Gradients of Anti-Corruption

Gradients in Anti-Corruption.  B. Pinkowski
Gradients in Anti-Corruption. B. Pinkowski

Forensic investigations, by definition, occur AFTER something has taken place.  Despite this basic truth, many Anti-Corruption institutions are focused on “Forensic Accounting” and investigation as part of their Corruption Prevention Programs.

They bring in law enforcement and criminal investigators as their primary tools in Corruption Prevention.

This is a bit like trying to stop people from murder by spending money on Crime Scene Investigators.  The crime has already been committed.

Corruption Prevention is primarily those activities designed on Preventing the corruption crimes from occurring.

Let’s look at the basic gradients of Anti-Corruption (See Figure Above).


The starting point for all anti-corruption work is to develop awareness that certain behavior is unacceptable.  The behavior may be destructive, harmful to the person, his family, community or mankind.

If a person is unaware that some behavior is unacceptable he will have no reason to avoid the behavior.

Take for example the Anti-Corruption Official that allows his family full time use of a vehicle donated by foreign governments for government purposes.  If this official comes from a culture where the tribal big man is the final word on all matters, then he may not be aware that his wife’s use of a vehicle intended exclusively for official anti-corruption activities is unacceptable.

Some people will look at this situation and conclude, “Of course this official knows what he is doing is wrong.  Its his job to know the law about such things.”

Yet working in anti-corruption, I frequently find that the awareness of the legal expectations evaporates when in conflict with a culturally ingrained truth.

Where what we believe to be true and acceptable is in conflict with what we have learned through academic education, it is fairly typical to find a cognitive blind spot – an area of unawareness in a person’s observations of themselves and others.

Those of us who were once children will recall that the process of replacing one truth about our own behavior, with another, is not a simple matter of being told.

There is an education process involved that requires examination of the full impact, benefits and costs, of our behavior.

In anti-corruption, this education process has to be the starting point.

This is true in anti-corruption as well as other important issues such as human rights, gender equality and Rule of Law.

Education requires more than producing the laws and regulations and teaching people that the laws exist.  Global experiences with human rights, gender equality and anti-corruption have shown that new laws are not enough to create change.

Awareness programs must also focus on increasing awareness of the truth of such matters within the cultural context.

I have created a simple and adaptable awareness program on How to Teach Ethics to Government Employees that has produced excellent results.  I invite you to take a look at it an adapt it for your audiences.

Brian Pinkowski

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