Corrupt practices are increasingly widespread
Stabroek News, April 25, 2008
A recently reported admission that there was corruption in certain quarters, presumably in high places, comes as no surprise and is an almost unnecessary confirmation of what has long been considered as normal activity in our social condition.
It would appear that with the increasing impoverishment of our people there is a general worsening of morals, as well as a greater incidence of petty and serious criminal activity. These have all been in existence for so long the people have accepted that the low standards will prevail and have had time to make the adjustments to their daily routine to survive as best they can.
The conditions now obtaining with almost daily reports of some criminal incidents are accepted as the norm and anyone attempting to correct the situation may be considered a meddler out to disrupt ‘peaceful’ living conditions. Whatever the reason the public are involved and should be very concerned because the act of dealing with corruption usually involves expending large amounts of public funds. It is precisely in this area, which affects the majority of people that the large sums of money are usually involved and that action in the public interest seems ineffective either in exerting just punishment, in obtaining cessation of the corrupt practice(s) or in obtaining restitution. Or so it would seem.
Corrupt practices are widespread and those interested in enriching themselves quickly and easily seem attracted to the political arena. This however is not to say that the private sector is exempt from this practice. In this sector, it may be just as prevalent but may be given different names or be completely hidden in bigger issues. The best area for enriching oneself has always been contracting, especially building contracting. As long as the employment of labour is involved, the possibility of chicanery is present.
If the contract involves large sums of money the possibility of corruption increases accordingly. And where the contract is not subject to the control of a qualified quantity surveyor the big C become almost a certainty. It is the combination of contracting and the use of public sector funds, which present the best fields for playing this ‘game’.
Memory and historical records are full of allegations as well as proven cases of politicians enriching themselves at the public expense. It does seem, however, that the political area provides ample opportunity for enrichment with adequate cover for the perpetrators so that in many cases the ‘incident’ is observed under another name and never surfaces even as an allegation. A good example of this is the crime of insider trading in the business world but which might be covered by a ‘finder’s fee’ in political circles.
Misappropriation of public property is as old as the hills; the biggest single incident being the enclosure of lands a few centuries ago. The beneficiaries of the proceeds of corrupt actions in earlier times have all now become respectable, especially so in the older industrialized countries. Corrupt practices now seem to proliferate in the ‘developing’ world, again with much evidence in the political area. And everywhere the people are suspicious. An SN report of a survey in Trinidad stated that a majority of Trinidadians, 90%, believe that not only their politicians are corrupt, 85% of the people sampled believed the police service and 80.3% felt the business community is corrupt with the public service coming up smartly with a figure of 72.6% of the sample of 1000 of their citizens. But Trinidadians and Tobagonians are not alone in their suspicion that many of their eminent citizens are corrupt.
Mr A Moraias commenting on an April 13, Time Magazine report on Brazil wrote:
“God blessed it (Brazil) with a rich soil, abundant water, lots of minerals and the world’s biggest rain forest. But Brazilians are cursed with a bunch of politicians who are selfish, nepotistic, corrupt and robbers. These politicos work only three days a week. They retire after a few years in office with high salaries. Scandals involving them pop up in the media every month. They don’t do their work. They only talk and talk. You can count the honest Brazilian politicians on the fingers of one hand.”
A few years ago, I was taking one of our Ministers to task about the corruption in this country. Referring to the epidemic situation obtaining in another neighbouring country his response went something like this. ‘You haven’t seen corruption yet. When I was there a senior civil servant about to retire asked his superior officer about the pension he was going to receive. He in turn, was asked “how long have you been working in this job?” to this the civil servant replied, “33 years,” only to receive the simple question, “And what were you doing all this time?”
Dip Arch, ARIBAMSVP