The Grenville Phillips Column – Messy Business
Corruption trials are messy affairs. If the receivers are tried, then the payers will likely be revealed and reputations can be damaged. Charging politicians with corruption can also lead to speculation that every procurement decision within that ministry had a bribe component.
Based on the experiences of other countries, simply charging and convicting people for corruption does not stop subsequent bribes from being paid and received. This is because the system that encourages corrupt practices has not been changed. The private sector can still justify paying bribes as a cost of doing business, while the receivers can still justify it as the cost for certain business to participate in the national economy.
Charging persons with corruption increases the risk that the transaction will be made public. In business, the normal consequence of an increased risk is to charge higher costs to compensate for that increased risk. Therefore, the bribe percentage will likely increase.
When government purchases have bribe components, then the public must pay this additional cost of doing business. For the benefit of any who may still be unaware, on construction projects globally, the corruption component is typically 10% to 30% of the cost of projects with no effective oversight. The bribe component is normally recovered from the public through increased taxation.
Politicians are skilled at the art of getting over-taxed populations to feel grateful for the privilege of paying additional taxes. A typical method is to identify an essential service that the public is already paying multiple times over the actual cost of a well-managed service. The public is then informed that additional taxes are required to maintain that service.
Since most people want to maintain health-care, education, sanitation, water, police and other important services, then they willingly pay what is demanded. However, this system of extracting additional taxes relies on political operatives to denigrate anyone who happens to question the necessity of the additional taxes.
Is there an effective solution to get corrupt persons to repay us the amounts they forced us to pay through increased taxes, without a messy spectacle of a trial? Fortunately there is. Solutions Barbados designed a very simple, very economical but highly effective system to achieve both objectives.
First, a 3-month amnesty allows any person who received or paid a bribe to refund taxpayers with the full value of the bribe. Thereafter, anyone with knowledge of corrupt practices can anonymously report them and be rewarded with the full value of the bribe. However, both payers and receivers must then pay a fine of 10 times the value of the bribe.
This fair method does not require the high costs to manage the highly complex Integrity in Public Life bill, with its glaring loopholes for guilty persons, unfortunate removal of protections for innocent persons, and political management that leaves it highly vulnerability to partisan political control.