And Now Graft

Deputy Chief Editor
And Now GraftAnd Now Graft

In countries where rule of law is king, the elite are the most responsible for their actions or the lack of it. Translation: authority and responsibility go together and nobody is above the law.

A national seminar was held in Tehran on Monday on promoting accountability and fighting corruption. Addressing the rare gathering President Hassan Rouhani called for a meaningful, effective and no-holds-barred campaign against seeping corruption. "Full force of the law must be used against all those, irrespective of their power and status, who are corrupt and embezzle public funds or contribute to social disparities."

Making his oft-mentioned case for rule of law and openness, Rouhani said monopolies and concentration of power provide oxygen to the specter of greed, corruption, rent-seeking and taking for oneself that which belongs to others. "We must get rid of the concentration of power. If the gun, wealth, media, web and propaganda tools get together in one place the outcome will certainly be corruption," he told the meeting attended by senior state and government officials.            

It is no exaggeration to say that taking on corruption in theory is one thing and attacking it in the bud is something else. Nations big and small have launched wars against the dangerous scourge and have emerged with their heads high. One prominent and powerful example is Sweden where citizens can walk into the prime minister’s office and read his mail. They also can peek into government records and find out a lot about the things they want and need to know. As a matter of policy, Swedish government records have been open to the public since 1766, military secrets being the sole exception.

We can and should be a nation for posterity to recall that once upon a time strong, confident, capable and competent people ruled in this land and put first things first. There is little doubt that on this difficult and apparently treacherous path of fighting the corrupt both cost and benefit are high and indeed not the task of the faint-hearted.

But we have to start from somewhere if for no other reason than the fundamental need of state and government to earn the trust and respect of the masses in whose names they rule.  Transparency, openness and responsibility in high places should be the core governing instruments of state and power to be able to nurture the lofty goals of honesty and foster conditions in which greed and corruption are established evils.

Is it really a colossal task to write the rules of fair play in stone so that the temptations of stealing, embezzlement, fraud and misappropriation are discouraged and suppressed? The simple truth is that this and other such tasks must be delegated to the ombudsman and a free media that have the means and instruments to challenge authorities if and when they tread on the wrong path.

 The fact that a national seminar was held on the need to curb corruption and was attended by the heads of the three branches of government is yet another indication that the ugly phenomenon exists and must be tackled before the powers that be are overwhelmed.