If you want to be successful in fraud and corruption, South Africa seems to be the perfect university for the eager pupil.
Jokes aside, the hard-ribbed reality is that corruption, like crime, pays. It is the reason the Mafia have lasted where governments have failed. It’s what keeps the courts and jails filled. Whenever the temptation factor is high, corruption will follow.
The Old English word for best derives from the superlative of its root word, meaning remedy or reparation. For many the best remedy for their own greed is to steal, lie, and cheat. The best way to promotion, it seems, is through corruption and not hard work or strong ethics.
Here are the top five tips to get ahead in the art of the swindle:
1. The best corruption is one that starts at the top
If you’re going to commit fraud, aim high it will lower your chances of getting caught. In South Africa today, you can be a leader in a community, company or country and deflect any consequences to your action by virtue of your position. The more cronies you have benefiting from corruption, the more you will be shielded from the law and public outrage. The spider, it seems, always sits in the middle of the web, not the edges.
2. The best corruption is one that keeps on giving
There are individuals who exploit occasional opportunities to commit fraud or corruption. However, those that benefit most from corruption that is entrenched in South Africa’s economic, social and political structures. It has become a lifestyle, a value system, backed up by a sense of entitlement or, at worst, callous indifference.
3. The best corruption is one that makes good copy
In South Africa, allegations of corruption erupt in the media every day from mismanagement to misappropriation of funds. The big headlines, Twitter flurries, Facebook messages of impotent indignation all detract from any serious debate or inquiry. For all the media smoke, people don’t get to the source of the fire. It sells papers. It doesn’t find solutions.
4. The best corruption is one that masquerades as altruism
No one would argue that BEE or equity strategies have come a long way in levelling the playing fields for previously disadvantaged people in South Africa. However, the dark side is the emergence of the tenderprenuer who hides his corruption behind a complex paper trail. Or a rich businessman using his status for passive income. Instead of creating a fair working environment, we’ve created a greedy middle class.
5. The best corruption is one that remains invisible
For every Nkandla scandal or text book debacle in Limpopo, there are hundreds and thousands of cases of smaller, yet no less insidious, fraud happening across South Africa. These acts take place in companies “both big and small” and can range from fudging the petty cash to fixing a multi-million rand insurance claim. They are normally only detected once the employee leaves the company. In other words, when it is too late.
Finally, let us remember that the word corruption comes from the Latin verb rumpre, meaning to break. Corruption doesn’t just break the law, it also tears the social and moral fabric of a country. It creates a breach in business that allows misconduct to flourish.
The best thing we can do about corruption is talk about it, tackle it, and take people to task for committing it. We must do this in our companies, our political parties, even our own families if need be.
The worst thing? Ignore it. Is this only South Africa? Your opinion would be valuable. I gave mine.
Jenny Reid is the Managing Director of iFacts.