WB threat lays bare persistent corruption in education sector
WHILE national media outlets almost regularly report on various public sector corruption impeding sound development of the country, corruption in public education, particularly at primary and secondary levels, seems to have been a perennial problem under successive governments. There have been claims by apparently smart ministers concerned of containing corruption in the sector; however, any curious citizen taking the trouble of visiting certain departments of the education ministry with his/her eyes and ears open would not fail to realise that things have not changed over the decades. In certain cases, the situation seems to have further worsened, so suggests the World Bank’s recent threat to withdraw its credit from a project because of corruption in the procurement process.
According to a report published in New Age on Thursday, the World Bank has recently warned that it would not disburse an additional $250-million credit for the continuation of an education sector project unless the government took actions against those involved in the 23 scandalous purchase deals for the project, meant for systematically measuring the quality of learning and academic competencies of secondary students. In this regard, the bank also demanded that the government should pay back around $150,000 allegedly misused because of corruption. This is for the first time that the bank has brought allegation of corruption in education-sector projects. The incident suggests that the situation relating to corruption in the education sector has worsened under the present administration.
Reports have it the government has already agreed to meet the conditions set by the World Bank to get the additional fund. Besides, the finance ministry has already decided to pay back the money the bank demanded from the current year’s education ministry budget and to ask the education ministry to take action against the violators of the procurement rules in question. Moreover, the department concerned has already suspended project support to 23 educational intuitions. However, there has been no report yet of any government initiative to find out the culprits involved in the corruption case in question, let alone taking them to task.
The measures that the government has taken after the bank pointed out corruption and threatened with withdrawal of the credit might pacify the lending agency in question. But the larger question remains as to who would compensate for the misappropriated public money to be paid back from the budgetary allocation. Misappropriation of public money is never possible unless a nexus of corrupt politicians, public servants and teachers is there to do the misdeeds. In order to protect public money, the people, i.e. the owners of the public money, must make the ministers concerned accountable. For that to happen, the people must raise their voice against the corrupt nexus impeding sound educational growth for the country.
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