The Mechanics of Corruption

An examination of the mechanics of corruption and sketching an assessment of its impact.

Photo of street art by Banksy

An illustration of the mechanism of corruption in one situation

An example, of course. W is a Minister in charge of a RM 100 million project that is for the benefit of the public. Say for example the project is a state of the art national learning facility based in Malaysia. If that entire sum were used towards the project, it would be of comparatively high standards.

The first bite would be during the award of the contract. Tender or no tender, it happens. W and his cronies would either go directly with a favoured company, or would create an auction situation and work with the one who shared most generously. We give them the benefit of the doubt, so 15% to them.

Now, company X that is awarded the contract is not going to actually do the project. What for? Their effort was spent entirely on securing the project. Their privilege is in then subcontracting the whole Project out to company Y for a lesser sum. Say they are not very greedy. Company X creams off 10%. That’s the second bite.

Company X now has to provide project specifications worth RM100 million with only RM75 million. But that is assuming they do not flog it off to another company, which often is the case. Say after all the subcontracting is done, ultimately company Z gets it at RM 60. The third bite (or ‘the bite of many’ stage). Company Z is not going to do it for free. It has to be worth its while. Say, company Z only takes a profit margin of a measly RM5 million. So the fourth is more of a nibble than a bite.

Ultimately, a government project that was worth RM100 million was now going to be completed with RM55 million. And that’s just being optimistic and looking at it purely at the contractual ownership level. Then there is the actual construction level – local authorities, government inspectors, government project managers, the contractors, the actual workers, and a host of other approving bodies or levels that want their share too. We can only guess how many more bites are taken into the project budget, so it won’t be considered further.

Needless to say that it being a government project, all that money comes from the country’s taxes, i.e. tax payers statutory contributions, corporate tax, etc. Hard earned money from generally legitimate industry goes towards easy profit towards leeches from no meaningful economic activity.

What is the impact of corruption from this simple example?

The nation’s precious time, energy and money, and so its potential and opportunity cost for economic, financial, knowledge and skill growth are wasted. Worse, national trust is betrayed. Without it the quality of societal civilization deteriorates to a highly refined barbarism. Factions of society become less tolerant of others. The lack of trust in society is symbolized by the continual and widespread breach of trust occurring in public office and the increasingly laudable but hollow public salutations to good governance. Public corruption corrupts public society. It weakens the bonds of trust between them and turns each facet of society against each other. This is the corruption and destruction of the nation’s soul.

Then there is the finished product or project which could never meet the project specifications. No matter how well company Z did it would never ever be able to do so given the actual project sum available. It would be shoddy, at best, or structurally unsound and so dangerous to the public, at worst. More money has to be spent fixing or rebuilding it or if it cannot function, it would be a complete waste of public funds. Similarly if it is not utilized. Corruption is invariably related to poor quality and relentless mediocrity.

A Minister or any government officer holds and administers their office by virtue of public trust. They are trustees for the citizenry, the rakyat. There would be a breach of trust and a fraud committed on W’s and his cronies part. These are crimes of public trust and morality. A corrupt public officer is often a serial offender. After the first time, it’s easier to say yes to the second time. What is often seen is merely an instance in a long history of such transactions. Corruption is fraud, a betrayal of trust and always repeated, and so also a spiritual disease, not merely an economic one.

The money. Each citizen’s money. RM45 million meant for the project, gone. Never saw the light of day or hit the earth. Never to be recovered. Probably banked in some secret overseas account or spent purchasing all sorts of stuff. Corruption is theft. Corruption is cheating and fraudulent. You take ownership of something that is not yours without permission. But in truth most times it is daylight robbery, they system takes place of the guns.

The soul of a nation, the ethical fabric of society, relations between citizens are all wrecked and destroyed so a few greedy humans can accumulate more material wealth than others. Bonds of trust, relationships of value are severed for mere profit. A whole society is sacrificed on the alter of convenience and profit for a few people. Worse, it inspires others to practise such corruption. So corruption is also like a disease. It is insidious, easy and seductive; it therefore spreads easier and faster than values of genuine effort and commitment.

When we stand by and do nothing, we allow the disease to spread. To do nothing in the face of corruption is to endorse it, allow it and inspire it. When we tell ourselves how powerless we are, we allow the disease of corruption to strengthen. When we pretend that just because we do not participate in corruption, we are immune from it, we underrate our narcissism and have pretty much stopped caring.

Corruption is like a fungus; it thrives in the dark, in damp places, in places you don’t want to go or know about. It can easily be destroyed with transparency, accountability and vigilance and courage on the part of its citizenry. The more corruption is exposed to the scrutiny of the public gaze, the harder it is to take root, to seize our souls. The more our public officers are held up to account for their actions, it becomes harder for corruption to manifest itself. The braver and more vigilant we are the easier it is to create an environment in which corruption cannot thrive.

The eradication of corruption is not only the responsibility of government, how can it be when it is the very centre of corruption? The true responsibility for it lies with the people. One cannot stay in a country and take no responsibility for it.

To do so is an act of betrayal no different from stealing from your own countrymen.

LB: Fahri Azzat has not indulged in any act of corruption thus far but would seriously consider any offers around the RM5 billion net range (excluding tax, fancy cars, fancy houses, expensive holiday trips, free mobile phones and suitcases, government service tax and disbursements).

