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”


Tales from the Wild: “You give me 30% and I’ll make sure our government partners get their share.”

Offering a bribe

cimg4154.jpg“You give me the 30% of the deal, and I’ll make sure our government partners get their share.”

Excuse me? You’ll do what?

If you work internationally, you will invariably find that people don’t understand the FCPA, and don’t understand what they are asking. I’ve heard it for matters as small as a “cup of tea” in Kenya and a “cup of coffee” in Albania.

I’ve also heard it in blunt and large terms as I quoted above from an actual conversation. Continue reading “Tales from the Wild: “You give me 30% and I’ll make sure our government partners get their share.””

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”

Bribes, Compliance and Situational Ethics

Looking for the Path
Looking for the Path

“That’s not a bribe!”

In a developing nation somewhere, an underpaid policemen struggles with a drunk and disorderly citizen. During the arrest, the policeman’s hand is cut.

The next day, the policeman and the formerly drunken citizen reach an agreement. The citizen is charged with drunk and disorderly conduct, and he pays $5 to the policeman to compensate for the injury to his hand.

This is situation actually happened somewhere. Neither the leadership in the police department or the prosecutors’ office saw any problem with the situation. Continue reading “Bribes, Compliance and Situational Ethics”

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”

Social Media in the Fight Against Corruption

Seizing Control of Social Media.  B. Pinkowski
Seizing Control of Social Media.   B. Pinkowski

Social media offers a tool for everyone and anyone to increase the transparency of actions that people and governments would otherwise hide.  Traditional media, while it can be quite effective on occasion, has some fundamental obstacles to being an effective tool to fight corruption now and in the future. 

“The media is too concentrated, too few people own too much.  There’s really five companies that control 90 percent of what we read, see and hear.  It’s not healthy.”  Ted Turner.

Of course, the truth of Mr. Turner’s words reveals two unavoidable tensions:  (that are discussed further in the remainder of the article) Continue reading “Social Media in the Fight Against Corruption”

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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