Does corruption matter? Thinking Tank 04.06.2009

A lively debate at a time when corruption—particularly among politicians and business leaders—is often in the media. The group debated personal and public corruption, and the difficulty of defining what is acceptable (according to personal circumstances and cultural norms). A key conclusion was the need to instil a clear sense of right and wrong in young people today so they can operate successfully in an environment where corruption is increasingly challenged.

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Personal responsibility was a key theme

  • Don’t tolerate it. Be vocal. Be transparent where you can, and be consistent in saying no
  • The solution starts with us, not with the government
  • It is about personal integrity and doing job you are paid for, otherwise don’t take the job
  • I was encouraged by a supplier to pay in cash to avoid vat – I felt dirty and disappointed in myself for even considering it

And institutional corruption and its underlying causes

  • it is scandalous for politicians to be corrupt
  • there is some intrinsic corruption due to bonuses , share price and personal ambition that makes important business leaders corrupted and take decisions that are not in the interest of stakeholders, but of their own bonuses..
  • government are responsible for putting the framework into place and checking the rule of law is applied

Cultural differences were discussed and the difficulty of standing up to endemic corruption

  • corruption is not just monetary, it can also be about how relate to other people – needs to become more of guiding principle
  • there are a lot of good people including in governments in very corrupt countries who wish the system was different – but they need help as becoming an outcast often means no food on the table
  • there still is very little protection for company “whistleblowers” ; mafia bosses who repent get far better treatment and do not end up be being sacked by their employers !

Suggested personal and public actions to tackle corruption included

  • corruption is most effectively attacked by the individual who suffers it speaking out and exposing individuals by name through the media including the web
  • Transparency is the way forward. Make public everything you do and hear as a public officer. Secrecy is the key foundation of corruption
  • Start from the base, kids need to learn integrity
  • Ensure that score cards or compensations do not corrupt decision makers to neglect important value considerations for stakeholders
  • Get politicians on Thinking Tank sessions
  • Give back the extra change, point out when we’ve been overpaid, don’t lie
  • I’ll talk about this with my kids over dinner – I’m interested to see where their views differ from mine and if any guidance is needed (probably from them to me!)
  • This has been a useful reminder that the NORMAL thing is to say no to corruption. IT’s not weird or unreasonable. Quite the opposite.

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