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Archive for the ‘Jim’s Strong Opinions’ Category

Corruption in Public Office – Baksheesh in Developing Countries

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

Corruption in Public Office – Baksheesh in Developing Countries


by James Murray

Introduction – A Discussion

What follows is a discussion document.  The collection of ideas are my own take on a major problem facing developing countries that is holding back their economies – that of bureaucratic corruption.
If you wish to scroll straight to my template of proposals, please do so.

If you wish to feedback on this discussion I would ask that you email me on


There are a myriad reasons why the collection of proposals here may not work.

However, I am interested only in sensible suggestions to add to or modify these proposals to enhance the chances to make them work.


The collection of remedies are meant to be taken together as taken piecemeal their effect will be weakened.

However, I do recognise that change on a nationwide scale, change in how a society actually works, and change to its culture is always going to be slow process – if indeed it is at all possible…


I do hope that this document will evoke consideration, comment, add to the debate, but then be able to be worked up into a practical template that will offer an answer to the corruption we find cripples so many developing countries.


This document is based on two premises:

  • That corruption of Public Officials is not an insoluble problem – an answer does exist.
  • That democratic accountability is an essential part of that answer.


    So, why is change necessary?
    Why is public office corruption so important?
    I give my list of main reasons, but there are more:

    1)    Everyone conspires in the crime
    Practically all developing countries have laws against bribery, and so theoretically corruption of local Officials should be controlled by the criminal justice system.
    However, in the countries to which this discussion applies, there has developed a culture of bribery of public officials, and so typically laws made against it are for the most part ignored by the populace, and of course by the bureaucracy.
    Most people have to use a public service at some time or other and when they are faced having to make an illegal payment to obtain that service, they become part of the crime as well as the official demanding the bribe.

    Thus in those countries, most people become a ‘Briber’ or a ‘Bribee’ ( the ‘Bribee Official’).

    2)   Such a ‘Criminalised’ populace are more likely to evade tax
    It is inevitable then that people will distrust public servants, and the politicians supposedly controlling them, believing ‘they’ are all corrupt.
    The effect of this is that they are likely to use this belief as justification for evading tax themselves.
    After all, it is easy to see this tax evasion as ‘victimless’.
    Hence there is a vicious circle, where, with other similar petty dishonesties, a dishonesty merry-go-round occurs which prolongs this undercurrent of dishonesty where a tax-free, cash-in-hand, black economy develops and so becomes ingrained.

    3)    Nepotism by public Officials
    In most third world countries the loyalty of family and friend is basic to the culture.
    Concomitant with that is an expectation that those with money or power should ‘help’ their friends and family members to secure advantages and, specifically, jobs.

    The effects of this nepotism inevitably results in the better able are passed over for those less able.
    It gets worse as it is human nature that those that feel ‘protected’ are probably not as interested in doing a good job as those who know they have to strive to keep that position.
    And even worse, often ‘non-jobs are created for relatives where no real position exists – and so public funds end up carrying a load of useless salary expenses.

    4)    Those with talent are attracted to a corrupt public service
    If it seen that the way to gain security, wealth, status and power is to enter a burgeoning public service, then that society will begin to diminish.
    So, young, talented people enter a corrupt bureaucracy which they see as the only real way to get on in life.
    Their talents are lost to the wealth-creating commercial world, and so to the general community.

    I maintain that private enterprise and entrepreneurship should be the source of prosperity for individuals and so the nation plugs into their wealth creating energy.

    Where security of working for the bureaucracy becomes the ‘first prize’, entering ‘risky’ private ventures or setting one up becomes the ‘second prize’.
    And this completes the malaise where safety and security replaces commercial vibrancy.
    When those you would normally expect to create wealth to keep the nation healthy and growing, are diverted into a bloated government bureaucracy, long term wealth creation is put into jeopardy, and, with that, the future of the country.


    Suggested Solution – a collection of Initiatives

    This culture of ‘baksheesh’ can be a deeply ingrained and is so very difficult to change.
    The path outlined below is fraught with obstacles.  However, I believe the series of initiatives that follow go towards dealing with those obstacles.
    I list them here and then below amplify and explain each of them below:


  1. Change the criminal law to limit bribery as criminal only to ask for and to take a bribe but not to offer or pay a bribe
  2. Financially reward the Briber who reports the bribery act, whoever initiated it
  3. Take this reward amount from the salary of the Bribee Official
  4. Give the above immunity to the briber for a limited period only


  5. Elect local senior government officials
  6. Initially give elected officials/politicians a shorter term of office; only increasing this term after each election
  7. Trust the democratic process 
  8. Use technology to ensure fair elections
  9. Produce an accurate Electoral List
  10. Pay people to vote


  11. Ensure a Free Press
  12. Allow Social Media
  13. Enforcement – Aid depends on the gradual taking up of these measure

  1. Change the criminal law to limit bribery as criminal only to ask for and to take a bribe but not to offer or pay a bribe

    This is the start of breaking the ‘conspiracy’ between a Briber and the Bribee Official.

    You see, there is always such a conspiracy.  In all the third world countries there are laws against bribery.
    Upon discovery of the illegal act, the Briber will get into as much trouble as the Bribee Official – sometimes even if the Briber subsequently informs on the Bribee Official. They are both seen as part of a criminal act.

