Minister promises to create awareness over the ‘harms’ of corruption
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NEW Ministers, managers, officials and what have you, always come in office with a new zeal to make the difference.

You get this impression by reading a news item titled “After fake academic certificates, come age cheaters” where the writer is reporting on what to expect from the new Minister of State in the President’s Office (Public Service Management and Good Governance): “After purging ghost workers and public servants with phony certificates ‘off’ the payroll, the government has now descended on age cheating”.

The situation is serious: “Already, a new scrutiny in civil service has uncovered 40,000 employees with contradictory ages ‘to’ their employment files and ‘to’ the National Identification Authority (NIDA)”.

The government suspects that many ‘aged’ civil servants “lied ‘on’ their ages to remain in office denying job slots for potential young employees”. Let us look at language issues: Do you purge somebody/something “off” something? What you find in common use is purging somebody ‘of’ something or purging somebody ‘from’ something.

Thus, the government has purged ghost workers and those with phony certificates ‘from’ its pay roll (not “off” its payroll). How about having contradictory ages ‘to’ your employment file and ‘to’ NIDA? I would say: “Already, a new scrutiny in the civil service has uncovered 40,000 employees with contradictory records about their age (not ‘ages’) ‘in’ (not ‘to’) their employment files and ‘in those of’ the National Identification Authority (NIDA)”.

The contradictory records may be a result of a move to stay in office longer (usually one or two years) or of genuine reasons of being unsure about your age given the paucity of birth records in the past.

Remember, there are many who were enrolled into school if they could touch their one ear using the hand from the other side of their body. There are also cases where parents, eager to get their children into school, would exaggerate their age, especially if they (the children) had a large body. Colonial officials wanting you to pay taxes would say: “if you are 18 or apparently 18, then you had to pay tax”.

They were not sure whether you were actually 18. Anyway, according to the Minister, the government is still scrutinizing this matter: “We are still scrutinizing and if there were mistakes then they should make the required changes”.

This sentence however is not clear. Scrutinizing what? Who should make the required changes? The mistakes? How about putting it this way? “We are still scrutinizing this matter and if there were mistakes then the concerned employees should make the necessary changes”.

The new Minister is also reported to have commented on corruption in the civil services: “‘In’ regard to corruption, the new Minister highlighted public awareness as among his priorities in curbing the vice”.

The Minister should have been reported to have said: “With regard to corruption………”, not, “In regard to corruption ………..”. He is optimistic: “Many countries have succeeded in the fight by creating awareness on the ‘harms’ of corruption”.

It is important to note here that the noun “harm” (meaning: injury, dam age, or problems caused by something you do”) is uncountable. Therefore, it does not have a plural in the form of “harms”.

Here the writer was most likely thinking in Kiswahili, where the Arabic-derived “madhara” is in the plural: “Many countries have succeeded in the fight by creating awareness on the ‘harm’ of corruption”.

The writer further tells us what the outgoing Minister said when handing over office to the incoming one: “She informed her successor that removal of workers with fake certificates and ghost workers from the payroll was ‘among major’ challenges during her ‘reign’”.

Let us look closely at the meaning of this word “reign”. 1. The period of time when a king or queen rules a country 2. A period of time during which a particular person, group or thing is very important or a powerful influence.

These two meanings do not apply to the outgoing Minister. I would have gone for the word “tenure” instead. “Tenure” means (among others), the period of time during which someone has an important job or is an elected official.

Thus the sentence would read as follows: “She informed her successor that removal from the payroll, of ghost workers and those with fake certificates was ‘among the major’ challenges during her tenure in office”. Are you sure of your age? Have a nice weekend!

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