Orville Taylor | Corruption – not what you may think
We have hope. My young colleague, Corey Robinson, in a story carried in the current issue of this newspaper, sought my comment on a survey conducted by Paul Bourne on behalf of the paper.
Not surprisingly, we Jamaicans believe that there is rampant corruption in the society. From the report, 82 per cent of respondents consider a range of activities they have participated in as corruption. Importantly, they consider that corruption is a major problem, registering 7.7 on a one to 10 scale.
But wait! Before you cut your wrist or tie the rope around your neck about how corrupt the society is, when you dig deep into the details of the research you will find that the pattern is really consistent with what we have been saying over the last decade or so.
Several studies, including the one conducted by Transparency International (TI), and another by a team comprising Vanderbilt University, The University of the West Indies, and the USAID, have reported similar findings.
The latter, contrary to the grand narrative, revealed that just under 10 per cent of Jamaicans had ever been victimised by corruption, meaning that they have had to pay a bribe to a public official for any kind of service.
The TI study carried out around 2014, showed that among the categories of public officers who were reported by Jamaicans as having been paid a bribe, only the police went into double figures, with a rate of 12 per cent.
Every other sector, such as education, taxes, and legal services, registered below 10 per cent. What this demonstrates is that inasmuch as there are glaring cases from time to time, most Jamaicans have never had to participate in processes of venality in dealing with government officials.
Two categories in Bourne’s research stand out. First, 22 per cent of respondents indicate that they had received a ‘bly’ regarding their access to public services and/or benefits. A similar number relates to persons who have received money from politicians to vote for their party.
Being paid to vote is tantamount to corruption. Marcus Garvey said this in his 1929 manifesto.
However, nothing is particularly tear jerking or frightening about the survey. It is much of ‘told you so’ rather than an earth-shaking finding.
Jamaicans are generally good people. Therefore, more than 70 per cent of those surveyed declared that if they received money, goods, or services in error, they would return it. The truth is that most of us are not thieves. Were this so, the entire country would be in chaos and then disintegrate into anarchy.
Yet there is something hidden somewhere in the ‘bly’ and the connected five per cent of respondents who have indicated that they have used their power or position to access personal benefits.
Somewhere in the data is the flip side of the coin that a percentage of our population has been victimised because they did not succumb or suck up to persons in power or authority.
A story that I have been trying hard to tell for the past 20 years is that indecent work, including unfair treatment at the workplace, is abuse. Given all the literature and research on abuse, the conclusion is inevitable that occupational detriment has not only fuelled low productivity and poor work morale, but frighteningly, it is connected to the rate of violence in the society.
WHAT HAPPENS AT WORKPLACE
Having looked at domestic violence in an earlier survey and the finding that professional women were the main victims of spousal abuse in the COVID-19/post-COVID-19 period, it is indispensable that we uncover what happens at the workplace.
Sexual harassment, which typically affects women in the world of work three times more than men, is a form of indecent work. When coupled with quid pro quo, it makes the recipient of the behaviour into a victim.
Doubtless, sexual harassment is not gender specific. Indeed, it is intra-sexual, inter-sexual, and may even be carried out by peers or subordinates. However, when it is committed by a manager or supervisor, it is an insidious form of corruption.
Where it is quid pro quo, if the target is compliant and bows to the pressure, it is a corrupt practice even if she or he never complains and accepts the benefit. On the other hand, where the object of the sexual advance rejects it and is then denied work entitlements, this is straight abuse of power and thus, corruption.
And for those who may think that sexual harassment is not an issue if the recipient is ‘with it’ from day one. Learn this! Other workers who observe the behaviour and are therefore affected by it because it creates a ‘hostile work environment’ are also victims of sexual harassment.
It is of note that other studies in human resources development have revealed that more than 50 per cent of persons who gain employment do so after being advised of the vacancy and being ‘recommended’ by others. This is a corruption window through which this form of labour abuse often creeps.
Still, there is a basis for the high corruption perception that Jamaicans consistently share. Separate from victimisation based on corruption, we need to find other instruments to measure corruption in high places.
So let us track contracts, political contributions, appointments of public officials, and other things that the powerful do for other powerful.
- Dr Orville Taylor is senior lecturer at the Department of Sociology at The University of the West Indies, a radio talk-show host, and author of ‘Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets’. Send feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.