On Political Corruption and Political Parties Funding in Tanzania

A more specific delineation of political corruption can thus be made. The main aspects of political corruption are that it takes place at the highest levels of the political system, and that it involves politicians, government ministers, senior civil servants and other elected, nominated or appointed senior public office holders. It occurs when these officials, who make and enforce the laws in the name of the people, are themselves corrupt.


What is political corruption?

Political corruption can be defined both with reference to the main actors involved, namely persons at the highest levels of the political system, and the purpose of the corrupt behaviour, namely to sustain the hold on power. Hence, political corruption can be for private and group enrichment, and for power preservation purposes. Often these two forms of political corruption are connected. Some of the larger and more serious political corruption scandals include both processes – accumulation on the one hand and the misuse of extracted or public money for political purposes on the other. The latter process is somewhat under-researched and underestimated, since much of the focus in the literature has been on accumulation.

Political corruption in the form of accumulation or extraction occurs when government officials use and abuse their hold on power to extract from the private sector, from government revenues, and from the economy at large. These processes of accumulation have been called extraction, embezzlement, and rent-seeking, plunder and even kleptocracy (“rule by thieves”), depending on the extent and context. Extraction takes place mainly in the form of soliciting bribes in procurement and government projects, in privatization processes and in taxation. Military procurement is known to be particularly affected by extractive political corruption worldwide, because of the involvement of top-level politicians, national interests and secrecy.

The other process, when extracted resources (and public money) are used for power preservation and power extension purposes, usually takes the form of favoritism and patronage politics. It includes a favouritist and politically motivated distribution of financial and material inducements, benefits, advantages, and spoils. Techniques include money and material favors to build political loyalty and political support. Power-holders can pay off rivals and opposition and secure a parliamentary majority. By giving preferences to private companies they can get party and campaign funds, and by paying off the governmental institutions of checks and control they can stop investigations and audits and gain judicial impunity. Furthermore, by buying loyal decisions from election commissions and by buying votes they can secure their re-election.

The most widely used definition of corruption is the World Bank’s working definition of corruption as “abuse of public power for private benefit”. Transparency International (TI) takes a somewhat broader approach and defines it as “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain”. In this line, political corruption can be defined as “abuse of political power for private benefit”. But the problem remains of defining what is “abuse” and what is “political”.

A more specific delineation of political corruption can thus be made. The main aspects of political corruption are that it takes place at the highest levels of the political system, and that it involves politicians, government ministers, senior civil servants and other elected, nominated or appointed senior public office holders. It occurs when these officials, who make and enforce the laws in the name of the people, are themselves corrupt.

Political corruption is in different forms and vary, but generally include bribery, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, patronage, graft, and embezzlement. While corruption may facilitate criminal enterprise such as drug trafficking, money laundering, and trafficking, it is not restricted to these organized crime activities. In some nations, corruption is so common that it is expected when ordinary businesses or citizens interact with government officials. The end point of political corruption is a kleptocracy, literally “rule by thieves”.

The activities that constitute illegal corruption differ depending on the country or jurisdiction. Certain political funding practices that are legal in one place may be illegal in another. In some countries, government officials have broad or poorly defined powers, and the line between what is legal and illegal can be difficult to draw.


In 18th century England, corruption meant the encroachment by the executive on the legislature, for instance by money payments, the offer of positions and pensions, and the trading of patronage. Corruption was the violation of the principle of constitutional “checks and balances”, authoritarian tendencies and the subsequent decay of the political order.

These and other historical understandings of corruption bring in two important aspects, namely motives and consequences. The corrupt motive is wealth, status and power, or more specifically self-enrichment, self-indulgence and power preservation (as contrasted to the non-corrupt political leader’s concern for the well-being of the nation). The consequences of political corruption are institutional decay, arbitrary power, and authoritarian tendencies and reduced liberty.

The corrupt motive of power preservation is important. The concerns of the ancient Greeks bring in the possibility of collective benefit or gain, in addition to private benefit. Political corruption is therefore when the rulers or ruling elites misuse the resources they control for the benefit of preserving their political power.

A: Extraction

Political leaders may use their power to capture and accumulate resources in an illegal and immoral way through bribes, embezzlement, and fraud. The same purpose of accumulation can be achieved also in processes of privatization, land allocation, public contracting, lending, and through preferences that benefit the business interests of office holders, even when they are legal or made relatively legal.

B: Power Preservation

Incumbents can use many techniques to maintain power, of which many are perfectly legal while others are illegal and corrupt. The corrupt use of political power for power preservation and extension may take the form of buying political support through favouritism, clientelism, co-optation, patronage politics and vote buying. The means include the distribution of financial and material benefits (money, gifts and rents), but also symbolic values like status and “inclusion”. The corrupt use of political power for power preservation and extension also includes the manipulation of various oversight and control institutions, creating various “impunity syndromes”.

