Friday, October 7, 2011

Corruption is like a door knob…everyone gets a turn!

In South Africa while sitting at dinner or drinking tea with friends, to help with my acculturation, almost all of my associates tell me stories about their personal encounters with South African corruption, e.g., they were stopped by the police for running a stop sign that didn’t exist; they paid a bureaucrat to facilitate an application for a government contract; they were shaken down by an illegitimate taxi service. The stories go well into the night. An American point of reference would be Richard “The Boss” Dailey’s Chicago.( I too have had my own encounters with corruption. One was very serious involving a threat to my life, guns and police!  That's another story for another time)

Political Corruption in Developing Countries

Political corruption in government is a ubiquitous global plague. For example, in my native land, the United States, former House Republican majority whip Tom DeLay was convicted and sentenced for money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. DeLay’s defense was: “What’s the big deal? Everybody does this stuff.”

However, I would argue that political corruption in developing countries is more injurious.  It undermines fledgling democracies and promotes all forms of authoritarian regimes, e.g., dictatorships, oligarchies, military juntas, kleptocracies, kratocracies, etc.  In addition, political corruption makes the bed for other criminal enterprises, i.e., drug trafficking, prostitution, money laundering, and human trafficking.  

Developing countries are trying to stand on their fragile political, economic and social feet, political corruption knock the legs out from under them. Honesty, integrity and formal procedures are critical to the functionality of every branch of a country’s government. Corruption in elections and in legislative bodies reduces accountability and distorts representation in policymaking.  A corrupt judiciary compromises the rule of law, at the very least, or worse, unleashes criminal predators onto the innocent. Corruption in the executive branch results in the inefficient provision of services exacerbating poverty. 

Constitutions and statutory laws determine what constitutes legal, illegal and corrupt activities in each country. A contribution to a judge running for office can be legal or illegal depending on the laws of the country/ jurisdiction being examined.  However, for our purposes political corruption is an illegal act by a public office holder when the act is directly related to their official duties. These acts include, but are not limited to, bribery, fraud, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, patronage, graft, and embezzlement. These types of activities are more or less universally accepted as corrupt. United Nations Convention Against Corruption

Political Corruption is a Colonial legacy…But! 

Colonial powers “extracted” valuable resources from the peripheral colonies to the European center. The colonial state laid the foundation to many current corrupt infrastructures in developing countries.  BUT, that was then, this is now! Maintaining a corrupt society falls on current government actors, be they actively or passively involved in political corruption. Current elite dominated governments are extracting public resources for private gain. Bishop Tutu called on members of President Jacob Zuma’s cabinet to sell their “expensive cars”
The power elite, or Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs), as the Financial Action Task Force labels them, are at an advantage when it comes to corrupt and illegal activities. First, they are part of regimes that give them  access to “intermediaries,” or cronies, advising them on efficient and effective ways to engage in corruption. Second, they, in general, control institutions in their own country, that facilitates access to financial markets and allows them to block attempts to investigate stolen assets.

“2010 Corruption Perceptions Index” SADC countries

            Rank                                      Country                                            Score

Democratic Republic of Congo
South Africa

Samples of Corruption: Headlines in SA

First, let me preference the use of headlines from South African national newspapers for samples of the proliferation of corruption here. I am intrigued by the amount of print corruption stories get in the national press.  But, as we know, newspapers are in the business to sale papers and as the saying goes, “dog bites man, no story, man bites dog, a story!”  In the future we will have discussions on politics and the media. Nevertheless, the following are headlines for the national press here in South Africa and Information Portal on Corruption and Governance in Africa

·         SA: AG gives Public Works a disclaimer – report Tuesday, 04 October 2011 00:00 Written by Polity  Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde's department has been given a disclaimer, one of the worst audit reports possible, according to a report on Tuesday.

·        ‘Arms deal inquiry would benefit SA’ Friday, 30 September 2011 00:00 Written by IOL News. Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has suggested that President Jacob Zuma’s planned omission of inquiry into the arms deal will present an ideal opportunity for the government to learn some lessons about conducting business on a large scale without corruption taking place.

·      SA: Tender irregularities found in Public Works Department, Monday, 19 September 2011 00:00 Written by Polity Tender irregularities of about R3-billion were uncovered in a probe into the Public Works Department, Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde said on Monday. "We know of more than 40 cases where tenders were awarded improperly, where procedures were not followed and dishonesty took place," said the Public Works Minister in a statement.

·         Spy boss quits with a golden handshake, CAIPHUS KGOSANA | 02 October, 2011 00:57, Embattled intelligence boss Gibson Njenje has quietly left the agency after accepting a settlement that will result in him being paid out for the remaining three years of his contract.

·       Staff accuse minister as works showdown looms, SIBUSISO NGALWA and MOIPONE MALEFANE A showdown is also looming in parliament where Mahlangu-Nkabinde, national police commissioner General Bheki Cele and public protector Thuli Madonsela will appear before a joint portfolio committee meeting on October 10 to deal with Madonsela's reports into the R2-billion SA Police Service lease deals.

·        State sued over land deal, ROB ROSE, STEPHAN HOFSTATTER and MZILIKAZI WA AFRIKA | 02 October, 2011 00:57. The land reform case will be played out in the High Court in Pretoria tomorrow. PG Bison, owned by JSE-listed furniture multinational Steinhoff, is accused of trying to bribe key government officials to ensure they won the deal. They are accused of bribing the head of land reform in the Eastern Cape to ensure that a deal signed between the Maluti consortium, who have lodged the application, and Mondi did not go through.  Maluti thought they had bought 76000ha of prime timber forests for R200-million, with the bulk of it coming from government.

·         Top Cop’s Plot to Kill Lover’s Husband, South Africa’s police crime intelligence boss allegedly refused to be spurned by his ex-lover

The next installment will be my suggestions for Solutions to Corruption. 

[1] Since 1995, Transparency International (TI) publishes the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) annually ranking countries "by their perceived levels of corruption, as determined by expert assessments and opinion surveys."The CPI generally defines corruption as "the misuse of public power for private benefit." As of 2010, the CPI ranks 178 countries "on a scale from 10 (very clean) to 0 (highly corrupt)."

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