Monday, October 19, 2009


I am at present updating my knowledge on “Corruption” – types, forms, magnitude and of course, methods of eradication. As I delved into the subject, I found that the topic itself can constitute a separate discipline of specialized study with the recommended foundation-laying at the school level itself (NCERT listening?) since we have to deal with it on almost day to day basis. Most of what I have gathered must be common knowledge to many; to me it was new and I wanted to put it in black and white so that I can refer to it as and when required. Also writing facilitates memorizing.

It is said that corruption treads stealthily in the corridors of power. Power is where money is. Here money signifies the much wider realm of public finance management e.g., public purchase & procurement through high stake tenders and contracts, international aids and loans, investments in and funding of developmental projects, capacity building of developing countries by developed nations etc.; the list is long and indicative of a macro sweep, at times, transcending political boundaries and mega investments where digits multiply into astronomical figures.

Corruption, as we all know, is born out of temptation. However, it operates under disguise, therefore, is difficult to detect. It intrudes and spreads surreptitiously corroding the fine fabric of society. If not confronted and sabotaged on time, it can take institutional proportions. It has existed and thrived in socio-economic inequalities, political instability and weak and permissive governance. Contemporary corruption, however, is more intricate in design and mechanism, as it misappropriates new age information and technology, for selfish calculations, at the cost of the State and Society.

However, these are facts, which are well known. But what surprised me the most was to find that there are various nomenclatures of corruption. There is a Situational Corruption which is unplanned and is provoked by a particular situation like when a person driving a car breaks traffic rule, is caught by the police and offers the policeman a bribe to escape punishment. Contrary to this is Structural Corruption which is pre-meditated and as the term indicates structured and is carried out in a systematic manner. For example, when two bidders pre-decide to collude to grab a tender. But the highest form of corruption, in my opinion, is State Capture when the politicians and political parties are “captured” to exert undue influence on government policies, laws or regulations for the benefit of the vested interests. The means of capture is easy guess……. huge contribution to party fund.

Then there are various types of bribery. When huge amount of money is passed on to the higher echelons of public officials to influence the decision making process, it is upfront bribery. When comparatively lesser sum is given to lower officials to accelerate/facilitate a process, it is known as facilitation payment. When the bribe is consumed by a single official without the knowledge of the organization, it is personal bribery. On the other hand, when the entire organization is involved in the process of bribery, it is institutional bribery.

The area worst hit by corruption is public procurement (common knowledge) as it constitutes 15% to 30% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and in some countries even more. Moreover, these procurement procedures are complex and involve significant mobilization of public resources. Though, accountability, in these processes, is supposedly high, unfortunately, procedural transparency is found seriously lacking and thus rendering the system extremely vulnerable to corruption. The next public domain in queue is defense and defense procurement. (Imagine the security hazard!!!!!!)

Corruption has all encompassing impact. Besides, financial, it burdens the government with operational, maintenance and debt servicing liability, adds to environmental and security risks, health hazards and is a serious bottleneck in the way of competition and innovation. But, above all, It immeasurably damages the value factor i.e. trust in the government, honesty in competition, human incentive etc. While corruption is known to add to the cost of procurement, it is difficult to quantify corruption as it may be in “cash or non cash advantage” form. Moreover, there is the problem of cultural relativism where the line of demarcation between bribery and socio-cultural norms gets imperceptibly blurred.

One of the Non-Governmental Organizations, fighting against corruption world wide is Transparency International (TI). TI firmly believes that arenas susceptible to corruption should be under constant public eye/scrutiny so that continuous public attention and debate can leave no scope for corruption to entrench its roots. With this motto, TI envisages a strong civil society monitoring mechanism or the “Third Eye” to uproot corruption. It is this underlying philosophy that manifests in the appointment of Independent Assessors, the representatives of Civil Society, to independently and objectively monitor the progress of the procurement procedure from inception to culmination. Needless to say, the External Monitors are required to be professionals of high repute and acumen having experience and expertise in their respective fields of proficiency.

However, having exhausted my corruption knowledge bank, I am still at a loss to figure out an appropriate terminology for the sort of “situation” where X through undue influence on Y gets away with most of the things without exerting much…..comes late, goes early, has lunch on time and innumerable cups of tea, day-dreams, prolongs and procrastinates and replies to queries (like phone call, e-mail etc.) after interminable interludes of deep silence and of course takes a beauty nap each afternoon (on a fixed sofa in a quiet corner specifically designated for this purpose). And all this in broad daylight, in full public view. Here, as you can very well guess, Y and X are in a “Boss-Subordinate” equation (no-gender-specifics attached). The moral denominator in the given situation is very high and the consequences far reaching almost open ended.

What nomenclature do we fix so that the enormity of the possibilities and probabilities of the situation becomes comprehensible by a single term……

“Boss Capture” perhaps?

Then there are various other forms of aberrations…………….

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