A look at various kinds of corruption: Part 2

JANUARY 9 — The first article identified 18 different terms (from World Bank publications) that are confused or used interchangeably with corruption. 

In the first instance, let us explore how corruption is linked to these other terms. It may help explain why the terms are often confused or used interchangeably. 

The Integrity Vice Presidency (INT) is an independent unit within the World Bank Group that investigates and pursues sanctions related to allegations of fraud and corruption in World Bank Group-financed projects. 

The INT’s scope of work is fraud and corruption but also included is collusion, coercion and obstruction (see first article for these descriptions). 

Stated differently, in INT’s definition, corruption will potentially also involve fraud, collusion, coercion and obstruction. 

In Tina Soreide’s (2014) World Bank study titled, “Drivers of Corruption — A Brief Review”, she states that ‘corruption takes a variety of forms’, and proceeds to list them as follows: crony capitalism, embezzlement, extortion/extortive corruption, facilitation payments, kickback, kleptocracy, lobbyism/campaign finance, patronage, queue corruption, regulatory capture, rent-seeing, and state capture (the descriptions are provided in the first article). 

In Soreide’s (2014) approach, there are at least 13 different ways within which corruption can take place. 

If there are 18 different ways to describe corruption or corrupt acts — with some of it being legal and others, not — what exactly is corruption? 

Exploring the essence of corruption

The literature on corruption indicates that the concept of corruption is as old as civilisation — indicating clearly, its persistence. 

Syed Hussein Alatas (1999) in his book, Corruption and the Destiny of Asia provides among many analysis, an informative analysis of corruption through the ages. 

In analysing the Chinese reformer Wang An Shih (1021-86 AD), Alatas noted that, “ in his [Wang An Shih] attempt to eliminate corruption, [he] was astounded by two ever-recurrent sources of corruption: bad laws and bad men.”

In analysing the Islamic scholar Abdul Rahman Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406 AD), Alatas stated that Ibn Khaldun considered the root cause of corruption to be the passion for luxurious living within the ruling group. It was to meet the cost of luxurious living that the ruling group resorted to corrupt dealings. 

Kautilya, a key advisor to Chandragupta Maurya (c 317-293 BCE) writing in his book Arthasastra, identified corruption as a human condition

Humans, Kautilya noted, were fickle and that no virtue such as integrity and honesty would remain consistent. While not using the human condition to justify corruption, Kautilya proposed elaborate and extreme sets of measures to weed corruption out of government — referring specifically to leaders tasked with running the government such as tax collection, implementing various government regulations, etc (T. Kumar, 2012) [pdf]

Maryvonne Genaux (2004) in her exploration of corruptio, the Latin term from which the word corruption originates, concludes that, “Ultimately, [the word] ‘corruption’ can be said to have Biblical origins and a core meaning centred around injustice.” 

Genaux notes that these “injustice” was perpetrated by those in power or with authority (kings, judges, magistrates, etc.) against those who relied on their leadership/judgements/decisions (e.g. subjects, citizens). 

The review above suggests that the essence of corruption (which covers all different types of corrupt act), is an “unjust act” committed by those “in/with power” (the powerful) against those “with less power” (the powerless) for the benefit of the powerful because it is within human nature to act in such manner.   

What do you think of this description of corruption? 

* In the next article, we explore contemporary definitions of corruption.    

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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