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Fahri Azzat practices the dark arts of the law. Although he enjoys writing and reading, he doesn't enjoy writing his own little biographies of himself. Like this one. He wished somebody else would do it for him. He has little taste in writing about himself in third person. He feels weird doing it. But the part he finds most tedious is having to pad up the lack of his accomplishments, or share some interesting facts about his rather uneventful life, as if there were some who found that oh-so-interesting; as if he were some famous person, like Michael Jackson. When he writes these biographies, the thought, 'Wei, Jangan Perasaan- ah!' lights up in his head. So he usually just lists what he got involved with, positions he held and blah, blah. But this time. Right here. Right this very moment. Uhuh. This one. This one right here. He's finally telling it like it is.

Posted on 4 October 2010. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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16 Responses to The Mechanics of Corruption

  1. Interesting article. Being 19, I'm too young to fully understand it but at least I know how it organized. Thanks for sharing :)

  2. I really like the vertical farm idea. If only they had rope bridges linking these farms as well, we wouldn't need to buy a car.

    It's true the crony sharing thing we don't see. But if you do this chaos will occur. Then how to trade or buy and sell things? Barter? Thats why gold and silver exist and only because they are not reproducable, they are suitable for currency.

    Your understanding is correct but the idea too messy, unless ur from Bukit Aman posting fake comments and looking to sabo the people that do this haha!

  3. What IS LEGAL is what millions of people who decide it to be, not crooks who run the countries.

    http://groups.google.com/group/1-malaysia ???

  4. hi Everybody Photocopy Money,

    That action is illegal. What IS legal is to barter at relative value, using precious metals among private associations with X-ray flourescence devices like below to ensure cheating does not occur :

    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb4307/is_6

    http://www.bruker-axs.com/handheldproducts.html?g

    If sufficient people do this, fiat currency and unlimited printing of fiat (and handouts to closest cronies) will naturally come to an end as precious metal users edge out fiat users – all legally within their barter associations of course.

  5. Can't beat the corrupt?

    Join the corrupt to beat them!

    We are mobilizing millions of people worldwide to photocopy money; children, hardcore poor, old folks, pensioners etc who have nothing to lose have more than 120 currencies worldwide to photocopy.

    http://groups.google.com/group/1-malaysia ???

  6. Fahri my man,

    That's such a good article I had asked my chambies to print and frame it.

    This should be the standard in all MACC's and civil service office. (Hell, it should be on every office's walls!) It should be printed and hung on the wall as a substitute for that Piagam Pelanggan shit that they hang on their walls.

    If they read it and they still can't understand the ills of corruptions, then we all should just jump off the 14th floor (after writing and leaving a fully legible note in Bahasa Melayu, of course). Or maybe we should all beat ourselves up with a certain blunt object and slip on a soap while showering, break our neck and die.

  7. Merderka

    Once a thief is always a thief- it become an addiction that will make the rakyats suffer

  8. Oh by the way, it should be hung in every Court room too.

    Especially in the Palace of Justice aka Istana Kehakiman.

    If I could digress a bit. Why Istana Kehakiman and not Istana Keadilan? The English word “Justice” is “Keadilan” in Bahasa Malaysia and not “Kehakiman”. “Kehakiman” is “Judiciary” in English. Since when has the building been known as the “Palace of Judiciary”?

    This encapsulates the problems here. Even names of buildings are subject to politics. And for the name of the building housing our highest Courts be so subjected, irony is given a different dimension.

  9. Lingswaran Singh

    Tax payers money, not only belongs to those who pay taxes. It also belongs to those who don’t pay taxes. Like charitable organizations, orphan care, disable and the poor. Corruption in the Government is also stealing from all those people.

    And give to the orphans their properties and do not substitute the defective [of your own] for the good [of theirs]. And do not consume their properties into your own. Indeed, that is ever a great sin. An-Nisa 4:2

  10. awangjala

    If 80% of the public officials are corrupt, all these people and their families are living beyond their means. This will be seen in the cars the officials drive, their wives are driving or their children are driving. All the relatives and neighbors will see their women folk with gold bangles on both arms, diamond earrings and gold necklaces over their body. Then everyone will notice the expensive clothes and shoes. Once every 2 or 3 months they will have disappear for overseas holidays and will come back with new dentures and hairdos. Looks like everybody know how corrupted these people are..but its a fashion..money is good even though it is all haram!

  11. Ah Choo

    Don't know what happens. I typed "grand larceny > RM1 billion", but it didn't come out.

  12. Ah Choo

    Sorry, typing mistakes.

    petty larceny < RM1 million

    RM1 million < ordinary larceny RM1 billion

  13. Ah Choo

    Any school project done by the JKR is worth about 30% of the "contract". This is known to all and sundry in the education ministry and its departments. Started in the 1970s. Has the situation improved? Yes, for the thieves. It is their last chance for them to grab the last pot of gold before the PR takes over Putrajaya. So expect more corruption in the most "noble" of professions.

    Since we are talking about education, let me give you the new mathematical definitions of Malaysian larcenies:

    petty larceny < RM1 million

    RM1 million < ordinary larceny RM1 billion

  14. semuanya OK kot

    Other important aspect of the ritual proceedings in this stange world:

    – mark-up. If you quote just enough for the work plus your profir, you will be laughed out of the door.

    – leaking info. from competing bids.

    – special considerations for narrowing down the competitors, disqualifying bids.

    – in-depth knowledge of the bidder's capability – after a "study" tour or because of special directors.

    – guaranteed profits.

    – guatanteed credit.

    – flexibility in variation order terms – bloat.

  15. Keturunan Jebat

    Bro,

    Itu tak kira bab riba yang finance the whole chain of events…..

    Why don't you go ahead and factor that in?

    Keturunan Jebat

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