24September2017

Corruption & Conflict of Interest Acts: Root Causes

VANGUARD  Business Nov 7, 2010 
By Okechukwu Onwuka
 
“One should guard against preaching to young people success in the customary form as the main aim in life. The most important motive for work in school and in life is pleasure in work, pleasure in its result and the knowledge of the value of the result to the community”
Albert Einstein 1879-1955 German Born Brilliant American Theoretical Physicist.
In making judgments, the Early Kings were perfect, because they made moral principles the starting point of all their undertakings and the root of everything that was beneficial. This principle, however, is something that persons of mediocre intellect never grasp.
 
Not grasping it, they lack awareness, and lacking awareness, they pursue profit. But while they pursue profit, it is absolutely impossible for them to be certain of attaining it. Lü Bu-wei 246 B.C. Chinese Prime Minister under Emperor Ying Zheng
 
In the last two weeks, we reviewed some of the endemic conflict of interest risks in the country. In keeping with one of the basic principles of risk management which prioritizes the identification of the causes that lead to or contribute to a risk concern, we’ll briefly examine some causes and motivations for corruption and various conflict of interest acts.
 
When the root causes are identified, the chances of eliminating or minimizing the risk become optimized.
 
Of course we still recognize the importance of mitigative measures which serve to reduce the effect of risk consequences but the costs of prevention are usually far lower than mitigation costs when the benefits are factored in. So what are these root causes?
 
From my observations and studies, I have identified some factors that I see as being major contributors to the conscious decision in individuals to steal or cheat others irrespective of the level or class of stealing.
 
Armed robbery, cooking the books, corruption in government, plagiarism, cheating in exams, inflated contracting, kick-backs, petty stealing, buying of certificates, promotion manipulation, unethical recruitment and any form of conflict of interest act amounts to stealing.
 
Someone is being robbed. In cash or kind.  It doesn’t sound nice but that’s the basic truth. Some of the causative factors include; Fear of tomorrow, Myopic Perception of Success, Eroded Societal Value System and Disconnect from the centre.
 
*Fear of tomorrow. A common fear in man results from the uncertainty of the future. No one knows for certain what tomorrow holds. Even with the best of plans and strategies, the future remains uncertain.
 
Throughout history, man has been known to go to great lengths to provide a measure of guarantee for the future. Countries pile up weapons of warfare even in peace time, just to be ready in the event that an enemy country decides to attack.
 
Or a friendly country turns enemy. Or better still; develop enough military sophistication to deter potential enemies from even daring to challenge you. Parents encourage their children to study courses that are viewed as high demand, high wage or high visibility professions. Any brilliant child must then study Law, Engineering, Medicine or Accountancy.
 
In a similar reasoning, getting a job in a multinational corporation is seen as the ultimate security for the future. Unfortunately, having worked in a number of multinational corporations myself for over 20 years, I did not see a widespread confidence among the employees or directors.
I observed that the jobs or positions did not eliminate the fear for the future. In some cases, the fear tended to increase shortly after securing the jobs. To manage the fear, you’ll find employees with jobs that many envy end up either engaging in very sharp practices or start energy intensive side companies funded by either their regular salaries or loans guaranteed by their employment.
 
Even the side businesses or sharp practices stand little chance of ever erasing the fear of tomorrow. Politicians, knowing that they have a limited time in office, for the same reasons, steal as much as possible to hedge against the uncertainties afterwards. Same goes for many in positions of authority.
*Myopic Perception of success. It is quite common in the world for success to be viewed in the customary form of money and material possessions such as cars, houses and titles. In Nigeria, this myopic perception of success has assumed alarming levels.
 
This has inevitably led many to view any effort, task or activity that will not yield instant cash as useless and a waste of time. In the opening quote, The great Physicist, Albert Einstein advised that “One should guard against preaching to young people success in the customary form as the main aim in life. The most important motive for work in school and in life is pleasure in work, pleasure in its result and the knowledge of the value of the result to the community”.
Anyone who understands that the most important reason for schooling and working lies in the satisfaction that comes from knowing and seeing the positive results that your contribution brings to the society, will find it extremely difficult to pursue vain money or be corrupt.
 
But how can we make this radical change when a large segment of the moral leadership in the country promote the concept of success and breakthroughs in the forms of new jobs, promotion, increase in profits, new cars, new houses, overseas travel, obtaining US and UK Visas, winning Visa Lotteries and others with no reference to societal value addition!
 
The irony in the perception of money and material things as primary definitions of success is that real enduring wealth can only come from sustainable value creation and addition to the society.
  
When you chase after value addition (solving society problems), you not only derive lasting joy from seeing the impact of your work, but you find that money pursues you. And because you never chased after the money, you’ll remain focused on further problem solving ventures. Ultimately, you end up having more money than you need.
 
