The Seduction of Corruption is only for Money

Corruption is a form of dishonesty or criminal offense undertaken by a person or organization entrusted with a position of authority, to acquire illicit benefit or abuse power for one's private gain. Corruption may include many activities including bribery and embezzlement, though it may also involve practices that are legal in many countries. (1)

Corruption, particularly political corruption is mainly for money and most prominent among political corruption is bribery. In the context of political corruption, a bribe may involve a payment given to a government official in exchange for his use of official powers. Bribery requires two participants: one to give the bribe, and one to take it. Either may initiate the corrupt offering; for example, a customs official may demand bribes to let through allowed (or disallowed) goods, or a smuggler might offer bribes to gain passage. In some countries the culture of corruption extends to every aspect of public life, making it extremely difficult for individuals to operate without resorting to bribes. Bribes may be demanded an official to do something he is already paid to do. They may also be demanded to bypass laws and regulations. In addition to their role in private financial gain, bribes are also used to intentionally and maliciously cause harm to another (i.e. no financial incentive) In some developing nations, up to half of the population has paid bribes during the past 12 months.

Stating other instances like the failure of “Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana” launched in 2014. Under the yojana, each Member of Parliament adopts a gram panchayat, giving importance for social development and infrastructure. The MP is free to choose any Gram except for the one he belongs to. The goal was to transform villages into “model villages”. Six years after the Prime Minister announced the Yojana, a study was commissioned by the Ministry of Rural Development has observed that the scheme has not made “any significant impact” and that it is not achieving its desired purpose. This shows the money gave to all the MPs for the development of villages is used by them for personal uses.

Another instance of suspension of The Member of Parliaments Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) for two years to use these funds “to strengthen the government’s efforts in managing the challenges and adverse impact of COVID-19 in the country”. Under the scheme, each Member of Parliament “has the choice to suggest to the District Collector for works to the tune of ₹5 crores per annum to be taken up in his/her constituency”. The government’s decision to suspend MPLADS funds for two years evoked mixed reactions. Many Opposition parties opposed the move. Congress spokesperson and Lok Sabha MP Manish Tewari said it was a knee-jerk reaction much like the lockdown at a four-hour notice. While he and the rest of the Congress fully supported the 30% cut in the MPs’ salary, suspension of MPLAD funds was an “overstretch.” “MPLADS is a targeted and nimble instrument to customize micro-level interventions to alleviate distress,” he said. Thiruvananthapuram MP and Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, in a long Twitter thread, said it would have been better had the government brought in an order to earmark the funds only to be spent for COVID-19 related expenditure. Along with these, many other leaders opposed the decision which shows how desperate they all are for money. The unspent amount under the scheme was ₹4,103.97 crore on March 31, 2019; ₹4,877.71 crores on March 31, 2018, and ₹5,029.31 crores on March 31, 2017. The data shows that a huge amount of money is not used for the developmental process but is kept with thee MPs with themselves. (2)

Now, let’s consider some of the corruption scandals which will show that most of the corruption cases are for money.

Ten years ago a colossal corruption scandal involving Siemens, one of the world’s largest electrical engineering companies, shocked the world. The scale of it marked it out as the biggest corruption case of the time. A few years later, Linda Thomsen, Director at the Security Exchange Commission described the pattern of bribery in the company as unprecedented in scale and geographic reach. The corruption involved more than $1.4 billion in bribes to government officials in Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas. (3)

Sani Abacha was a Nigerian army officer and dictator who served as the president of Nigeria from 1993 until he died in 1998. His five-year rule was shrouded in corruption allegations, though the extent and severity of that corruption were highlighted only after his death when it emerged that he took between US$3 and $5 billion of public money. In 2014, the US Justice Department revealed that it froze more than US$458 million in illicit funds that Abacha and his conspirators hid around the world. For years, Nigeria has been fighting to recover the stolen money, but companies linked to the Abacha family have gone to court to prevent repatriation. (4)

All the above-mentioned instances and scandals show that most of the cases of corruption are only for money, and the problem is faced not only in India but in the whole world.

But, it is not always true that corruption is ‘only’ for money, it is also for power, position, and reputation. Corruption has several forms, one of which is nepotism. Nepotism relates to someone in government or private sector in a position of authority and influence that gives preference to his relatives and friends, in terms of employment or issuing tenders.

For example, I am the Municipal Manager of the City of Kanpur. I receive tenders from ten private companies to paint road signs in Kanpur. One of those companies is owned by my brother. I influence the tender process so that the tender is awarded to my brother. This is nepotism and corruption.

There are fifty vacancies for new traffic enforcement officers. I received 500 applications for the fifty positions. As the Municipal Manager, I influence the recruiting process so that five positions of the fifty positions are reserved for members of my family. This is nepotism and corruption.

This was a hypothetical example.

Now, let’s consider a real example of Tunisia.

There are no Big Macs in Tunisia. That’s because the McDonald’s franchise was awarded to a business that didn’t have connections to the ruling family and the government stopped the fast-food chain from entering the country. From 1987 to 2011, President Ben Ali created laws that meant companies needed permission to invest and trade in certain sectors. This allowed him to shut competition out whilst letting 220 family businesses monopolize numerous industries, including telecommunications, transport and real estate. In 2010, these businesses produced 3 percent of Tunisia’s economic output but took 21 percent of the private-sector profits. (5)

Another example of Indira Gandhi who became Prime Minister of India in 1965 after the death of Lal Bahadur Shastri. In 1965, there was a close fight between an experienced and deserving Morarji Desai and inexperienced and “member of Gandhi family” Indira Gandhi and she became the Prime Minister of India in 1965.

Therefore, nepotism can also be considered as a form of corruption.

Another form of corruption is “corruption for power’’. When a person lusts for power, he tends to opt for corrupt activities to achieve. Several scandals show that corruption of power is also prevalent in the world.

Peru’s Alberto Fujimori partly managed to get approval from two-thirds of his citizens while standing trial for human rights violations by using over 75 percent of the National Intelligence Service’s unsupervised budget to bribe politicians, judges and the media. (6)

Following a huge leak from the Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca, the Panama Papers exposed the darkest secrets of the financial secrecy industry. The Panama Papers showed that Mossack Fonseca created 214,000 shell companies for individuals who wanted to keep their identities hidden. Behind the shell companies hid at least 140 politicians and public officials, including 12 government leaders and 33 individuals or companies who were blacklisted or on sanction lists by the United States government for offenses like trafficking and terrorism. (7)

In what’s been described as a “modern coup”, the Gupta family took control of South Africa. Through allegedly bribing politicians, giving lucrative jobs to President Zuma’s children, and other ways of buying influence, Ajay, Atul, and Rajesh Gupta captured the state. They got the power of South Africa by corruption and almost became the ruler of the country. (8)

All the mentioned scandals show that corruption not always for money, many times, it is for power, prestige, and reputation.

Hence, it can be concluded that the seduction of corruption is not ‘only’ for money but along with money, it is also for power, prestige, and reputation but, 90% cases of corruption show that they were for money. As Lord Acton famously expressed it, “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” With power comes lust for money, power, prestige, and reputation. Therefore, no one must get excess power as it will only increase corruption and drawback of which will be faced common people.