7.2.5.2 Possible Countermeasures against Corruption

(This is a current page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3 book contents.  An archived copy of this page is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/7252.htm)

There are countermeasures to corruption in all five dimensions of power.   Economic measures include using appropriate accounting methods: detailed financial accounting and auditing make it difficult to conceal corruption, particularly if the transactions are computerised.  Also in the Economic Dimension, competition can prevent corruption: if one provider demands a bribe, the services can be bought from a different provider.

Corruption can be seen as a Moral problem.  If people were brought up to believe that any form of dishonesty, including corruption, is wrong there would be less of a problem.  It is certainly much more difficult to combat corruption in cultures where it is seen as normal behaviour.  It is not easy to quickly change a culture, but even in environments where corruption is endemic, individuals and businesses can stand against it and set examples to others by refusing to pay bribes.  There are prominent examples of this stance being adopted, such as Tata’s ‘Code of Conduct’.  This might not be immediately effective as a countermeasure, but a consistent policy of refusal to pay can eventually lead to a reduction in the demands.

Legal powers can be used to combat corruption that has been reported, as in the following examples:

  • The Guardian article, How the UK can learn from India’s Right to Information Act, described how India’s legislation on the Right to Information enables people to demand records of payments so that politicians and officials can be audited.
  • The UK has made it obligatory to record political donations, so that people can see from where politicians have received funding and can then see whether the donors have received inappropriate benefits – but it can be very hard to prove that there has been corruption, even when attention is drawn to possible cases. For example, as reported in the BBC article Blair apologises for mishandling F1 row, Bernie Ecclestone’s donation to the UK Labour government was followed by a controversial decision to allow tobacco advertising in Formula One racing – despite it being banned from all other sporting venues – but no-one was prosecuted.
  • The practice of ‘whistle-blowing’ – making complaints to the authorities – can result in prosecutions of the criminals.
  • Police corruption can be challenged in the courts, if the judiciary is independent from them (5.2.8) and if the judiciary cannot be bribed.

Free and fair courts are the most effective remedy against any corruption.

Political actions can be taken to avoid corruption.  Deregulation is a help: if there is no need to have a licence before setting up a business, for example, then there is no opportunity to demand a bribe before granting that licence.

Increasing political consciousness of the problems is another useful approach; investigative journalism is helping to uncover corruption and the growth of Internet use will amplify people’s awareness.  A Reuters report, Malaysia opposition win shows power of cyberspace, described how voters “furiously clicked on YouTube and posted comments with popular bloggers about tales of sex, lies and videotapes in the run-up to Saturday’s election”.

The State can take practical measures to prevent the possibility of officials becoming corrupt, which is analogous to an individual installing a stronger door-lock as a form of Self-Protection.  For example, technology has made it progressively easier to avoid using cash and even to bypass direct human interaction; a clerk might want to demand a bribe before issuing a railway ticket whereas computerised self-service removes any opportunity for corruption.

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