The ruling elite can extract by giving preferences and favours to businesses in which they have a direct ownership. It is political corruption when through such means power-holders build up their private businesses and enterprises, while in power. It includes many of the same mechanisms as above, like the political granting of services, contracts, and licences, politically created market protection and monopolies, and regulatory exemptions.

The ruling elite can also extract through theft and embezzlement of public resources. These practices include off-budget transfers and manipulated privatization processes, and they include extraction from (and sometimes the depletion of) the country’s natural resources, such as oil and gas, minerals, fish, and timber.

One form of political corruption for power preservation is the use of money and material inducements to build political loyalty and political support. This can take place at all levels from opposition parties and MPs to citizens. Political loyalty and support can be bought in very many ways: it may take the form of direct money payments or promises thereof, the offer of jobs, appointments and positions (including ministerial, judicial, regional and other senior government positions), or positions in public companies and parastatals, and even titles of nobility.

Parliamentary majorities can be bought. One example is vote buying in congress in Brazil. In 2005, the minority ruling Labour Party was accused of paying a monthly allowance of R 30,000 (US$ 12,500) to congressmen from two allied parties in return for their votes.

Coalitions, ‘opposition parties’ and other political support groups can also be bought. One important technique is co-optation, which is the buying off of rivals. Civil society organisations and media can be incorporated (consumed) by government agencies; and journalists, NGO leaders, and activists can be co-opted. One example is the Angolan Christmas bonuses. One of the tactics used by the Government of Angola to foment a split in the rival party UNITA and force people into the new, regime-loyal “UNITA-Renovada”, was to strip the non-compliant parliamentarians of their parliamentary privileges like homes, cars and cellular phones. Furthermore, ‘worthy’ members of the political establishment receive an annual ‘Christmas bonus’ from the President, including parliamentarians and members of ‘opposition’ parties who have behaved well. This bonus has in some years run as high as $30,000, dwarfing their annual salaries.

Voters and elections can also be bought. An example of vote buying in Latin America is Brazil’s municipal elections in 2001, in which 7 per cent of voters were reportedly offered money for their votes. Different surveys in Mexico place the frequency between 5 and 26 per cent, while a 1999 survey in Argentina found that 24 per cent knew someone who had sold his or her vote. The object of transaction is not always cash; offers include food, clothes, construction material, infrastructure projects, and more. Short-term jobs and public contracts were traded in Colombia’s 2002 presidential campaign.

It is political corruption when state resources – made available to office holders for public purposes – are used for party campaigning and electioneering in a biased, unconstitutional way. Material support to political parties and political campaigns can also be obtained from private businesses, and will be corrupt if state resources or other advantages are offered in return.

One example of public money being used for a particular party or party campaign is the ‘Dashain allowance’ in Nepal. In 2005, the Royal Commission for Corruption Control began the prosecution of six former ministers for misusing the prime minister’s relief fund to distribute some NPR 4 million (US $57,000) to political supporters. The Costa Rican case above (shady financing of politicians) is an example of how resources can be extracted from the private sector and invested in power preservation; the undeclared US $100,000 donation by Alcatel was given to President Pacheco’s presidential campaign. The Israeli money and party financing example demonstrates how illegal donations for the political campaigns of ruling parties and candidates have been funnelled through foreign companies and family members. In 2005, the Israeli Attorney General indicted Omri Sharon, son of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, for campaign finance violations during his father’s campaign for the leadership of the Likud party in 1999 and during the 2001 national elections. Allegedly, Ariel Sharon took illegal donations of NIS 5.9 million (US$1.3 million) to enhance his chances of winning the elections.

The consequences of this form of political corruption are also grave, perhaps even worse than the consequences of extractive political corruption. Political corruption for power preservation purposes leads to bad governance in the form of unaccountable and favouritist political decisions; manipulated, weak and distorted institutions; lack of transparency and accountability; immunity and impunity; and elections that are not free and fair.

C: The Full Circle

The two processes of political corruption – extraction for private benefit and enrichment, and the use of corrupt means for power preservation – are important analytical categories, especially when it comes to formulating counter-measures. Importantly, the two processes are often connected. Many of the larger political corruption scandals include both aspects, large-scale bribery schemes are concluded when the extracted money is used to buy political support, and the full circle is made when the purpose of power is wealth and the purpose of wealth is power.

Example is the “Ile de France” trials, where corruption in public procurement of schools extended into a system of payments to various political parties and their political campaigns.

In the developing world, systems of corruption, embezzlement, fraud, patronage and vote buying can lead to a complete “criminalisation of the state” (Bayart, Hibou & Ellis, 1997).


