Of performance and corruption | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 03, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, July 03, 2010

Of performance and corruption

WIDESPREAD recognition and public perception prevail that corruption has become the part and parcel of our socio-economic life, simply a culture in Bangladesh. Individual morality, family values, social norms, economic machinery, political discipline, and statutory institutions all have perversely adjusted with the reality of corruption. General people fear to find any corruption free public space and suspect that anticorruption regime could control corruption within a tolerable range.
People's feelings are not meaningless, as Paulo Mauro, an IMF scholar who finds that when corruption becomes rampant and persistent, it establishes multidimensional bad equilibrium with society, economics and politics, and strategic complementary exits everywhere. People believe"If I reject corruption others would not follow me, rather I will miss my share". In other words, people do not trust themselves, and could not trade off their own corruption benefit with the greater benefit of the society and state.
Does it mean that public offices are counterproductive or stigmatised in Bangladesh? Instead, neglecting major national and international recommendations of privatisation and reduction of treasury functions, governments have been increasing the number and scope of public servants. This article accepts that our government is well aware of the deleterious effects of corruption and committed to eradicate it. But it appears that governments get trapped within the maze or monopoly of public servants, or overvalue the contribution of public services.
It is conceived that corruption and performance have been intertwined and thus broad spectrum “zero tolerance” anticorruption initiatives stumble in Bangladesh as they precipitates complementary negative effects on administration and economics. Moreover, people question the morality and legitimacy of the anticorruption leadership. Therefore, government should study the performance continuum and should select strategic spaces within the public service to install site specific intervention and leadership.
This article proposes a hypothetical two dimensional matrix of corruption and performance with qualitative magnitude of low, medium and high of both. Performance here includes every lawful service done lawfully, risk taken to establish the public right and to resist the working influence. On the other hand, corruption means all direct or indirect personal gain either cash or kind through violation, manipulation, misappropriation and deprivation of public offices and citizen's rights. The matrix has nine grids. Every grid has its own continuum ranging in quality, quantity, objective and modus of performance or corruption.
Cash Cow ranks high in performance as well as in corruption magnitudes. They are corrupt but do work, and thought popular when people are not much aware of their rights and take the public works as charity and acts of magnanimity. They usually prevail where strong tradition and perception of corruption exist like in police, land registration, meter reading and custom offices. Sometimes, service takers prefer them to avoid procedural complication, minimise service costs, ensure extra speed, and to appropriate or rent public property or utilities.
Black Cash Cows exploit from people, have less opportunity to incur loss to government like in police, and do not usually hesitate to injure people if their demand is not met. White Cash Cows cause illegal benefit to people but exploit the public funds like in customs, land registration and other revenue offices and harass people for the cause of the government. Very often they make their business smooth by making good public relations, playing tricks and maintaining relationship with employers.
In the performance and corruption matrix, take "Tortoises" as opposite to Cash Cows, low performer and low corrupt. They fear or dislike the risk or hardship of performance and have variable level of greed typically low. Sometimes they hibernate when corruption is risky or pass them safe and clean to build their career. But, they hardly become good performers. When the organisational oversight is very low, people are less aware, individual authority is very high and procedures are too wide, they become opportunists. White elephants are just opposite to opportunists. They perform in affluence and excel in appropriating public resources and facilities, and frequently participate in foreign or rewarding activities. For them, government costs much more than they contribute.
"Malignants" are extremely corrupt. They work only for wrongful gain. Practically, they belong to some powerful segment. They are less in number but very harmful. There should be periodic scan and effective alarm system in administration for their early detection. Extermination or incision is preferred option for Malignant; at best they might be isolated or kept quarantine. Government should remember that “Malignants” are not only dangerous for people and administration but also too dangerous to tarnish the image of the government.
Patriots are opposite to Malignants, they are high performers and low to zero corrupt and are thought to be the backbone of the administration. Patriots are either morally strong or financially solvent or both. They have two major styles; Greens consider other's corruption softly, but Reds declare zero tolerance and full fledged war against corruption. Frequent transfer or withdrawal from appointment accompanies the red patriot. Genuine Patriots in extreme adversity might become rational, working less to reduce risk, but never skew towards corruption. It is often regretted that Patriots are going to be extinct, or endangered.
Rationals operate between Tortoise and Patriot. They contribute their level best to the public service keeping their security and welfare matters to basic level. They are optimistic and cherish to eliminate corruption but maintain a rational status quo believing that their effort could not eliminate corruption overnight, but wait for slow recovery. Rational employees could be best regarded as the mainstream of bureaucracy, and could be treated as a good interface or interim space to truncate corruption to a practical level. Better Alternatives are one grade higher in corruption and performance to Rationals. They love performance but with their due share. They do not injure people or clients if corruption demand is not met.
Broadly, Patriot, Rational and Better Alternative make a good trinity for anticorruption campaign, whereas White Elephant, Malignant and Opportunist form the corrupt trinity and are the root of corruption culture. Cash Cow, Mediocre, and Tortoise could be left for development and correction. In fact, performance styles are not permanent; they transform or change over time, space, and contexts. For example, today's patriot might be a Cash Cow before. Transformation happens in any direction, usually vertical, but towards the adjacent grid. It means that a tortoise might move to an Opportunist or a Rational, but rarely to a Malignant or a Patriot. Thus for confidence, performance records, previous character and job place reputation of an employee should be considered for a pretty good period of time, for instance five years.
This analysis bears much implication to fight against corruption. It helps unmask the representation of corrupt public employees. Anticorruption regime could formulate their strategies regarding each group. This article suggests that Maligants and Patriots should not be seen in one angle and not to be prosecuted under same provisions. Patriot might do some wrong but should be protected. It strongly argues that performance of the corrupt trinity must not be seen with compassion as their performance does not matter positively to the nation. It is flagrantly obvious that the fortune they develop weighs arithmetically much more than they deserve, the injury they commit to nation is geometrically higher than they contribute, and the damage they add to morality is logarithmically greater than the charity they provide to the society. Worst from them is to listening their self narrated story or epic of great performance, and to see their names as saviours of the nation.
The writer is the Director Administration, Police Staff College, Mirpur email:aktaruzzaman68@yahoo.com.au

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