Recognising and dealing with graft

Editorial, Normal

CORRUPTION means putrefaction or decay.
Corruption alters something from its original state into a lesser state and is associated with stench, immorality, unethical practices and dishonesty.
Corruption, therefore, ought to be easy to spot since it ought to stick out like a sore thumb that is way out of the ordinary.
Yet, while there are whiffs of corruption in the air in many places, corruption in governance and public administration is highly secretive.
By its nature, corruption is a hidden and secretive engagement between two or more individuals, with one dispensing a public benefit for the private personal gain of the other party. So, unless one or the other party exposes the deal, or if there is some deep inquiry which uncovers the deed, corruption is almost always never known or discovered.
We misunderstand the total impact of corrupt activity.
Often, corruption is explained away as an inevitable cost of opportunity that is provided by the person wielding the state power to an individual or corporation that needs access to power in order to conduct business.
That might be so but the hidden cost of corruption is far more than just the provision of opportunity to the other party. This is something that the corrupt official does not fully appreciate.
The money paid to a minister of state or a departmental head might amount in hundreds of thousands of kina but the contract, or job for which the bribe is paid, is always worth something greater.
No entity pays a million kina for a job that is worth a mere K100,000. Always, it is the reverse.
The K100,000 would be paid for a job worth K1 million.
That is to suggest that the corrupt activity is a small part of the outlay for business exploitation.
Corruption places the person, or entity paying the cost, in a very powerful position. He is able to dictate what he wants. He is able to circumvent proper processes and take shortcuts. Quality suffers and he holds a very powerful weapon to constantly wield against the official who is corrupt.
Corruption – ranging from bribery and extortion to nepotism – almost always have disastrous effects on societies but, especially, those who are struggling.
Corrupt practices drain treasuries, scare away investors and promotes vice and crime.
Global multilateral agencies like the World Bank estimate that corruption can reduce a country’s growth by 1 percentage point per year while International Monetary Fund research has indicated that investment is poorer in corrupt countries than in those countries free of corruption.
Standard and Poor’s, the bond rating agency, gives investors a 50% to 100% chance of losing their entire investments within five years in countries with various degrees of corruption.
Many persons, who bring a car into the garage for a check, are often asked to buy a soft drink or pay a little money on the side for the mechanic to quickly process their vehicle ahead of others. Often, the car owners do not stop to think that this is actually a corrupt transaction.
They pay the mechanic and actually promise more if the car can be ready within the shortest time possible.
This is street level corruption.
The same goes for police officers who will pocket Kl0 or K20 “spot fines” to let an errant driver go free. Should the unlicenced driver go on to run over another person on the road, the corrupt policeman is as responsible as the driver and, more so, because he has the authority and did indeed have the opportunity to stop the man and he did not.
Opening up financial records to public scrutiny has been one of the most successful ways of foiling corruption.
Other methods included setting up clear rules of procedure for contracting, systems of checks and balances between key units and monitoring or auditing bodies.
We welcome the move by the Centre for Environmental Research and Development in pushing companies to publish money they spend on governments. While such money might not have been spent in a corrupt fashion, the fact that such requirements are there will force those who are corruptive to desist from their activities.
We also welcome Dr Allan Marat’s call for all who hear of corruption to report it and urge people to do so. Unless people cooperate, corruption will be entrenched and difficult to eradicate.