with far-reaching and attendant consequences on the development or even socio-economic or political programmes of Nigeria. Billions of Naira is lost in the public sector every year through fraudulent means. This represents only the amount that is ferreted out and made public. Indeed much more substantial or huge sums are lost in undetected frauds or those that are for one reason or the hushed up.
Appah and Appiah (2010) argues that cases of fraud is prevalent in the Nigerian public sector that every segment of the public service, could seem to be involved in one way or the other in some of these nasty acts.
A cursory look at the Nigeria public service further indicates poor public service delivery which manifests in corrupt practices such as distortion of official records, forgery of official documents like collection of taxes with fake receipts in which such revenue is not paid into the public treasury but pocketed by the individual official, falsification of their official age, the insistence by public servants for monetary and material gratification from their client before carrying out their official responsibilities for which they are being paid still persist in the Service. Furthermore, civil service recruitments and promotions do not often go to the best qualified persons but to “political clients”, who keep their jobs not by being efficient but by “maintaining their loyalty.
In the light of the foregoing, the study examines the incidence of corruption in the Nigerian public service focusing essentially on Isiala Mbano LGA from 1999 to 2012.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The unsatisfactory service delivery of the public service in developing countries has spurred controversies among practitioners and scholars alike in the field of social science. In fact, scholars have made efforts to ascertain the factors that impinge on effective and efficient service delivery yet all efforts proved abortive. Since Governments all over the world exist to provide goods and services (public goods) for its citizens with the primary aim of improving their living condition. The major vehicle of translating these laudable concerns into a reality rests squarely on public service that is efficient, effective and result-oriented. The civil service is vital to the translation of government policies into tangible programmes of action, for the attainment of the goals of social and economic transformation, it provides the administrative machinery of governance through which the agenda of political leaders are realized and implemented.
This explains why increasing emphasis and focus have been on administrative reforms by governments the world-over, especially in the developing economies like Nigeria in order to meet challenges of growth and development that have been impinged by the forces of corruption. In the same vein, the civil service was created to articulate, formulate and implement the policies and programmes of government which would translate into socio-economic and political development of Imo State.
The emergence of Isiala Mbano LGA started from the creation of Imo State as one of the seven additional states by the Federal Military Government on February 1976 during General Murtala Muhammed regime. Formerly, the area Imo State was part of the defunct East Central
State that was created in 1967. Since its establishment in 1967,the Isiala Mbano LGA has emerged over the years as the most critical and crucial part of development and democratic stability in the State. Hence, they have made significant input in political process. Truly, as a vehicle and machinery of public policy formulation and implementation, the Isiala Mbano LGA acts as catalyst for crystallizing the shared goals of the citizenry.
This notwithstanding, corruption has been identified as a major hindrance to effective and efficient service delivery despite internal mechanisms and institutions put in place to checkmate corrupt practices in Imo State. Corruption has eaten so deep into the State that corrupt practices are even encouraged in most businesses (private or public) nowadays. Imo State is the one of oil producing States in the country, but the average Imolite on the street is poor and there is poor infrastructure like power supply, roads, schools, hospitals etc. The State is filled with stories of wrong practices such as stories of ghost workers on the pay roll of Ministries, Extraministerial Departments and Parastatals, frauds, embezzlements and setting ablaze of offices housing sensitive documents and award of contracts without recourse to due process mechanisms. Again, huge amount of Naira is lost through one financial malpractice or the other in Imo State, which to say the least, drains the State’s meager resources through fraudulent means with far-reaching and attendant consequences on the development or even socioeconomic or political programmes of the government. Billions of Naira is lost in the public sector every year through fraudulent means. This represents only the amount that is ferreted out and made public. Indeed much more substantial or huge sums are lost in undetected frauds or those that are for one reason or the hushed up. Appah and Appiah (2010) argues that cases of fraud is prevalent in the Nigerian public sector that every segment of the public service, could seem to be involved in one way or the other in some of these nasty acts.
A cursory look at the Isiala Mbano LGA further indicates poor public service delivery which manifests in corrupt practices such as distortion of official records, forgery of official documents like collection of taxes with fake receipts in which such revenue is not paid into the public treasury but pocketed by the individual official, falsification of their official age, the insistence by public servants for monetary and material gratification from their client before carrying out their official responsibilities for which they are being paid still persist in the service. Furthermore, civil service recruitments and promotions do not often go to the best qualified persons but to “political clients”, who keep their jobs not by being efficient but by “maintaining their loyalty.