Corruption is a symptom that something has gone wrong in the management of the state Institutions that are designed to govern the interrelationships between the citizens and the state are used instead, for personal enrichment and the provision of benefits to the corruption. Corruption undermines the legitimacy and effectiveness of government.

Corruption poses a serious development challenge. In the political realm, it undermines democracy and good governance by flouting or even subverting formal processes. Corruption in elections and in legislative bodies reduces accountability and distorts representation in policymaking; corruption in the judiciary compromises the rule of law; and corruption in public administration results in the unfair provision of services. More generally, corruption erodes the institutional capacity of government as procedures are disregarded, resources are siphoned off, and public offices are bought and sold. At the same time, corruption undermines the legitimacy of government and such democratic values as trust and tolerance.

Corruption distorts the allocation of public expenditure as a whole. In this case, there is a bias towards expenditure that is secret and unaccountable, competition is very low and arms – length prices are hard to determine. As a result there is an increase in fiscal imbalance.

Corruption is disincentive to investment and it inflates public expenditure unproductively. It reduces overall tax revenue, destroys tax centrality and increased foreign borrowing and debt crisis in the long term. The citizens will continue to suffer as they lack necessary and basic service from the government.

Challenges for donors

What can donors do when the aid recipients/partner governments and/or senior government officials and politicians are corrupt? The two forms of political corruption pose at least three types of challenge for donors.

Firstly, how can the lack of political will to address the problem be confronted? When key individuals with political power are corrupt, there is often a deep lack of political will within government to address the problem. Political corruption cannot be tackled by a technical or bureaucratic approach alone, nor can it be treated only as another problem of market regulation or defective administration. Political corruption calls for solutions of a political nature that can be influenced by donors only to a very limited extent.

If political will to fight corruption is absent amongst the political class and institutions at the very top levels of society, it can be difficult to bring about reform. Anti-corruption reformers must find other avenues for pressing their concerns.

A second challenge for donors is how to contribute to constraining the corrupt extraction practices of certain governments and of government institutions and officials. On the one hand, this is a question of donor country/developed world companies offering bribes – how to dry out the supply side of the problem. On the other hand, the question is how can donors help create an environment that makes it harder for politicians to milk the system – to restrict the demand. The challenge is how to plug the holes of illicit extraction, and how to create transparency, accountability and domestic control mechanisms.

A third challenge for donors is how to constrain the corrupt use of resources for power preservation purposes. The corrupt use of public and private money by power-holders to maintain their hold on power is to a large extent a question of democratic controls, by state institutions (institutions of checks and balances, control and oversight), by independent civil society organisations and the media, and by citizens through the ballot box (democratic elections).

Political will to fight corruption can rise and fall and there is a clear role for other actors to help maintain pressure for anti-corruption efforts and help maintain a government’s political will to tackle corruption. Opposition parties, where they freely operate, can help put corruption at the top of the agenda. Development partners can also take up the issue of corruption and push it strongly in their negotiations with partner governments. Civil society organisations (CSOs) also have a crucial role to play in raising awareness about corruption and educating citizens about their rights and the proper responsibilities of their governments. CSOs can also bolster political will by supporting and advising governments on anti-corruption reform, and monitoring government’s actions.

Zambia as an example with Political will in fighting corruption

It is important to bear in mind that it is very difficult to “measure” or assess political will to fight corruption. One particular action of a government may point to a positive anti-corruption agenda, whilst another action might suggest a lack of concern about corruption: both actions can only be assessed within the context of a considered understanding of a government’s political agenda. In this section political will to fight corruption in Zambia is considered by reference to government actions vis-à-vis prosecutions of corrupt officials and by government action in developing a national anti-corruption strategy for Zambia. The former seems to point to a waning political will to prosecute corrupt officials, the latter to a rejuvenated political will to tackle corruption. We recommend that the questioner makes an assessment of political will to tackle corruption in Zambia by continuing to gather different views from various stakeholders in Zambian society (we offer some contacts at the end of this section).


Democracy can help limit corruption if it gives people alternative avenues of complaint and gives incumbents an incentive to be honest.

Corruption scandals are frequently associated with the financing of political campaigns. Elections must be financed. Financial pressures give politicians an incentive to accept payoffs thus defeating the purpose of competitive elections in multi-party democracy.

The problem that has emerged in modern political parties is that they have lost ideological focus and instead, are dominated by “business – politicians”

Disclosure rules – to enable the public to be aware of and closely monitor the interests potentially motivating party policies. Such rules are designed to ensure that the sources of funding (and of potential influence on the policy) are made public and can be monitored. They usually require the listing of the amount, as well as the name and address of the contributor, but the threshold for disclosure differs substantially between countries and can range from zero to several thousand US Dollars.

