Fighting corruption the Chinese way
Tariq A. Al-Maeena
There have been frequent charges in the media about the spread of corruption in our public service sectors. Many incidents relating to such corruption became apparent following the tragic events of over two years ago when rainfall in Jeddah turned into floods killing more than 130 people and creating havoc and destruction.
Since then there have been calls by the public for greater transparency in civic affairs. Calls for accountability and swift punishments made the rounds following the floods but have ebbed since. The trial of those implicated in land scams that contributed to the unwarranted deaths seems to drag on and on with no clear verdict in sight.
It is obvious to most Jeddah residents today that public service sectors remain inefficient and many wonder whether it is related to incompetence or flat-out corruption. Take our roads and streets for example. Are the city inspectors who sign off on road re-surfacing that incompetent or are they on the take, accepting bribes for shoddy work that becomes apparent within a week or two after the contractors have left?
A novel solution to fighting such a public disease is to adopt the Chinese way. China today is the second largest economy, but it didn’t simply get this way on the backs of its one billion-plus inhabitants.
It has been China’s zero tolerance for corruption for a little more than a decade that has helped propel it to its current stature. Last month in the provincial capital of Guangdong, Guangzhou, China’s third largest city, journalists from neighboring countries were invited by the Communist Party of China (CPC) to take a peek into the formidable tools China employs to combat this public menace. Those tools range from transparency, monitoring and the death penalty along with other equally effective restraints.
Wang Xingning, director general of Guangdong Provincial Commission for Discipline Inspection who was heading the briefing, explained that when it came to transparency in public projects, a public bidding center was established “to ensure an open, fair and equitable construction environment and to improve the quality of construction.”
The center is a one-stop enterprise monitored by the CPC that provides all bidders with the project requirements. “We complete the bidding process of every small and mega project in 20 days,” stated Fun Qun, the director of the bidding center. “The center has completed 38,631 bids and there are no complaints because all bidding processes are open and evaluated by experts in the field without coercion or rewards. State-run enterprises have to compete in the open market with the others if they want to win the bid, and records are available to the public,” he added.
When it came to monitoring, Wang Xingning stated in giving Guangzhou as an example that the performance of eight million party members is monitored by 22,000 supervisory personnel in Guangzhou who are also under review.
“There are no party members with privileges no matter how high are their positions and how much service they have rendered. Party members are required to inform the authorities about the status of their children and spouses who are living abroad or visiting abroad, and there is no concept of dual nationality in China.” This severely limits the ability of frauds to abscond abroad with public funds.
The death penalty deterrent is indiscriminate. There is no question of mercy or leniency for those found guilty of corruption. Many officials including those at the level of director general of the various public sectors have been on the receiving end of death penalty judgments. “We have recovered three billion RMB lost in corruption,” Wang Xingning said.
“There is a hotline for people to lodge their complaints, and final judgment is taken within three months.”
Other means are also used in the defense against public corruption.
Mandatory courses at many universities exposes students to the perils of such social deceit. As Professor Wei Tang at Beijing Normal University Zhuhai (BNUZ) noted, “It is important for students to have high integrity so that we can combat corruption more easily. The campus is the best place to learn about morals and integrity, and such courses help set our young people who are the country’s future leaders in the right direction.”
Perhaps we should take a page from the Chinese and adopt similar measures to combat this menace