Various reasons have been advanced by scholars to justify the persistence of the incidences of corruption in the Nigerian public service. Among these scholars is Yelwa (2011), who attributed the persistent rise in the incidences of corruption to the level of poverty, gross income inequality and general low quality of life of Nigerian people. Thus, the involvement of civil servants in corruption was inevitable in order to survive the harsh economic situation in the country. To Nwachukwu (1999), the persistent rise in the incidences of corruption could be as a result of faulty salary structure and retirement benefits and hence, has compelled many honest civil servants into dipping their hands in governments’ coffers in an attempt to plan for retirement without payment of benefits. Similarly, Ocheje (2000) is of the view that the incidence of corruption has persisted due to administrative structures development which has been accompanied with lack of transparency and accountability arising from an over-bloated public service that is bedeviled with excessive bureaucracy and red-tapism.
In the light of the above, Ademolekun (2002) asserted that lack of culture of accountability and weak institutional structure has resulted to the persistence of the incidence of corruption in Nigeria.
In spite of the numerous reforms carried out by successive regimes, it is sad to note today, that in reality, previous efforts to re-orientate the civil lethargic and negative attitude of many civil servants have not yielded the desired result. Efforts to improve their accountability and productivity have also failed. Today the civil service and civil servants are once again under attack and have been accused of corruption, indolence, nepotism and ignorance with complete abandonment of civility coupled with lack of commitment to doing a full day’s job for a full day’s pay. Absenteeism and malingering have become the norm while graft is rife. The public can hardly get any service without being frustrated or coerced to offer a bribe, making the civil service an extortionist’s haven (New Age, 7th Sept. 2005).
Despite all the internal control mechanisms and institutions established to check-mate incidences of corruption in the Nigerian public service, it is evident that civil servants’ involvement in corruption still persists. In the light of this, though efforts have been variously made by scholars to evaluate the involvement of civil servants in corruption, the existing inquiries are hamstrung because studies in this area have not adequately evaluated the impact of motivation on corruption in the Nigerian public service and the role of internal control mechanisms on the incidences of corruption in the Nigerian public service. The existing inquiries in this direction did not cover the period of this study, that is, 1999 to 2012, and more specifically, did not focus particularly on Isiala Mbano LGA.
It is indeed this gap that exists in literature that we seek to fill within the context of the following questions:
1. Do motivational incentives provided for civil servants contribute to their greater involvement in corruption in Imo State from 1999 to 2012?
2. Do weak internal control mechanism in the Isiala Mbano LGA account for the incidence of looting of State treasury by politicians in the Imo State from 1999 to 2012?
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The broad objective of this study is to examine the incidence of corruption in the Nigerian public service focusing essentially on Isiala Mbano LGA from 1999 to 2012.
Specifically, the study intends to achieve the following objectives:
1. To determine if the motivational incentives provided for civil servants contribute to their greater involvement in corruption in Imo State from 1999 to 2012.
2. To ascertain if weak internal control mechanism in the Isiala Mbano LGA accounts for the incidence of looting of State treasury by politicians in Imo State from 1999 to 2012.
1.4 Significance of the Study
The study has both theoretical and practical significance. Theoretically, the study will fill the gap in knowledge and in literature which exist in corruption in the Nigerian public service. This study will boost literature on the effect of sound financial management and adequate motivation of civil servants on corruption in Imo State public service.
Practically, the findings of this study will be beneficial to the Nigerian government, the Imo State Head of Service, Isiala Mbano LGA Commission and Civil Servants, and the general public in the following ways -
By this study, citizens will come to the realization that combating corruption is an inseparable requirement in the ongoing process of enhancing the efficiency, effectiveness and productivity of the Nigerian Public Service.
Through this study also government will be galvanized to put in place measures that will prevent and reduce future corrupt practices in the Nigerian Public Service so as to ensure efficient and effective delivery of public goods and services. Thus, it would serve as a reference point for policy makers.
This study is guided by the following hypotheses:
1. Motivational incentives provided for civil servants contribute to their greater involvement in corruption in Imo State from 1999 to 2012.
2. Weak Internal control mechanisms in the Isiala Mbano LGA account for the incidence of looting of State treasury by politician in Imo State from 1999 to 2012..