Following instructions. It seems pretty simple as a concept. But in most organizations, including government organizations – its not. And it leads to failure of organizations and catastrophic corruption.
I offer one recent example that is fairly typical in some development (and not-so-developing) countries.
Example: A collection of local business people decides to form a collaborative business organization – a chamber of commerce.
The law and regulations are clear, and the group files the forms to open the organization.
Six weeks later, the group is informed that their application has been denied because:
- The logo is not on a separate page.
- There are not 5 corporations requesting the formation of the new organization.
- And several other items.
The attorneys scratch their heads and point out that “these items are not specified in the law and regulations. Moreover, they are in direct conflict with the written instructions AND the example pointed out by the Ministry regulations.”
Answer: “Yes, but this is how we do this.”
Response: “But you told us something different two months ago when we filed the documents for another company . . . I have the documents here . . .”
Answer: “I don’t care. This is how we do it.”
After a second round of “guess what the rules are,” the corporations give up, and pay someone who is a relative of one of the government staff to file the paperwork.
The relative was hired to decipher the confusion of the employees who were unable, or unwilling to follow instructions in their own laws and regulations.
Entire process – months and thousands of hours and more than 15 full time days.
You may think: “Well. Who cares? It was completed, wasn’t it?”
Yes, this particular example was completed. And the burden on the group filing for this organization was relatively small.
But picture this: hundreds of people interacting with this office each year. Each getting different instructions about what to file.
People at the top of the organizations completely clueless about what is and isn’t happening with important business filings.
And other organizations across a government with similar failings.
It is fun and sexy to pretend that anti-corruption is like CSI TV shows.
Catching people at the top of the political food chain using sophisticated forensic and financial investigations is fun. (If the political will exists to do something about it after they have been caught.)
Unfortunately, those tools do not help change the culture that promotes a government culture unable to follow the rules.
After all, who is being taught that those laws and regulations are to be followed? Who is continually checking to see that the rules are being followed?
In the example above, it is a certainty that those employees HAVE NEVER been tested on the law and procedures they are to follow. And it is equally certain that there is no internal training program to keep employees sharp.
The key to long lasting changes in government is in high quality education and administrative training.
Where people cannot read, understand and follow the rules, there is almost no chance to curb corruption.
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