Public officials must be beyond reproach always By KARL LYIMO firstname.lastname@example.org THE EAST AFRICAN Accountability is being responsible or answerable for your actions. It is the duty and obligation placed upon a person who holds a position of trust in society. Take the case of a nation-state as an example of a society that seeks to thrive on accountability. People in positions of leadership through the popular vote or appointment by elected leaders must be fully accountable for their decisions and actions. WHEN SUCH officials are unable or unwilling to account for their actions to the people who entrusted them with their mandate, then we have the right and moral duty to denounce them as anti-society. They cease to be deserving of the trust placed in them. This is because there should be no reason officials subsisting on public resources to be unable or unwilling to account for their actions! THE ONLY reason for such culpable failure must be nefarious and, therefore, contrary to good order and the public interest. The law requires that public officials be held to account or be brought to book by the authorities. If the authorities do not act firmly and promptly, then the voters should fire the government at the next elections. Or turn to the last resort the court of public opinion. THAT IS why and how countries such as apartheid South Africa (1948-1994) and Tanzania resorted to street justice. If and when those charged with public responsibility decide to undermine the rule of law, then it reduces the concept of justice to jungle law. IN TURN, it breeds mob justice when a frustrated citizenry resorts to taking the law unto its own hands. If suspects caught red-handed are taken to the police are back on the streets the following day, then what should we expect? It is no secret that Tanzania is currently going through a difficult time because of the allegations of corruption by some senior government officials. One recent example will suffice to illustrate the point here. Allegations of corruption in high places have recently surfaced complete with names. But so far, no one seems accountable so far! ON OCTOBER 10, 2005, a member of the ruling party Chama cha Mapinduzi, Joseph Butiku, wrote to the party chairman at the time, former president Benjamin Mkapa over the vice. Mr Butiku who served as the late Mwalimu Julius Nyereres presidential assistant for a generation urged CCM leaders to clean up the party of corrupt elements. The plea went unheeded. ONE REACTION to his crusade was that Mr Butiku had no right to call for the resignation of the public leaders accused of corruption because they have a right to protection under the law. But, it is equally true that they also are public officials who must account for their actions. Once people take up public positions and swear to serve loyally and to the best of their ability, they must be accountable for their actions, if and when they are perceived or named corrupt. THEY MUST, therefore, step aside before they can claim legal protection, instead of seeking cover behind the positions they are perceived to have betrayed. Like Caesars wife, public officials must be beyond reproach at all times. Karl Lyimo is a freelance journalist based in Dar.