Refugees, Failed Nations and Corruption

Refugees and Corruption
Refugees and Corruption

The weekly death toll and ongoing human tragedy of the refugee crisis internationally is stunning for several reasons.  First, despite all of the talk (and talk and talk) about humanitarian principles and human rights, the international community has not moved beyond shutting borders, denying visas, and tent cities to deal with the several refugee crises occurring around the world.

These crises are, of course, a direct result of the decay of nations – corruption.   Continue reading “Refugees, Failed Nations and Corruption”


Punishment, Whistle Blowers and Anti-Corruption

Preventing Organizational Corruption
Preventing Organizational Corruption

Punishment as a Behavior Modifier

If you read this blog, you know that I focus heavily on prevention of corruption and decay of organizations over investigation and prosecution. I believe that investigation and prosecution are critically important, but are fundamentally incomplete as anti-corruption tools.

We understand this from our everyday experience. Let’s take the traffic cop. Every day he hands out tickets for driving violations. Day after day. More tickets and more violations.Cover-NewToolsforFightingCorruptioninOrganizations

He knows his presence frightens some people into proper behavior. But mostly it does not. The traffic policeman, from his point of view, comes to believe that nothing can be done about traffic violations. By and large, we share his view. Continue reading “Punishment, Whistle Blowers and Anti-Corruption”

Corruption Prevention and the Art of War

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

The Highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy’s plan. Sun Tzu

The key idea in corruption prevention is . . . prevention. To stop something from happening before it can occur. Indeed, prevention is the heart of “anti-corruption.” This is discussed further in Gradients of Anti-Corruption and is depicted in the graphic above.

The Gradients are:

  1. Awareness
  2. Prevention
  3. Detection
  4. Correction

Continue reading “Corruption Prevention and the Art of War”

Decay of Social Agreements

Disagreement about the purpose of streets and sidewalks.
Disagreement about the purpose of streets and sidewalks.

Most corruption is well beyond “simple” violations of the law.  Corruption is the action of process of decay of something.  Criminal forms of corruption are violations of the written laws.

Other forms of corruption erode away the foundations of the social agreements we make about how society should function.  For example, in the photo above, there are cars parked all over the sidewalks, and people are forced to walk in the streets.  This happens in many countries and cities around the world and creates a tsunami of small obstacles for pubic policy makers that are trying to build economies. Continue reading “Decay of Social Agreements”

Fear, Social Media and Anti-Corruption

Corruption Complaint form
Can’t I Just Complain About it on Twitter?

When I write about the role of social media and anti-corruption I typically get a couple of types of responses.

Group 1.   Social Media is Chaos

This group contains people who are concerned about the undisciplined and seemingly ungovernable nature of social media.  It is, in the view of some of my colleagues, a dangerous environment where lies and mean spirited comments can take on a life of their own and the originators of the comments are not accountable for the damage they may cause. Continue reading “Fear, Social Media and Anti-Corruption”

How to Strengthen Corruption Prevention Through Mid-Level Management

Politicians Talk About Corruption – Brian Pinkowski
Leadership in Anti-Corruption
Leadership in Anti-Corruption

Leadership sets the example.

It’s as true in the leadership of Nations and corporations as it is in the leadership of small government departments.

Where leadership abuses or misuses the authority of their position, the entire organization decays beneath them.

Continue reading “How to Strengthen Corruption Prevention Through Mid-Level Management”

Integrity Standards, Awareness and Cultural Standards



In an interesting discussion about the possibility of a “Global Integrity Standard,” a friend of mind offered the following touch of realism:

“Focussing on getting a better codification of an integrity standard is not without merit, especially when there are either – cultural issues which can confuse agreement on what are breaches of acceptable integrity, or, – cultural issues which can be dressed-up and co-opted to legitimise self-interested corruption. However, in many jurisdictions, having a better written document setting out standards of integrity will have little if any impact on behaviour.”  Shane Cave

I am in agreement with my good friend, Mr. Cave.

Codification of an integrity standard as the result of reasoned agreement is a good start, but there are many and significant cognitive and cultural conflicts that prevent people from following through.  I discussed this in Gradients in Anti-Corruption.

I am sure I am not alone in this, but I have run into many examples of government or business representatives that openly discuss the new and written rules and demonstrate apparent awareness of these required behaviors.  However, these same officials will turn around and carry out behavior that is in direct violation of those rules.

These individuals can be found in the governments of developing countries.  However, they are just as easily found in the government of “developed countries” and donor organizations.

It is an incomplete analysis to say that these individuals are corrupt or dishonest in their intentions.  While they may be flawed human beings (like the rest of us), they are basically good and decent people.  I believe the problem is more fundamental.  I find lack of awareness and the inability to reconcile the integrity standards with cultural norms for acceptable behavior.

I have see this borne out when I have discussed the seemingly contradictory behavior and been met with confusion from the officials.  They couldn’t see the contradiction.  It was as if I had begun speaking in a language they didn’t  understand.  (For example the Anti-Corruption Official that provides his wife 100% personal use, including fuel and maintenance, of donor or government vehicle.)

Behavior that is acceptable within the cultural norms was cognitively “cordoned off” from evaluation of the behavior against the legal or newly codified integrity standards.

They were unaware of the contradictions and struggled with reconciliation of the evaluative criteria between culture and law.

Successful development and issuance of an integrity standard, whether a matter of criminal law or the softer notions of integrity, requires substantive attention to identifying and overcoming the “cognitive blind spots”, and reconcile personal and institutional behavior to alignment with the new standard.

Brian Pinkowski

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