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Corruption and His Twin Brothers State Capture and Policy Capture

Publishing Date : 17 September, 2019

Author :

PUSETSO MORAPEDI

The worst thing a leader can ever do is to destroy the capacity of state institutions to safeguard good governance, to safeguard the separation of powers and limit calls for accountability. In Botswana we have cultivated a culture of ‘presidentialising’ oversight bodies.

This means that all oversight bodies that ought to safeguard good governance, transparency and integrity are put under the Office of the President, under the premise that when they are there, political will of the Executive would ensure they are effective and efficient in undertaking their mandate. However, it could also be for a more sinister reason. It could be for the surveillance of the agencies, for their frustration and eventual deterioration. Gathering around state institutions allows clandestine networks to accumulate unchecked power (Catrina Godinho & Lauren Hermanus, 2018). This culture is breeding ground for state and policy capture.


When I hear state capture I think of South Africa, Jacob Zuma and the Guptas. Transparency International (2014) calls state or policy capture as one of the most pervasive forms of corruption, where private firms or even individuals (within or outside a country) employ corrupt methods to influence and shape a country’s policy, legal environment to their own interests. So, one would shape policy, mask it in the public interest whilst it covers political and economic interests of a few. Recall the National Development Bank loan cancellations?


Corruption simply put, is the misuse of public office for private gain through influence over institution making (Rose-Ackerman, 2008). Granted that the fundamental challenge of the state has always been to balance the competing interests of values of individuals and groups (taxpayers, non-taxpayers, marginalised and vulnerable groups). However, the balancing comes from intentionally putting systems in place to negotiate transparently and responsibly these interests. This is why independent oversight bodies become essential.


The non-partisan bodies are supposed to stand in place for those that cannot speak for themselves, using best practices possible. Therefore, when a leader kills these bodies, when a leader murders the spirit of these institutions that stand-in for the people, the state becomes only but for a few. It becomes the state that safeguards socio-economic and political interests of a few, ensuring safety, security and wellbeing for a few, while the rest only get crumbles.


The greatest risk with policy capture is that, the decisions are no longer taken in the interest of the people, but instead favour a specific group, the laws, regulations are designed to benefit a specific interest group. If you have ever thought “I guess these spaces, tenders, access are only for those ones”, then you know we are in some stages of policy capture. Public policies are at the centre of the relationship between citizens and governments.


They determine the quality of citizens daily lives (OECD, 2017). Therefore, if your life sucks, there is policy that is not being implemented efficiently and effectively that affects your life negatively. If policy is designed in such a way that only a few people get access to tenders, to job opportunities and scholarship opportunities, this perpetuates socio-economic inequalities. You want to fight inequalities, you have to fight policy capture. Where policy formulation is only done by a few, evaluated by the same few, and having them give themselves 10/10, you have to STOP that culture.


State Capture: originally, the theoretical concept of state capture referred to a form of grand corruption. In the case of South Africa, Corruption Watch defined it as the formation of a shadow state, directed by a power elite. The shadow state operates within – and parallel to – the constitutional state in formal and informal ways. Its objective is to re-purpose state governance, aligning it with the power elites’ narrow financial or political interests, for their benefit. State capture rests on a strategy to align arms of state and public institutions and business to support rent-seeking.


Catrina Godinho & Lauren Hermanus (2018), offer that state capture is a political-economic project whereby public and private actors collude in establishing clandestine networks that cluster around state institutions in order to accumulate unchecked power, subverting the constitutional state and social contract by operating outside of the realm of public accountability. Remember people who run institutions but account to the President only? Trouble brewing! State capture is progressive, it can be stopped when detected and there is political will to stop it.


State and Policy capture also undermine the rule of law. Policy capture can occur through legal (lobby and give financial support to political parties) and illegal (bribery). Financial support to political parties has been a bone of contention lately in Botswana, this is a serious issue. When people push for political party funding we ought to maybe have a serious discussion and find mechanisms of how to govern this. You do not want any Party that may take power at the mercy of a Multi-National Corporation, an individual with economic power, because they will run the state. The next thing you see water being privatised, electricity unaffordable, death of the local private sector, hospitals without medicine and schools without books.


We must guard the integrity of our political parties by watching the people who give them money, who have business and political interests in our country. It is not about your party, it is about our state, our country that we call for the strengthening of institutions. The legacy HE Masisi can ever leave, is strengthening democratic institutions, ensuring the separation of powers, relinquishing some of his powers to ensure inclusivity. Inclusivity will not happen where there are seeds of policy capture and state capture, it is lying to oneself to think we can transform this nation with Parliament still asking for money through the Ministry of Presidential Affairs … Naare Palamente yone who approves its budget? Is it the Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration?


In all political systems, whether democratic or authoritarian, groups compete for influence over the state to have an impact on the choice and design of laws, rules and regulations in order to shape these to their own advantage (Hellmann, World Bank Conference Paper). This is why it becomes paramount to prevent a culture of monopolisation power in influencing policy for parochial interests.


When the state does not ensure a proper governance of interests, corruption embeds, and the twin brothers state capture and policy capture ferment and feed the corrupt system. Because corruption often occurs in secrecy, particularly elite corruption, it becomes paramount that governments are committed to promoting a culture of transparency and accountability in the public service. Corruption does not thrive where information on processes, procedures and issues of national interest are freely open to the public.


Furthermore, it is important that citizens are given an opportunity to voice their concerns about government performance and that such concerns are taken as equally serious by government. Access to information becomes essential, transparency and accountability as asserted by the Vision 2036 become preventative measures and cures to capture … state and policy. That is, if policy is for the people and if state power is about safeguarding the interests and security of the people.


Consulted Works

Catrina Godinho & Lauren Hermanus , (Re)conceptualising State Capture - With a Case Study of South African Power Company Eskom; Conference Paper prepared for the Public Affairs Research Institute’s State Capture and Its Aftermath: Building Responsiveness Through State Reform, 22 -24 October 2018, Johannesburg

 HYPERLINK "https://www.corruptionwatch.org.za/state-capture-could-not-succeed-without-complicity-at-the-top/" https://www.corruptionwatch.org.za/state-capture-could-not-succeed-without-complicity-at-the-top/
Rose-Ackerman, S. (2008). Corruption and Government. International Peacekeeping, 15(3), 328-343.

 HYPERLINK "http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTWBIGOVANTCOR/Resources/1740479-1149112210081/2604389-1149274062067/2613434-1149276254021/quinghua_paper_hellman.pdf" http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTWBIGOVANTCOR/Resources/1740479-1149112210081/2604389-1149274062067/2613434-1149276254021/quinghua_paper_hellman.pdf

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