Corruption is defined as the misuse of public office for private gain. It includes bribery, embezzlement, fraud, self dealing and nepotism among others. There are many instances where corruption has been reported in the public sector. Legislators, police officers and other public officials have often been mentioned in such cases. Between 2004 and 2005, more than one thousand government employees were accused and convicted of corruption. This figure included federal, state and local officials and members of the police force. Politicians, both democrats and republicans, have also been convicted of corruption. Corruption is a vice that destroys humanity. It is especially worse in the public sector. Members of the public depend on the officials for various services. If the same officials are corrupt, the people will loose trust in them and they will be insecure (Johnston).
Corruption occurs due to many reasons. Greed is a motivating factor of corruption. Public officials and politicians who want more will engage in corruption especially if there are no other means of getting what they want. Corruption can also occur because of recognition. Police officers will for instance engage in corruption as a way of getting things done. They will therefore engage in bribing others so that they can get information. The other reason why people engage in corruption is when they want to avoid the repercussions of their evil deeds. Corruption is a vice that grows gradually. One incidence of corruption will lead to many others. Those who are engaged in corruption will therefore do more to cover up for their first mistakes.
There are several types of corruption occurring at different levels and involving different people. Grand corruption is the highest type of corruption. It involves the people who are at the highest level of government. Petty corruption is more common. It involves all those who exchange money or any other compensation in exchange for small favors or special treatment. Endemic corruption integrates corruption in the economic, political and social systems. It happens when the leaders of various public and private institutions engage in any form of corruption. Sporadic corruption does not happen often but it destabilizes the economic resources.
There are various forms of corruption. Bribery is the most common and the most practiced form especially in the public sector. It involves the receiving of money and other valuables so that the one receiving can be persuaded to do something for the one giving the bribe. Favoritism and nepotism is where people in authority or place of influence favor their friend or family members over other people especially in appointments. Cronyism disregards a person’s lack of qualifications when offering them jobs. This form of corruption denies people who are qualified a chance to offer their services, knowledge and skills in different capacities. It is especially bad for a nation’s economy. Other forms of corruption include embezzlement, extortion, kleptocracy, fraud, graft, money laundering among others.
Despite the many studies and research done on the subject of public corruption, some contentious issues still remain. Some of the dealings and activities that were considered corrupt years ago have now become widely accepted that they now seem legal. It has also become more difficult to define corruption especially in public circles. The public is always on the look out to accuse anyone who is suspected of corruption. Some of these cases depend on how people perceive the whole issue of corruption. As Heffernan and Kleinig (3) noted, what a particular group see as corrupt will be seen as a perquisite by another group. To some people, money given during campaign periods is a way of helping in the contribution. To others, they may see this money as a form of corruption or a way to bribe the voters.
Corruption may be done to benefit the individual or the institution or the organization. It may also be done for the greater good of the person or the society. For instance, a police officer may be involved in certain activities so that he or she can arrest a criminal. The officer may therefore bend the procedures, such as offer money to an insider, for information which will lead to the criminal’s arrest. In this case, the police department gets recognition from the public. This “noble Cause” form of corruption is a debatable issue which is open to public opinion. Some may choose to overlook it since it serves the greater good. Others, however, may be strongly opposed to the idea since the people who are supposed to be upholding the law and maintaining order are the same ones who are involved in breaking it.
Some of the issues may not be so clear-cut when defining corruption. Some critics of plea-bargaining see it as a form of bribery. Their argument is based on the fact that the process involves the exchange of one thing to receive another. A defendant usually exchanges information for a reduced sentenced. During the Nazi era, people bribed their way out of Germany or other Nazi stronghold areas. Since bribery is a form of corruption, the people who did this can be accused of the vice. In this case, the people bribed their way because they wanted to escape the terror. Putting this fact into consideration, there are instances where corruption cannot be said to be inherently evil (Heffernan and Kleinig 13).
Despite its bad outcomes, the benefit of corruption is that it reduces the official procedures that a person has to go through. There are some places which are so bureaucratic such that it takes a long time to complete a simple task. Corruption bypasses all the rules and the work is done speedily. However, this benefit does not cover all the evil consequences associated with corruption. There are bureaucratic countries which have a well developed system that is effective. People do not have to bribe in order to get services. The government has a responsibility of providing efficient services to the public. The people have a right to question the government if it fails to provide for them. Another limitation of corruption is that it leads to the unequal distribution of resources. Some people will have more resources than others since they have the authority to acquire them.
In a corrupt society, various forms of corruption will exist which will ensure that only those closest to the ones in authority will get job placement. This will not only lead to unequal distribution of resources, but the resources will also be used in a bad way. A corrupt country does not attract investors. The investors will not have the confidence that their interest will be taken care of so they will be reluctant in investing in such a country, it therefore slows down the economic development of a country. When the police or the judiciary is involved in corruption, it means that justice will not prevail. People live in fear when the society that they live in does not consider their rights or practice justice. Corruption therefore contributes to social underdevelopment.
One of the effects of corruption includes bad publicity of the institution or person. Corrupt people are viewed in a negative manner and the public will not want to know the reason why they were caught in corruption. It also leads to loss of trust and loss of the officers or politicians’ integrity. Corruption erodes the moral values of the society. People who think that they can get away with anything have no respect for the law or for other people. This also leads to increase in crime rates. Criminals know that they can get away with anything and so they will not restrain from committing any crime.
In cases where there is widespread corruption, the people should not see it as the norm. They should rather see it as a vice that is plaguing the society and look for various ways to fight it. Blaming the culture of the society will not help matters. People who blame the society that they are in have no expectations of living a life free of corruption. There are several ways through which people can fight public corruption. The first step is to acknowledge its existence since everything else will be based on this. Gone are the days when people reputed the idea that corruption exists in public offices. Transparency in all departments is a prerequisite in the fight against corruption. All transactions should be carried out in a transparent manner and the public should be allowed access to information. This will ensure accountability and responsibility.
It is the responsibility of the authorities to make sure that people know more concerning corruption. They have an obligation to teach the public about the various forms and types of corruption, what to do when faced with such cases and the penalty for engaging in corruption. The public ought to have access to public information. This will ensure that business is conducted in the right manner. The people should closely scrutinize the information. The leaders should introduce reforms in various sectors. They can implement various measures and form policies to fight against corruption. Heavy penalties ought to be introduced for those who are caught having corrupt dealings. One of the key qualities that a leader ought to have is integrity. A leader who has integrity will avoid any instance of corruption and this will also be reflected in the work place.
The days are long gone when people merely speculated on public corruption. Many cases have been reported on politicians, judges, police officers, public officials and many others in the public sector who have been accused of corruption. The various measures and policies that have been put in place have ensured that these cases have gone down. Everybody has a duty to fight the vice of corruption. A corruption free society is also a free and a just society. Although culture contributes to corruption, it out not to be an excuse for people to continue practicing corruption. Though there is a benefit of corruption, the costs involved are more and the risk is greater. Stringent measures should be put in place and heavy penalties implemented so that the people can live in a corrupt-free society.
Caiden, Gerald and Caiden, Naomi. “Administrative Corruption.” Public Administration Review. 37. 3 (1977): 301 – 309. Print <http://www.jstor.org/pss/974828>
Heffernan, William and Kleinig John. Private and Public Corruption. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004. Print
Johnston David. “F.B.I.’s Focus on Public Corruption Includes 2,000 Investigations.” The New York Times. 11 May 2006. Web. 14 October 2010. Print