Contribution limits (direct and indirect) and bans- to ensure that no private contributor exerts inappropriate influence on the political system. Some countries, often with continental European traditions, operate a system of public party and campaign funding (while still allowing for private donations to take place) to reduce the scope for undue influence of private interests while supporting parties as an essential part of the democratic system.

Limits on private contributions can also regulate the source of funding. This may include prohibition of anonymous contributions, of foreign contributions (for example Canada, the US, India and Israel), and limits on the ability of corporations to make contributions (e.g. Germany, Israel, the US)

Expenditure limits – expenditure limits can regulate both the amount and the type of expenditure with the goal to limit perverse incentives and the need for “dirty money”, i.e. funding that exceeds legitimate amounts. They have increasingly come into the spotlight as a necessary prerequisite for controlling corruption in political finance. The amount a political party is allowed to spend is regulated in a number of countries and can extend to limiting the ability of independent groups spending money on behalf of a party or candidate (e.g. Korea, New Zealand).

Limits on the type of expenditure can range from the prohibition of using party funds for personal uses to restrictions of the use of paid-for media advertising (e.g. India, Israel) and other campaign-related expenditures.

The electoral law forbid the use of state resources by the ruling party for party-political purposes (this is particularly important in developing countries and emerging democracies, as the exclusive use of state resources by the ruling party created big inequalities to the opposition’s disadvantage). The question is how are we going to curb the government resource when the President, Vice President or Prime Minister using states cars and employees on Government business and Party business?

Our political system must find a way to finance political campaigns without encouraging the sale of politicians to the electorate.The government has to draw a clear line between “takrima” or hospitality and bribery; otherwise elections will continue to be based on quid pro quo deals by some politicians as witnessed in the past elections, particularly parliamentary elections.

The other problems of corruption during election is that though there are some incidences of outright purchase of votes or favours but are muted and difficult to document for evidential purposes because are done in secrecy.


In dealing with ethical dilemmas in public life, there is a dire need to ensuring that codes of values, ethics and conduct are put in place beginning with our schools’ curriculum and in all public institutions.

Values denote the individual principles or standards that guide judgments about what is good and proper. For example, political impartiality, honesty, fairness, objectivity etc.

Ethics connote moral standards, norms of human conduct, social behaviour in public service and translate those ideals or ethos into everyday practice. It is a set of principle that guides conduct.

Conduct is the actual actions or omissions and behaviour of public officers. This is important for politicians and public officials to ask and resolve these ethical dilemmas if political corruption is to be kept at minimum.

  • What kind of gift or entertainment should public servants or politicians accept from someone with whom they do business?
  • Under what circumstances should the public servant or politician lie to the public?
  • To what extent should civil servant participate in partisan Political activity?


More direct restrictions are needed if the system does not allow competition and where politicians rely too heavily on “sweeteners” to win elections and if voters are poorly informed. We note that politicians have leeway to favour large contributors, and the gifts themselves can be used to mislead voters as to the candidate’s competency and behaviour.

Disclosure of interests by politicians and making them public permits citizens to vote against corrupt politicians. It gives citizens an alternative choice to make.

Secondly, public accountability is necessary for the control of corruption. Limits on the power of politicians and political institutions combined with independent monitoring and enforcement can be potent anti-corruption strategies. Limits include the separation of powers between the Legislature, Executive and Judicial branches of government.

Increased openness and accountability of the agent – the government to its principal, the citizens, will have an impact on minimizing corruption. Free flow of information of what the government is doing to the general public is extremely necessary. The role of independent media to inform the public on what the government is doing is equally important. The civil society and private sector citizen’s groups will play an important role as partners in curbing corruption in the country. An independent Audit authority is another important pillar for accountability. Complaint mechanism that redresses public complaints is unlikely if people fear reprisals. There must be a guarantee for whistle blowers and witnesses to be protected through an elaborate legal framework.

Corruption can be curbed by limiting on political power. Controls must make corruption less profitable for both politicians and public officials and bribe payers. The legal framework to combat corruption must ensure that in no uncertain terms that corruption does not pay and is intolerable. Enforcement mechanisms must demonstrate its deterrent effect.

Public education and openness, leaves public officials and politicians vulnerable to popular discontent. Self interest and the public interest frequently conflict. Public office holders are elected, appointed or employed to serve public interests. Public office is public trust and if self-interest is left unchecked, will threaten public interests through nepotism, financial interests and the like. Corruption can be minimized only if there is a strong political will and coalition building of all stakeholders to combat it.

The question to ask is why do sensible citizens keep voting in notoriously corrupt governments and reelecting crooks?


3 thoughts on “On Political Corruption and Political Parties Funding in Tanzania

  1. Pingback: Tanzania » Turning Twenty-Six In Transit (Trying to Take Lake Tanganika)

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