A LITTLE LESSON IN CORRUPTION © Duncan Graham 2005
A few weeks ago a smart new banner began billowing between the power poles at a major intersection down the road.
It was a nice fresh colourful ad, yet to succumb to the fading powers of sunlight and the fretting effects of wind.
It read: KNOW OF CORRUPTION? REPORT TO THE POLICE.
A good message, right for these times of change. From the heart of the capital the president has declared war on KKN (Corruption, Collusion and Nepotism) and here are the cops in a distant province leading the charge against this insidious enemy.
The signs of a new beginning.
So when my friend Mohammed told me his story of an encounter with the big C I urged him to follow the banner’s advice.
He considered this for only a moment. “I don’t think that would be a good idea,” he replied soberly.
Why ever not?
But first you’d better hear his tale.
Mohammed has IT skills so was asked by a neighbour, the principal of his local school, to set up a new computer. This had been bought with money from a government program designed to upgrade education.
After several unsuccessful attempts he opened the casing and peered inside. The ‘new’ computer had been fitted with a very old second-hand hard drive, unable to load modern software.
Mohammed presented the principal with the following options:
1) Seek out the swindler and get him to reinstall the original hard drive.
2) Return the computer and get the money back.
3) Report the matter to the police.
4) Buy and install a new hard drive
Guess what? The school boss chose number 4.
“It’s like this,” said Mohammed in a tone normally used for children.
“If we went back to the shop the manager – if he was there - would deny any knowledge and send us to his supplier who’d be on the far side of the city.
“If he wasn’t sick or overseas on a business trip he’d say he knows nothing. He’d refer us to the wholesaler who’d probably be in Jakarta. And so we’d go on and on up the distribution chain, but getting nowhere.
“No one would take responsibility. At best they’d blame it on a nameless rogue employee who has since left for who knows where.
“Because there are no consumer protection laws as in your country we’d never get the money or the original hard drive back. We’d waste a huge amount of time.”
OK. So go to the cops. They’re asking for reports like this. They need public support.
“If we went to the police maybe they’d want money to investigate. Or they might blame us for not checking inside the computer when it was bought, even though it came as a sealed unit, apparently in the original packaging with all the TESTED tags in place.”
He was silent for a moment before adding a rider: “And maybe the principal is also in on the scam. He’s got his kickback and doesn’t want questions asked.”
So a new hard drive was bought (with more government money) and installed. The circle of deceit remained unbroken and everything went on just as before.
Well, that’s not actually correct. The last time I saw the big banner it was looking rather drab. The lettering was stained and gusts had ripped the anchor strings. There was a tear in one corner.
Clearly it hadn’t been made with quality materials or hung correctly.
As taxpayer’s money was involved I thought it might be worth inquiring who ordered the banner, who made it and what were the specifications. Then again, maybe not.
And Mohammed? Well he used to be positive, cheerful and inclined to optimism, being a young fellow with a working wife and new baby. He often said there were opportunities ahead as the New Order era had passed.
Maybe it’s my imagination but now he doesn’t seem quite so buoyant. Once he had plans. Now he’s inclined to resignation. “What can we do?” is his favourite expression.
Like the banner he’s looking a bit ragged.
(First published in The Sunday Post 11 December 2005)