It is well known that worldwide, corruption is normally associated with government’s procurement (purchasing) of products. In its crudest form, ministers of government will tell businesses to increase their bills by additional amounts, and to secretly pay them those additional amounts if they want the job.
Businesses that participate in corruption tend to be too badly managed to successfully compete with their peers. Since ministers shield them from competition, they tend to charge excessive profits for poor quality products. Their goods are normally substandard, require excessive maintenance and premature replacement, and their advice normally results in unnecessary austerity for citizens.
The public must pay for all the costs of corruption, including the excessive profits paid to businesses, the over invoiced amounts paid to ministers, and the maintenance and replacement costs of substandard goods. The government contemptibly extracts these additional costs from the public by increasing taxes.
To get the public to willingly pay these additional taxes, and to provide enough ammunition to extreme political supporters to shame those who do not want to pay, the government will normally tell the public that the additional amounts are required for things like health care and education. After the additional taxes have been collected, these services normally do not improve, but get progressively worse.
To avoid accusations of corruption, many governments allow competitive tendering. However, ministers can still overrule a committee evaluating the tenders, and demand that their protected businesses receive the contracts. These businesses typically submit the highest prices and are the least qualified to do the work.
It is not uncommon for the public to be made to pay ten times the actual value of the work when there is no tendering, and twice the average of all other tenderers when there is tendering. The cumulative bribe that the public is made to pay is at least ten per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.
It should be clarified that there are two types of tendering. When ministers provide the oversight, corruption is almost inevitable. When an external development bank (e.g. CDB or IDB) is providing the oversight, then the risk of corruption is low.
The public does not normally get the opportunity to tolerate or object to corrupt practices because of the sworn secrecy among those who give and receive bribes. The ministers protect the corrupt businesses, the corrupt businesses protect the corrupt ministers, the ministers of the dominant political parties protect each other, and the corrupt businesses who belong to the same industry associations protect each other.
Whistle-blowers are normally discredited with false accusations, imprisoned on false charges, or do not live long enough to tell the tale. Therefore, the public keeps paying the additional taxes, convinced that they are dutifully contributing to the care of their fellow citizens, but oblivious to the fact that they are actually paying the excessive profits of corrupt business persons, and the bribes of corrupt politicians.
There are two critical components that sustain a culture of ministerial corruption in a country. The first is an agreement among established political parties not to prosecute any current or past politician. They are free to accuse each other of corruption in order to excite the public and convince them that there is no such agreement, but there must be no meaningful consequences.
The second component is a politically compromised news media, to silence and discredit any credible third party that plans to effectively address corruption.
Barbados is fortunate to be mostly free of corruption. For over 50 years, we have elected honourable Ministers who were fully aware that facilitating a culture of corruption would only economically ruin Barbados. We have received excellent advice from highly competent consultants that Barbadians should be surrendered to the severe austerity of an IMF program.
Barbados’ unbiased news media declare that our politicians: are right and honourable, only walk the straight and narrow, and are cut from the same cloth as Jesus. They give Solutions Barbados, which is the only political party promising to effectively address corruption, the same coverage as other political parties. Surely, there is a special place in Heaven reserved for those who practise such selfless and righteous acts.
Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer and President of Solutions Barbados