GERARDO P. SICAT: ANATOMY OF CORRUPTION

MANILA, NOVEMBER 4, 2013 (PHILSTAR) CROSSROADS (Toward Philippine Economic and Social Progress) By Gerardo P. Sicat (photo) -  Under the law, corruption is illegal.

In the public sphere, corruption may be committed in the award of contracts having to do with the use of public funds or through unlawful and dishonest deviation(s) from the expected performance of government officers and employees.

Society sets the rules of proper behavior by public employees so that the government can function well.

“Prototype cases of corruption.” The typical corruption stories may be classified into four general types.

Type 1: Over-pricing. In the usual case, a public contract of services (such as a purchase of equipment or supplies, construction of civil works, hiring of services from a private party) is over-priced.

Over-pricing benefits the private contractors with the help of conniving public officers. It also involves the payment of commissions (grease money), including to those who helped peddle influence to make possible the conclusion of the contract. Likewise, over-pricing may take the form of delivery of sub-standard or poor quality work for the project. Cheating on quality is cheating on the pricing agreed upon.

Over-pricing enables some parties to make abnormal gains at the expense of the government – or the general public. In the end, it is the general public that pays the high cost of the contract.

Type 2: Under-pricing. In the usual case, a sale of assets by the government to private parties results in under-pricing because of illegal side-payments. In this situation, the government is short-changed and is therefore a direct loser. It receives smaller revenues from the transaction than it actually deserves under proper valuation.

The net gain to the private party of the underpriced asset is lessened by the cost of commissions and other side-payments or bribes that are paid to the corrupt parties in the transaction.

Type 3: Fraud. Some corrupt activities are simply in the nature of fraud when mis-representations are made regarding the nature of a government funds. Acts of fraud can be committed with the participation of government officials in the area of internal tax and customs assessments.

Type 4: Misbehavior. Misbehavior by a public official connotes an act that is in violation of a code of conduct; it is essentially a dereliction of duty for personal gain and does not involve government funds or public property.

A judge who is bribed to issue his decision to favor a party in a legal case typifies an example of this type of corruption. The incentive for the payoff of bribes is related to the gains in the benefits to the private parties involved.

Soliciting bribes directly or through fixers, by officers of the law, in performing their functions fall under this corrupt behavior.

“The corruption cases in historical context.” The corruption cases in our midst are quite many, but what we often get in the discussion within the public domain are allegations of corruption. Allegations of course do not constitute proof of the commission of the corruption.

In general, the pubic exposures of corruption cases are much more significant than those cases that lead to conviction. In fact, a common complaint in the country is that hardly anyone among those suspected of corruption – especially of the “big fish” – gets prosecuted.

Many of these allegations get quashed during the investigation stage, or they get mired in the slow processes of legal procedures in the courts. The result is that corrupt behavior is not fully punished in the country, or allegations of corruption are negated by exoneration.

In recent memory, President Benigno S. Aquino III won election largely on his campaign promise of fighting corruption and on the benign legacy that was inherited from Cory Aquino as an incorruptible president.

Let us not forget that Ramon Magsaysay, Diosdado Macapagal, Ferdinand Marcos, and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo became president on the anti-corruption issue. In all cases, the problem of corruption did not disappear during their watch. In others, it even became a larger issue.

Through the imposition of martial law, Marcos abolished Congress and in effect stopped many of the corrupt processes associated with the old Congress. Yet, his government fell from power partly as a result of charges of corruption many years later. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s presidency is considered very corrupt in view of the many scandals that were uncovered in public media during her term.

Since the birth of the Republic, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee – and its leaders – has gained fame and great political exposure by investigating corruption issues. Yet, after all the noise in each and every one of these investigations, the nation has not landed to catch major culprits associated with the corruption.

Corruption makes good currency during election time but hardly makes a dent on the true eradication of corruption as a practice. Something is amiss!

“How to reduce corruption in the country.” Realistically, the elimination of corruption cannot succeed totally. But appropriate anti-corruption measures and eternal vigilance can help reduce the level of corruption and give greater confidence that a nation can control its bad effects. Countries that have succeeded in doing so have institutions in place to fight and counter them through proper governance.

The control of corruption rests on important long term development programs that a government needs to learn continuously and relentlessly. I mention some important factors that should be good pointers to start with:

• Most importantly, convictions of corruption cases should be demonstrated. This has to focus as much on the “big fish.” In our country, there is the impression that only the small fish get caught.

• Raising the salaries of the government bureaucracy, especially those that deal with big decisions in government, can lift the defenses against corruption. (But improved salaries need to be matched by a reduction in the size of the bureaucracy.)

• Creating a well-trained professional cadre of high civil servants who are technically qualified in their jobs and who are impervious to political winds of change is essential.

• Economic policies should foster competition. Competition is all important when large projects in government are bidded out or auctioned. The presence of large, competing bidders for large government projects assure that the country gets a good price when it selects the winning bidder.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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