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African civil servants failing to deliver paid-for services

16th March 2010

By: Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online


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"Quiet corruption" was pervasive and widespread across Africa, had a disproportionate impact on the poor and would have long-term consequences for the continent's development, a new report released by the World Bank on Monday revealed.

The bank's ‘Africa Development Indicators 2010' report showed that quiet corruption, which was described as the failure by public servants to deliver goods or services paid for by government, was less likely to attract public attention than other forms of corruption, but could have harmful long-term consequences, especially for the poor.


"Quiet corruption does not make the headlines the way bribery scandals do, but it is just as corrosive to societies. Tackling quiet corruption will require a combination of strong and committed leadership, policies and institutions at the sectoral level, and - most important - increased accountability and participation by citizens," World Bank Africa region chief economist Shanta Devarajan said in a statement.

The practice did not necessarily involve any monetary exchange, but entailed factors such as absenteeism or the deliberate bending of rules for own benefit by front line service providers, such as teachers, doctors and other government officials.


The researchers noted that corruption was embedded in the political economy of Africa, adding that the different forms of corruption were also related.

Further, "big-time" corruption often encouraged or led to low-level public servants participating in quiet corruption.

While the long-term consequences of quiet corruption were hard to determine, one direct effect was a loss of production, noted the researchers.

For instance, if a child were denied a proper education as a result of teacher absenteeism, the child would not develop the necessary cognitive skills required in adulthood. Also, the absence of drugs or doctors could lead to preventable death.

Meanwhile, the report highlighted that quiet corruption by State-owned utilities across Africa were estimated to cost the continent about $5,7-billion a year, or about 1% of gross domestic product.

The quiet corruption was usually in the form of over-manning, the under collection of bills and distribution losses, said the researchers.

The report pointed out that over-manning, which was usually found in State-owned telephone incumbents, contributed to about $1,5-billion of the overall cost to the continent.

The under collection of bills was prevalent in power and water utilities and accounted for about $2,4-billion of the overall cost to the continent.

The remaining $1,8-billion was the result of distribution losses, which were incurred as a result of utilities not maintaining distribution networks and as a result of tolerating illegal connections.

The researchers stated that African power utilities lost about 23% of their energy through distribution losses, while water utilities lost about 35% of water as a result of distribution losses.



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