Corruption red flags

KELVIN Siwale.

IN THE anti-corruption field the assumption of one size fits all is not encouraged. Nevertheless, as we look at the red flags of corruption we will try to bring out a number of cues that may indicate that somebody could be involved in corruption.

Red flags are just alerts that somebody could be involved in corruption, not necessarily a conclusion that they are. They keep you on the lookout for any suspicious acts.
It is worth noting that in our interactions, some colleagues exhibit behaviour that is suspicious. It is therefore important to explore behaviour of individuals that may point to involvement in corrupt activities. Hence the need to look at common corruption red flags.
The following are some of the common red flags that could signal that someone might be involved in the vice or related ones:
Lack of transparency: Some officers will not attend to clients freely when other officers are around. They would rather take the client outside the office even when there is nothing confidential about the transaction. The question is, why transact outside the office or why transact after working hours? Any officer who transacts in this style is a potential suspect. Why can’t you transact in the presence of others, are you conducting private psychosocial counselling? This is the reason why modern offices are shared or open offices where everybody sees what their colleagues are doing. Therefore, if an officer will leave the customer service centre or open office to go and transact in seclusion then we see a red flag.
By-passing superiors’ when making critical decisions: Excessive discretion is one of the causes of corruption. Thus, if one wants to breach procedure for personal gain, they will hide behind discretion and make critical decisions without involving superiors. Further, in some instances, officers will only push files for certain projects or personal imprest, when they know that their supervisor, who knows more about the project, is not in the office. Otherwise their submissions would not be passed.
Poor record keeping: Some officers deliberately don’t want to maintain records of their transactions so that no trail is left. Record keeping is very important for transparency and accountability. For instance, how can recruitment in an organisation be conducted without keeping records such as score sheets and minutes of the process. Records of all transactions, whether in the private or public sector, should be maintained for purposes of checks and balances. Thus if a procurement committee or recruitment committee does not maintain minutes, a serious red flag should be raised because all the minutes and documents pertaining to a tender or recruitment should be maintained. Disappearance of accountable documents such as receipt books and payment vouchers is also a red flag. There can never be any reasonable excuse for failure to keep records.
Living beyond one’s past and present income: The level of wealth should be commensurate with one’s past and present income. Income includes official salaries/ wages, business earnings and well documented inheritance. If you cannot account for your amassed wealth, then it will be assumed to be proceeds of crime. This is termed living beyond your means and is a clear indicator of abuse of office or other criminal activities. Wealth should be accounted for because it does not drop like manna from heaven. It amassed cumulatively.
Clients insisting on being attended to by a specific officer: While we appreciate that clients may have preferences on officers who should attend to them, we need to be alive to the fact that with corruption you only want to deal with the person who knows your system. Haven’t you wondered why some clients would rather go back until a particular officer is around? There could be some clandestine activities going on. Why would a driving school not want to take their clients for a driving test to any officer who is available but wait for a particular officer to be on duty? It does not mean that is the only officer who knows the job, no!! It is all about ‘connections’. Some clients collude with officers at borders and ensure that their goods are only inspected by their ‘link’. Institutions should always check why certain clients only deal with particular officers. Check if all the transactions are correctly done. This is not a one size fits all approach. Such transactions may be genuine, but most likely not. Let’s pay attention to work process audits. In most cases you will find that some officers favour clients by making them skip the queue and get attended to before the early birds. This happens at a fee, casually called ‘ya drink’, but in the anti-corruption circles, it is called a bribe regardless of the value because it is connected to one’s official duties.
Lastly, let’s all be alert and stamp out corruption so that we can develop our beloved country economically. Report any suspected corruption to the Anti-Corruption Commission.
The author is an anti-corruption expert.

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