The same mindset allows you to continue the society problem solving activities by contributing generous cash amounts to Charity. People who understand this principle know very well that even if they lose 100% of their wealth today, under a new name and in a new locating, starting from scratch, they’ll become millionaires and billionaires again in a few years or less. The happy and truly successful millionaires all fit this profile.
 
“One should guard against preaching to young people success in the customary form as the main aim in life. The most important motive for work in school and in life is pleasure in work, pleasure in its result and the knowledge of the value of the result to the community” —Albert Einstein, 1879-1955.
 
In making judgments, the Early Kings were perfect, because they made moral principles the starting point of all their undertakings and the root of everything that was beneficial. This principle, however, is something that persons of mediocre intellect never grasp. Not grasping it, they lack awareness, and lacking awareness, they pursue profit. But while they pursue profit, it is absolutely impossible for them to be certain of attaining it. Lü Bu-wei 246 B.C. Chinese Prime Minister under Emperor Ying Zheng
 
This article started last week and I’ve retained these two quotes because of their relevance to the entire piece. We treated the first two causative factors —Fear of tomorrow and Myopic Perception of Success. Today, we conclude with the remaining two; Eroded Societal Value System and Disconnect from the centre.
·Eroded Societal Value System.  A few quotes from some eminent personalities are presented to underscore the significance of an individual or society’s value system.
 
“We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly”. Aristotle 384 B.C.-322 B.C., Greek philosopher and scientist, student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great
 
“It is important that an aim never be defined in terms of activity or methods. It must always relate directly to how life is better for everyone. . . . The aim of the system must be clear to everyone in the system”. The aim must include plans for the future. The aim is a value judgment.
 
Dr. W. Edwards Deming, 1900-1993, American Statistician I conceive that the great part of the miseries of mankind are brought upon them by false estimates they have made of the value of things. Benjamin Franklin 1706-1790, American politician, inventor and scientist
 
It is clear that we have developed false estimates of the value of things. The things which make sense today are those that have the smell of instant money. Attributes such as patience, perseverance, loyalty and commitment belong to distant memory. There was a time in this country when people of dubious character were never allowed to associate freely with members of the community. Parents will not accept money or gifts from their children unless they are sure of their source of income. Prophets refuse gifts from people of questionable character.
 
In those days, anyone who is a member of your religious group automatically gains your trust as an ethical person. When people confess to know and love God, their behavior truly shows deep moral rectitude. But these days, we are recognized as a deeply religious people and at the same time assessed to be among the most corrupt in the world.
 
This implies that the decline has gotten to the point where our religious inclination now has very little bearing on our ethical standards. A new value system has come to prominence; the worship of money. Any path, means or perceived strategy that will produce wealth without sweat becomes very attractive. The result is widespread aggressiveness in the pursuit of wealth at the expense of employers, employees, country, community, children and the unborn child. With expensive and fuel guzzling Jeeps, designer clothing, visibility, and all the external shows of wealth all around the Nigerian youth, what is the motivation for the them to pursue a different path?
 
Disconnect from the centre. When people are disconnected from the centre, it is extremely difficult to achieve a harmonisation of purpose. In Nigeria, people find better expression of identity through tribal affiliations. It would thus appear as if Nigeria belongs to nobody and as such the primary purpose of seeking elective office is to get a slice of the national cake and run back to the safety of your tribe. Unfortunately, this is another short-sighted sentiment.
 
There is no Yoruba, Hausa, Ibo or Itsekiri passport. And, in real terms, you find that even among the tribes and the states, there is very little unity. Tribalism is just a tool to promote bogus and selfish zoning agenda or justify the conscience when committing wilful acts of betrayal. The ethnic segregation cuts deep into the fabrics of individual states or tribe. The creation of more states from 12 to 36 has not resulted in better relations. Agitations continue for creation of additional states.
 
Villages continue to split into mushroom-sized autonomous communities. With this mindset, when shall we get to the point where more people will give to a united country than the majority stealing from the centre as a means of hedging against an uncertain tomorrow? In organisations, there are executive management staff members, senior and junior staff, and sometimes contract staff. On the one hand, the segregation can serve to motivate people in the lower cadres to aspire towards promotion to higher levels. On the other hand, the same condition can alienate a high percentage of employees who are convinced that the only way to settle scores with management is to steal as much as they can.
 
When these groups consider that no social penalties will result from the action, particularly when some of the goodies can be spread around the family and friends, there is little incentive to remain upright, diligent and committed.
 
In the end, it is our collective future that is being destroyed. As for me, I know that it will not continue like this forever. There has to be a country remaining for our future generations. My confidence is built on the knowledge that many exist in this country who are doing the right things and in the right way. Sooner or later, the impact of their perseverance, dedication and commitment will show.
 
It will surely show.