When you research the words, theft and corruption and try determine the meaning of both, the synonyms that come up for both words are very similar and depending where you research it, some are duplicated. For the sake of this short written opinion, I will use them as one.
At what stage of our lives do we, a community, country or individual decide to live with corruption? In our day to day lives, we encounter corruption around every corner whether it is someone stealing from you or someone blatantly asking for money in the form of a bribe in exchange for a service that they can provide quicker if paid a “service fee”. When you consider the extremes, these two situations are basically the same.
I don’t know if this story has any relevance but it started me thinking about the subject. Today I filled air into a flat tire at a tire repair guy next to the road. I was third in line behind a small truck and another car. When it was my turn, he checked all my tires, inflating my flat tire. I know the cost of inflating a tire and did not have the exact change on me, I offered double thinking that I would get change. He informed me that he never had change so if I had, I should give him the correct amount. I asked him that I had seen the previous customers pay him and therefor he should have change as we all paid the same price. At this stage he pulled my exact change out of his pocket and offered it to me. In the grand scheme of things it was only $0.25 but in principle, it was wrong. Most people would shirk it off and move on and he would score double for the service that he provided. Through his devious actions, he would have scored. Isn’t this theft?
A few years back the Government declared that it was illegal to smoke in public. All smokers knew that this would happen sooner rather than later as locals don’t approve of smoking cigarettes and if they can even smell cigarette smoke, they will say something. I have been pulled over on two occasions by the police for smoking in my vehicle in traffic. The most memorable one was when I was pulled over and asked for my Drivers Licence. I asked the Officer why he wanted my licence and he replied because I was smoking. I told him I had my Driver’s Licence but was not sure if I had carried my Smokers Licence with me, was that the one he wanted? Having been born and bred in Africa and after having lived in this country for so long I have learned the facial expressions when a person is confused. Everyone here knows our Police Service and knows very well that your smallest infringement on any rule is going to be caught out and you will be punished with a spot fine or a “service Fee”. They extract this money from you by taking your licence and giving it to the Senior officer at the road block, you now need to wait for him to decide how much you should pay him in order to retrieve your and set off on your journey again. Whatever amount of money you offer is never enough and the most common reply you get is that there is not one of them at the check point, so they encourage you to give more, depending on how many people are present. Is this not corruption?
The Standards Board contacted a friend of mine that was importing Air Conditioner units into the country and stated that the four containers of Air Conditioners did not comply to the countries standards and that he should send them back to wherever they came from. If he had stepped in at this point and taken his Official to lunch and handed him a compliance envelope with cash in it, he could have sold his units. He started making the return arrangements when the Official of the Standards Board was announced to be waiting in his reception to see him. He accepted the impromptu meeting during which the official stated that he was not there as an Official but rather a customer and would offer a price for each unit and take the units off of his hands that he had heard off not complying so could not be sold. When asked what he would be doing with them, he was informed that the official would install them in a newly completed hotel that he had built. There is no argument here as you are stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Since taking up my post in my current place of employment, I have seen Government Officials arriving here and demanding a meeting. One official came, presented his Business card and claimed to be a high ranking Official in one of our Regulatory Bodies and demanded that if we could not produce a particular document to him, he would shut our factory. I called the number of the office on the card and verified that he was who he was and then set off to find out what this fictitious document was all about. He informed me that he had hand delivered a demand letter that we needed to conform to something. I informed him I was unaware of any demand. He shuffled and scratched around in his briefcase and presented the letter that he stated he had hand delivered. I told him that he was not being reasonable and that he should give me the same time on the letter to conform. He had the look of defeat on his face and came straight out with the story that his wife was sick and he needed money. You can use any of the synonyms earlier mentioned to decide how to describe this.
I could go on and on with similar stores which I am sure could be duplicated by many people reading this anywhere in the world. We see it every day and it is getting worse and worse. We are all guilty of supporting the system as we all use it to get things done quicker or to pay a lesser amount for something. Taking the legal route, we would run out of time getting our day to day routines completed. Many top management have “facilitators” who are called when something needs to be done, for example, the renewal of an annual membership or compliance to a certain Governing body. Facilitators know who to pay, how much to pay and probably cost you more in the end. Although this adds to the cost of doing business, it speeds up the time that you need to get something done.
Most Blue Chip companies require you to sign the Anti Corruption Agreement that states you will never pay anyone any kind of fee if it reeks of corruption. These same companies believe that you can deliver to the high standard that they demand without some “Assistance” somewhere along the line. Do they actually realize that most of what is put in place is assisted in some way or other?
Amazing how the service from one little entrepreneur this morning prodded my memory of bigger and better stories.