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How corruption and nepotism erode public trust in Tanzania

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Fri, 8 Aug 2014 08:48 GMT
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Thousands of prospective job seekers turned up for job interviews with the Tanzania's immigration services in June this year. Photo by Richard Mwaikenda
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The move by Tanzania’s immigration services to shelve the jobs of 70 newly recruited officials in the wake of nepotism allegations is a grim reminder of how corruption can erode public trust among prospective job seekers.

The allegations emerged when a document purporting to show names of successful candidates - some of whom allegedly are related to high-level officials in the department - went viral on social media.

The candidates were due to start their jobs as immigration constables and corporals in August. But the jobs were frozen after local media reported that 29 out of the 70 may not have been recruited on merit but rather from what The Citizen newspaper called “their right connections”. Fourteen of the candidates are believed to be children of senior officials, while the remaining 15 are close relatives of immigration officials.

More than 10,000 job seekers - most of them university graduates - had braved an agonizingly hot day lining up for interviews at the national stadium earlier this year. The huge turnout indicates how serious the unemployment crisis in Tanzania is. Although it was obvious that chances were slim for most, candidates banked on the vetting process since the government purports to be an equal opportunity employer.

However, some complained the vetting was far from free and fair. There was no system to verify identities, creating loopholes for unqualified candidates.

“It was quite obvious to me, the names of selected candidates had already been picked by the time we were doing the interview,” said one disappointed applicant.

In a bid to spare its public image, the government quickly shelved the employment offers pending an investigation into alleged nepotism. Mbarak Abdulwakil, the permanent secretary for Tanzania’s ministry of home affairs said in a statement that successful candidates should remain at home until further notice.

Corruption, sheer negligence and nepotism have arguably become the salient features of most public institutions in Tanzania, shattering the hopes and dreams of many young people. And surveys show scant change.

CORRUPTION COMMONPLACE

Despite some improvements, Tanzania has failed to make substantial progress in curbing public corruption, remaining one of the most corrupt countries in the world, according to Transparency International's 2013 Global Corruption Barometer.

new survey conducted by Twaweza, a local governance think tank, shows corruption is common in all government services – notably in police, politics, health, tax, land, education, local government  and water. Three out of five people who recently interacted with the police said they were asked for a bribe. The second most common form of corruption comes when looking for a job with one in three, or 34 percent, asked for a bribe.

Interestingly, the findings suggest citizens often stand firm. Only one in 10 reported paying bribes for jobs. They are most likely to pay bribes when seeking critical services in education, health care, water, and from village governments, it said.

“It is troubling that despite many efforts, citizens encounter such high levels of corruption in their daily lives and across so many different sectors, particularly government services,” said Rakesh Rajani, head of Twaweza.

Only one out of three said they know that they are supposed to report corrupt requests to the country’s anti-corruption watchdog, and just over half of Tanzanians, or 51 percent, think that corruption cannot be reduced at all, the study showed.

“Despite efforts to improve governance, corruption pervades the everyday lives of ordinary people. Worse still the citizens do not believe the government can reduce corruption” Rajani concluded.

Kizito Makoye, a journalist based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, often covers corruption and governance issues.

(Editing by Stella Dawson)

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