IN THEORY? YES.
The very nature of blockchain is being unchangeable and transparent which makes it the prime candidate to tackle an issue like corruption. Bringing blockchain into action in the public sector as an accountable tool which will make corruption very difficult since it leaves an audit trail of how the public funds are being spent.
If brought in action, every transaction between the government, GLC entities, and the private sectors can be examined for elements of corruption. When its time for investigation or prosecution the accused party, will not be able to conveniently wipe their servers to cover their tracks nor will they be able to mislead the public on where the sources of certain transactions may have originated from because of the use of distributed ledgers?
Around the globe we’ve seen instances of governments aggressively pursuing blockchain, one such instance is Dubai whose ambition is to become the world the first blockchain powered government, while recently corruption embattled Brazil has also looked into various use cases for blockchain.
IN REALITY? MAYBE.
The intended result of the blockchain in eradicating corruption largely depends on how it is brought into action, the authorities who deploy it may opt for a highly centralized blockchain in which only allows for known participants to join in the network, which means in theory, those in power can appoint those who
are not impartial to audit the transactions.
Much of corruption can also happen outside of the audit trail, a public servant with ill-intents can, for example, award a contract to a private vendor who offered him or her a bribe. While the transaction of the contract is recorded on the blockchain the bribe may not, which creates the illusion of being corruption free.
The last point to take into consideration is that transparency may not necessarily lead to the eradication of corruption. Malaysians are by now familiar with the annual reports by Auditor General. There is a shocking number of Malaysians that raise the red flag, it can be extremely difficult sometimes to prove that the corruption has indeed happened.
Even if blockchain can enable citizen audit, the challenge is whether there will be enough participation for the general public outside of NGO bodies. Many citizens criticize the results of the Auditor General report with much passion when it is released but it fizzles out several months later.
The blockchain is a great technology but we can’t treat it as the only thing that can solve all our problems and this not an issue exclusive to the blockchain.
Even with big data and artificial intelligence conversations about how it will solve our problems have sometimes become inflated. Blockchain can certainly be a wonderful tool to add to the arsenal of anti-corruption, but the importance of good governance and having the right leaders in place cannot be downplayed.