This article belongs to With a Grain of Piquant Salt column.
We see corruption generally as a third world problem and a problem which is primarily at the governmental level. But far too frequently, we ignore the role played by the major corporations of the world in starting, propagating and yes sheltering the corrupt guilty.
Over the past few months, I have continuously read a series of stories relating to white-collar crime and still do not think that we are taking this seriously enough. And we are not talking about small fly by night operators, we are talking about giants of the corporate world such as Samsung of South Korea, Boeing of USA, Siemens of Germany and British Aerospace of United Kingdom.
These companies span all aspects of our lives and most importantly, via their products and services also look after our health, national security and economies. Who are we talking about, what has been done and what can be done more to combat this scourge? The hills are alive with the sound of corruption.
Closer to home, we had an entire construction industry in the UK which has now been hauled over the coals. 112 firms have been accused to colluding to fix prices and thereby forcing all of us to pay more for our hospitals, schools and homes. Take a look at the names of the companies here. It is unbelievable, the great and good to the small and tiny of the British construction industry stand indicted of fraud and corruption. You might remember me fulminating about British Aerospace before either on these pages or on my blogs.
But do not take my word for it, here are two reputed outlets which have reported on this indecent affair. The first is from the BBC and the second is from the Guardian (And to think the government is still in power, the management have not been arrested, nothing has been done at all. Remember what happened when the Indian government of Rajiv Gandhi was accused of taking kickbacks from Bofors? It was voted out of power and still criminal cases are rumbling on against several accused. But not in the United Kingdom, where corruption cases after corruption cases against BAE are raised and quietly shelved.
The fact that this is playing havoc with British national security, and leading directly to the UK becoming a terrorist target is completely forgotten by the grand poo bah's. The UK supports these corrupt Saudi princes and their Saudi rebels land here or other Jihadi's use that as an excuse to blow up innocent Londoners. Nip over the pond to the USA and you will find that their national security is also compromised terribly but they were better at stamping it out. Boeing, the aeroplane company, was found guilty of trying to influence a very large contract with the military and the senior management were fired.
Now that's white-collar crime at its worst, playing with the lives of its armed forces. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has currently 2,500 cases of public corruption (50% more than 5 years ago) and 80% uptick on the corporate corruption cases. Nip back to this side of the pond and you will see Siemens, the German conglomerate, enmeshed in a whole host of corruption scandals. One estimate says that € 420 million in payments is suspicious. Can you imagine? That's gobsmacking. And this firm supplied products and services to the Communications & Media, Construction, Energy, Healthcare, Public Services, Retail and Transport sectors.
Where all have wrong decisions have been taken because of the bribery? How many people have needlessly died because the wrong or sub-standard equipment was chosen? Samsung, another giant global conglomerate was in the news recently. The Group chairman Lee Kun-Hee resigned after a series of investigations into tax avoidance and other corrupt practices. South Korea has a long history of corrupt senior executives being found guilt and then being let off. What is the point? Are you seriously telling me that South Koreans are fine with corruption in their main corporates?
It can become very embarrassing. Japan plonked huge amounts of chemical weapons munitions in China which killed off many Chinese back then and ever since because those have leaked into the ground and water. Now Japan is already in the cross-hairs because it has never really apologised for its atrocious behaviour in WWII. But then, in 1997, it agreed to clean up its own mess and pay restitution and compensation. Guess what? The clean up process was hit by a huge corruption mess when Japanese consultants who were supposed to help the clean up process diverted the money to their own nefarious needs. The entire clean up process is now delayed and more people are dying.
How wonderful is the image of Japan now? But before you think that I am simply taking up single incidents and blaming entire countries, take a look at the corruption perception index at Transparency International. Why is the United Kingdom 12th on the list? Germany is way back in 16th place followed by Japan in 17th place, France in 19th place and USA in 20th place. Who are the top 5? Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, Singapore and Sweden. No wonder that their human development indices are also up high, their educations standards are high and their people are happy. The OECD has done some sterling work in increasing the visibility of this pernicious problem.
Take a look at these two OECD websites here and here. But this is the weakness in this entire chain. The idea was, the OECD will come up with a convention, then the convention will be signed by all the OECD members, the relevant laws enacted in their domestic law books, and then they would crack down on the miscreants. The United Kingdom status report shows that the UK has done few things but has a very long way to go yet. That and instances such as the BAE case are the reason why people think the United Kingdom has a very long way to go yet before it improves its corrupt image.
The BAE affair, for example, has done nothing to help in that perception either. Read the OECD reports on various countries here to see the progress made or not made as the case might be. Non-governmental bodies such as Transparency International do help out as much as they can, but at end of the day, it boils down to citizens like you and I to protest against these corporate bodies committing corruption. Write a note to their head offices and complain. Let them know. Write a blog about it.
This is what people do not appreciate in the government and corporates. They do not know or understand the power of the net. When each and every one of us who is upset that our tax dollars and our children are faced with life and security threatening corrupt banks, multinational firms and companies writes their outrage on the internet, it stays online. Then their share price will suffer, they will not have talent to join in and their management will suffer.
For example, I will never ever recommend to my children that British Aerospace is a good company to work for. Do you wish your children to be known to be working for corrupt firms? Now that might be an old outdated concept, of honour and reputation, but no, I certainly would not suggest doing that. I will not purchase a mobile phone from Samsung and will look at Siemens with a jaundiced eye. I do not think I will have much choice about flying Boeing planes but I can express my disappointment. Do not wait for your member of parliament or your judge to deal with it, gentle readers, these gentlemanly maggots are threatening you, your children and our societies right now, do something about it now. All this to be taken with a grain of salt! Technorati Tags: Corruption,United Kingdom,Japan,South Korea,USA,Germany