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Behind Botswana’s rising corruption rate

SHARE   |   Wednesday, 14 November 2018   |   By Bush Laconte
President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi with BDF Commander Placid Segokgo President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi with BDF Commander Placid Segokgo

This presentation discusses the concept of ‘Corruption Related to decision-Making’. The context of management decision-making in corruption-related situations in organisations. This addresses a significant gap in management literature dealing with corruption, ethics; and decision-making. Corruption in institutions is amongst the serious problems confronting global society today.

The United Nations, World Bank and other international trading organisations acknowledge its occurrence. During the past decade they have taken certain measures to combat corruption (e.g., United Nations Convention against Corruption, 2003; Anti-bribery Convention, 1999; European Union (Civil) Convention against Corruption, 1999, European Union (Criminal) Convention against Corruption, 1998). Yet, corruption in organisations appears to be on the rise as indicated by Transparency International’s Bribe Payers Index (2002).

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Corruption has generated international concern and is a serious stakeholder issue, but it is ignored within government institutions in Botswana though Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) was formed to curb corruption.  

Corruption is not a recent phenomenon nor is it a creation of a particular society or civilisation or present day business operations. The incidence of corruption has been observed in all ancient civilisations. Corruption continues to be a part of the contemporary social structures. We hear and read about the occurrence of corruption on a daily basis in the media. The National Petroleum Fund (NPF) scandal being one of them! The phenomenon of Corruption in business occurs in situations of a quid pro quo relationship between public officials, managers representing corporations. Business managers seek dispensation of favours (illegitimate) and public officials command the discretion to dispense those favours.

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Some examples of illegitimate (ultra vires) favours sought by business could be grant of trading licenses, permits, allotment of industrial land, award of contracts, tenders and amendment of laws to suit business interest; inaction in case of suppression of wrongdoing including illegal acts to almost anything that maybe ultra vires the law, but suits business interests. On the other hand, public officials command discretionary powers to satisfy illegitimate favors that business may need.

Thus, there is room for trade of these discretionary powers, for a quid pro quo between public officials and Corruption in business: The desire to trade discretionary powers by a public official has often been referred to as (Motonya, goja something, mdidi wa ngwenya etc). Corrupt exchanges between public officials and business managers are usually sustained through networks of politicians, business, mafias and middlemen.

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Corruption operates successfully because of a complex web of relationships between public officials (bribe-receivers), business cartels (bribe-givers), middlemen (a person) who ensure that there is ‘flow of information’ in exchange of ‘money’ (bribes) with the underlying element of ‘trust’ (so called gentleman’s agreement). Casual observation indicates that what has been observed in Italy (Mafias, Al capones) holds true in other countries around the world in relation to the nexus of corruption.

The main actors are the public officials and business with supporting roles played overtly by ‘middlemen’ who act as consultants or liaison agents brokering deals between the two with organized crime in the shadows to play a covert enforcement role paid for by the party asking them to intervene if it becomes necessary. To comprehend the impact of corruption in organizations, corruption has been re-defined from a managerial decision-making and stakeholder perspective thus: “Corruption involves illegal, immoral personal gratification in cash or kind in exchange for securing an unethical advantage over others in business and/or in society with a side effect that may include compromise of sustainable development, democracy etc.

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It is common course that Government institutions and parastatals have certain social and economic obligations towards the society in which its functions are needed towards that society.  However, when we label corruption as unethical from a stakeholder perspective, it is also essential for us to examine the phenomenon of corruption vis-à-vis morals, ethics and society. Morals, ethics and corruption like any other human activity in society is subject of evaluation against certain moral standards. These are standards of expected behavior based on beliefs held by society or a group of persons of what is right and what is wrong or what is good or what is bad. When society classifies some human activity as wrong or bad, the logical question would be on what basis does society do that? Eg; in some countries a public figure knows what to do whenever he had done wrong, he does not wait to be told or what to do. That is a good sign of morality.

Morality is a sphere in which there is public interest and there is private interest, often in conflict, and the problem is to reconcile the two with a tolerance of maximum individual freedom that is consistent with the integrity of society.

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Corruption in government institutions also breaches the principle of distributive justice and undermines the fiduciary role of leaders as custodians of societal wealth and resources. Moreover, corruption violates the utilitarian role (useful) of government institutions to achieve the economic welfare of society. 

This logic has prompted the formulation of anti-corruption legislation both at national, regional and international levels to protect the economic interests of society.

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Corruption in organisations can harm society and stakeholder interest in many ways. The cases of NPF, Kgabo Commission, Lesetedi Commission etc. These cases demonstrate the ‘interconnectedness’ between Political Leaders, government institutions, parastatals and other businesses in decision making by the said corrupt leaders.

Leaders or managers focus on their personal economic issues alone and lack an orderly way of thinking about implications of such corrupt decisions in society. Decision-makers operate from a position of positional in-objectivity. Managers when they demand bribe payments, they are often influenced by a negative psychological field or ambience (feeling). Personal economic objectives operate in the manager’s mind and are peculiar to the individual manager’s position as a decision-maker, thus influencing the process.

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These managerial decisions involving corruption and bribery are responses of copying Life style of some individuals in society who have amassed wealth mostly through dubious means.  The economic objectives of a manager in securing wealth through corruption has remained a prime consideration in managerial decision-making even when legislation prohibits that.

 Corruption-Related Decision-Making is an un-orderly way of thinking through the moral implications of any decision in the realm of corruption and bribery, amidst economic objectives of the society.

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Decision or discretions as components of administrative law must always be clothed with lawfulness. Whimsical decisions made towards favoring other employees or companies at the expense of others promote mediocrity and corruption.

Government institutions like DCEC, Ombudsman etc, must report to Parliament than to the Permanent Secretary. The so-called Declaration of Assets Bill is long overdue. The opposition has long spoken about it, even former MP and Minister of Health Joy Phumaphi spoke about it. The only logical thing to do is for the President to assent his signature to that old bill than to get into new parliamentary debate as if it’s a new bill.

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The Government as a matter of urgency must adopt conventions and protocols that fight corruption and also domesticate those conventions and protocols into our statutes. These endeavors will reduce corruption in Government institutions, besides that, corruption will grow daily.    



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