Stop Fighting Corruption And Start Winning

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On May 12, 2016 i.e. last month, several world leaders, heads of civil society and business leaders, gathered at London for an anti-corruption summit. The aim of the summit was to discuss the challenges of corruption and ways to collaboratively deal with it by making commitments on an international level.

If you are a fan of the Dr Who television series or have been responsible for clearing out weeds; one thing these two have in common with corruption is that they always come back (regenerate) when you think they are dead; howbeit in a different form. This is the frustration of any leader, institution or individual that tries to fight corruption.

Indeed, corruption has been described by one of the participating leaders of the anti-corruption summit as a “hydra-headed monster… that undermines the fabric of all societies”. hydra-headed corruptionLike the mythical hydra-headed monster, fighting or cutting off a head of corruption leaves it with several other heads to keep fighting with. Interestingly, any cut head regenerates back into two heads almost immediately, giving it a nastier new look.

Against this backdrop one may ask:

“Is it possible to tackle corruption effectively and actually WIN”? A big YES.

Again: “has it been done before”? Again Yes and you are about to find out how!

However, before going for the killing (winning) strategies against corruption, it is instructive to first examine what corruption is and identify several strategies being used or that have been used to fight corruption along with their effectiveness.

We will be doing this in this two part series that highlights how corruption can be won in any organisation, institution or nation.

How Do You Define Corruption?

According to transparency international corruption is:

“…the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. Corruption can be classified as grand, petty and political, depending on the amounts of money lost and the sector where it occurs.

Grand corruption consists of acts committed at a high level of government that distort policies or the central functioning of the state, enabling leaders to benefit at the expense of the public good.

Petty corruption refers to everyday abuse of entrusted power by low- and mid-level public officials in their interactions with ordinary citizens, who often are trying to access basic goods or services in places like hospitals, schools, police departments and other agencies.

Political corruption is a manipulation of policies, institutions and rules of procedure in the allocation of resources and financing by political decision makers, who abuse their position to sustain their power, status and wealth.”

In essence corruption occurs when people entrusted with power to mange human or material resources fraudulently take advantage of that trust/position to mismanage the resources for personal gains. The definition also points out that corruption is not only committed by highly placed citizens on a grand scale, but can also be committed on a petty scale by practically anyone put in-charge of anything who resolves to fraudulently take advantage of that position for personal gains however big or small.

The diagram below illustrates the relationship between fraud, corruption and mismanagement. Simply put, corruption is the offspring of fraud and mismanagement.


Anatomy of Mismanagement

Anatomy of Mismanagement

Common Strategies Used In The Fight Against Corruption

1. Hunt and Peck Method (a.k.a. Witch hunting)

witch hunt

Witch Hunting. Image credits –

This method simplifies the fight against corruption by attempting to encapsulate (i.e. embody and give a personality to) corruption. It identifies some individuals deemed to meet certain criteria for corruption and singles them out as scapegoats for punishment or “Trial by media”. This method is one of the most commonly used especially in developing countries or small organisations. Unfortunately, these countries (and organisations) still keep rank at the bottom of global corruption perception indices. It begs the question loudly that perhaps corruption cannot be dealt with by treating it as a personality but rather as a (hydra-headed) system.

2. Passing Buck (a.k.a. Blame Game)


Blame Game

This is a “do nothing’ approach to fighting corruption characterised by “all talk and no action”. It simply reapportions the blame for corruption to others (e.g. staff, citizens, previous management or administrations etc) as an excuse for failure. In other words, it is a sanctimonious approach where an “elite” few try to give reasons why they are clean and hardworking but things are not working due to the legacy of past corrupt predecessors or present subordinates. To buttress this point, one of the leaders at the anti-corruption summit blames corruption as “a serious threat to good governance”. This sounds counterintuitive because good governance should undermine corruption by developing and deploying policies that make corruption impotent.

A paper by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime posits that good governance is a prerequisite to sustain (and ultimately win) a fight against corruption. Its abstract states:

“…the rule of law under good governance, democratic values, and strong civil society are…some of the basic prerequisites to building the national integrity system to sustain a fight against corruption in various forms and at various levels.”

A good advice to those in this group (especially leaders that employ this strategy) would be: it doesn’t matter what the past leadership or administration has done; you are in charge now, fix it! That’s why you were hired!

3. Blanket Radical Approach (a.k.a Revolution)

Two good examples include the Arab Springs that started in 2010 and the “House cleaning” in Ghana by the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) led by Jerry Rawlings in 1979.


In this approach, the seemingly powerless class rises up against the elite/ruling class, taking laws into their hands by using drastic and often violent methods to deal with corruption which they blame on the elite. While many believe this is the way out of oppressive and corrupt regimes, the violence and blood-letting this approach is known for most of the time, makes it not appealing and not recommendable.

In the second part of this post we will take a focused look at winning strategies against corruption. Be the first to see it when it becomes available by following the blog at Switem Technology Solutions website.

Comments and feedback on this post are highly welcomed.

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I am a business oriented ICT consultant that enjoys implementing technology solutions that solves business problems; optimising business processes and outputs while minimising any negative effects of business change. I like to write about technology, business and management as well as how they can be complementarily employed to improve efficiency and effectiveness.

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