Integrity is defined as a concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations, and outcomes. In ethics, integrity is defined as the honesty and truthfulness or accuracy of one's actions. Integrity can be regarded as the opposite of hypocrisy, in that it regards internal consistency as a virtue, and suggests that parties holding apparently conflicting values should account for the discrepancy or alter their beliefs.
It is in light of the above rather lengthy definition that we welcome the move by the government to instill integrity in the people, focusing especially on our public officials, in whom the wananchi have entrusted state affairs and have high expectations that they will deliver to the full.
Without doubt, the country needs a huge dose of ethical behaviour, especially when the conduct of not only the trusted public officials, but also the institutions supposed to deliver services to wananchi, fail to do so without good reason.
Obviously the government also notes that the lack of ethics among public officials and others has its roots at home and then in schools, thus the decision to introduce the subject in schools.
The most recent and worrying revelations about misdemenours in public offices were those in the Controller and Auditor General’s reports, which led to resignations of public officials.
Indeed such misdeeds as embezzlements and wastage are but a reflection of how serious the problem had grown over the years.
While there are doubters, it can be safely said that the country has not always had the need to preach ethics and integrity. Remembered with nostalgia are the days when integrity was the in-word among public officials and grand corruption was only read about as afflicting other countries and not Tanzania.
But times have changed, and so has the country’s moral standing reflected in the behaviour of its public officials been slowly eroded over the years, culminating in the growing chorus against corruption and other vices, leading to the resignation of some of the identified officials.
The government has opted to start at the lowest level, saying it is preparing a new curriculum for ethics-related subjects to be taught from primary schools to higher learning institutions and is also revising the current law of ethics and codes of conduct among public officials.
Much as we see the logic of the move, there is a lot that still needs to be addressed in tandem with it.
The government needs to be more resolute in penalising misdeeds, if the seeds of integrity which are to be planted through the new curriculum are to thrive and permeate the society, restoring the nation’s lost moral fibre.
Why is it so difficult for officials to voluntarily take responsibility for omissions or commission happening under their watch? What they might not consider is that such a step could serve to reinforce their integrity, especially where they are blameless.
Without reinforcing the concept of accountability, it will be next to impossible to ensure that people understand the larger meaning of ethics and integrity.
Lest we forget even the integrity and strong moral standing that marked the Tanzania of yesteryears was the result of a conscious work, with the institutions created to oversee it doing their work faithfully.