There is no question that corruption slowly and steadily eats away the flesh of the state like some diseases damage organs in the long process only to get attention when the organ stops functioning. Same is the case in Pakistan where most of the state institutions and enterprises are dying a slow death due to the disease of corruption. You name an organization and there are stories of fraud, embezzlements, and kickbacks. In this article, I will discuss why corruption is so prevalent in Pakistan’s government machinery aka bureaucracy and how it can be dealt with effectively. In my view accountability can only play its part in reducing corruption. Once in a discussion in an economics class, one of my professors argued that emphasizing only on accountability is akin to killing the bees only and not removing the pile of rubbish which attracts them to a particular spot. Reducing corruption needs a lot more than focusing only on accountability. It asks for looking into the circumstance and scenarios which push government officials to start fraudulent activities. The best way to know why public officials engage in financial corruption is to put oneself in their shoes for some time and look at the things from their perspective. A typical government officer can be described as a poorly trained, poorly paid person lacking any motivation to excel in his field, only focusing on documental compliance and also knowing that there are ample opportunities for corruption. The very problem of corruption starts with the recruitment of government officials. Most of the positions in government require only a generalist education even when specialized knowledge is required to perform that job efficiently. Take for example, there is no requirement that an officer going to district management group should have his/her degree in public administration or related field, no requirement for those going to railways or in Pakistan Post to have degrees in operations and logistics management. All these people have to do is pass CSS exam even if they have studies international relations or English literature. And even after recruitment, there is no proper rigorous training. Other government enterprises which are autonomous and recruit independently are even worse. Those are famous for selling jobs. Another big issue is poor incentives and pays for government officials and employees as compared to cost of living. On average, a government official is not making more than Rs. 100k which is merely 700 $ and those below officer grades are paid even worse. On the other hand the cost of living is skyrocketing day by day. In big cities where most of the government officers work and live have very high property prices. One cannot buy a 5 Marla house in less than 5-6 million. After meeting other basic needs like health, education, and food for a family of 6-7 persons there is nothing much left for meeting long terms needs of housing and private transport. Buying a house in my view is the most important reason a government official engages in corruption. And if there are many opportunities and loopholes to engage in corruption then nothing can stop him from engaging in it as he sees no other way to meet some of his basic needs for a dignified life. So what should the government do before starting accountability to reduce corruption? This first thing is to recruit people with the right attitude and skills. All the government positions should be advertised separately and should only be open to people with relevant education. This will not only improve the efficiency of the relevant departments but also will push youth to get relevant education instead of getting irrelevant degrees which do not impart any specific skills. The second thing is training; the recruited people should be put through a rigorous training imparting the latest knowledge of that particular field. Only after that, a person will be able and motivated to perform. And once an official is able and motivated to perform and improve things it is less likely he will engage in corruption. And the most important is the financial compensation an official receives. Government officials should be adequately paid so that they can lead a normal dignified life in their legitimate pay. In Singapore government officials are some of the best paid in the country. Pakistan cannot match Singapore in this regard but still, she needs to pay attention to this matter. Reducing the size of the government can be one option and should be explored. Unnecessary departments and public enterprises should be disposed of. World over governments adopt only regulatory and enforcement roles. When the size of the government is small then officials can be highly paid. Another big issue is poor incentives and pays for government officials and employees as compared to cost of living. On average, a government official is not making more than Rs. 100k which is merely 700 $ and those below officer grades are paid even worse. On the other hand the cost of living is skyrocketing day by day Another thing is to improve the standard of public services like health and education. The highest standard of these services should be available to government officials. Innovative financing mechanisms like insurance and pooling should be used to make these services financially sustainable. Also, it is very important to tame and regulate the housing market if the state wants to reduce corruption. The housing market in Pakistan does not exist to provide people with affordable houses but for money launderers and speculators to stash wealth. If a basic requirement like having a place to live is out of reach for even senior officers then what they will do to get it except corruption? Governments around the world regulate and intervene in different markets to meet social needs. One way can be to tax second and third properties heavily to discourage people from stashing wealth in housing market besides making other laws like making benamies and other shadowy ownership structures a criminal offense. A real estate registration authority like NADRA should be established. The next point should be to reduce corruption opportunities by legislative and technological means. The government should encourage the use of state of the art technologies so it becomes next to impossible to hide financial transactions. Disruptive technologies like block-chain and artificial intelligence can play the part. Fintech will be at the core of corruption prevention mechanisms in future. Automation of government departments with state of the art technology should be prioritized. Now we come to the last component of corruption reduction strategy which is accountability. If all the above conditions are met then there will be few cases to deal with for the accountability departments. And by using the latest techniques and technologies they will be able to solve most of them. Finally, it is a fact that corruption cannot be totally eliminated from a society. Some corruption exists even in the least corrupt countries. After a certain point, the cost of the further reducing the corruption exceeds its benefits and one has to stop there. The writer has obtained a masters degree in Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University and is currently pursuing Ph.D. at LKY School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. He can be reached @masoodthinketh Published in Daily Times, December 19th2018.