    It makes no sense for Bribers to incriminate themselves by reporting the transaction…

    A possible answer has been mooted (the idea is not mine) make it illegal to seek or take a bribe, but not to offer or pay a bribe.
    That way, the Briber can readily report a Bribee Official for asking for a bribe or accepting it if it is the offers by the briber.
    Under this system, there will then be no comebacks to the Briber – their act not being illegal.

    I suggest immunity even if it was they who initiated the ‘deal’ with the corrupt Official – my reasons for supporting this agent provocateur act are below.

    However, let us examine first what would result from allowing the above immunity for the Briber.

    The main consequence would be that any Bribee Official could not be confident that their illegal act in asking for, or receiving a bribe, would not be reported after the transaction.
    They could not assume that the Briber would refrain from informing upon them – there being no consequences for the Briber.


  2. Reward the Briber who reports the bribery act

    Let us make it even more likely that the illegal transaction is reported, perhaps by arranging a ‘reward’ for reporting illegal bribery.
    Let us say, a reward of ten times the value of the amount of the bribe, with the conditions that they report the bribe that was either requested or accepted when it was proffered and the reporter gives evidence in the prosecution.
    If the prosecution is not successful this amount is reduced.

    To be ‘able to prove’ a bribe, an obvious method is that the Briber records their evidence of the bribery – note that just about every mobile phone allows the recording of a conversation.

    You can see that with this addition, it becomes not only a defensive move on the part of the Briber to report the corrupt Official, it also becomes profitable for the briber to report the deal.

    I proffer the figure of ten times the amount of the bribe as being sufficient to attract the Briber to report a corrupt official.
    However, this multiple is a matter of judgement – possibly determined by trial and error.
    It could end up that twice the bribe is sufficient, or a greater multiple than ten.

    But can society afford to pay such a reward to those reporting corruption?
    The next section addresses this.

  3. Take the reward amount from the salary of the Bribee Official

    Baksheesh is so engrained in some developing societies that it is said that a majority of public officials are involved.
    Wholesale sacking after a purge on dishonesty of such a large tranche of officialdom would be counter-productive to the efficient running of that society’s government.

    The temporary answer is to make it so that, once the bribery of the Official is proved in a court, that Official can be allowed to stay in their position for a set number of proved transgressions.
    However, the condition for this keeping of their 0office is that the reward figure, the multiple of the bribe taken, is deducted from their salary.
    It follows that, quite shortly, public servant bribery will be made so expensive for public officials, that it should begin to wither on the vine.
    Perhaps it is too much to hope that it can be eliminated straight away.
    However, I maintain that making it profitable for the person reporting that dishonest Official, and costly for that Official must have an effect.

    Allowing the Official to stay in their position merely recognises that changing a deeply ingrained way of life may take some time in the transition.
    However, once the effects of asking for or accepting bribes are seen to be felt and accepted by officialdom, I maintain that necessary changes should begin to take shape.
    As acts of bribery begin to become the exception, the number of such Officials is low enough to be without damage to the government should they change to sacking future bribes.

  4. Give immunity for a limited period only

    But of course, most right-thinking people feel it is anathema to suggest that a Briber be so immune from prosecution.
    I answer this by suggesting that conditions be attached to this immunity.
    Let us say that such immunity and reward only applies if the briber ‘immediately’ reports the dishonest act of the Bribee Official, or within a set period of time of, say, seven days.
    After that period, failure to do so report the Bribee Official would mean that upon the ‘deal’ being discovered, both parties would be treated as part of the criminal act, basically a criminal conspiracy, if discovered.
    In such circumstances, a Briber would think hard and long during the immunity period, on whether to report the Bribee, where there would be no criminal consequences.

    Let us make it then very easy to report the act, let us say, by making available ready printed complaint forms to report such an act at the exit to all public buildings and/or on the Internet.

    For my part, I would be quite happy to allow the Briber to have complete immunity for a much longer period than seven days, as then the Bribee Official will have that much longer to worry about whether they were going to be accused of their corruption.


  5. Elect local senior Officials

    The most important restraint we have in the West against corruption is a proper democracy, local and general, that works as well as it does.
    It is not perfect, but at least it brings those elected to power regularly to account and keeps them, with the assistance of a free press, mostly honest.

    In the USA, besides the electing local politicians, most high-ranking Public Officials also regularly face the electorate required to remain in office.
    These include local sheriffs, district judges and district attorneys – all facing regular elections.

    In developing counties, typically, when public officials reach office a high position, it becomes a sinecure – once in, there is little opportunity to have them removed for incompetence or even illegal behaviour, however heinous.

    Compare this with USA, where local elected officials who wish to remain in office, have to maintain their reputation.
    In the developing state, a widely held reputation for dishonesty, or for allowing dishonesty amongst subordinates, or for nepotism, will inevitably result in a loss of office when they are facing the voters.
    And of course an aggressive free press is an essential part of keeping honest those seeking election.

    This local democracy also produces an Opposition always ready to step up to replace those in charge if they lose office.

    This dynamic tension results in the vast majority of politicians tending not to be corrupt, or at least obviously so.

    Here, in the UK, we do not elect bureaucrats, only the politicians controlling them.
    This appears to work as we have a mature democracy, and most people accept that the politicians are in control of their officials.

    I maintain that an election of public officials will indeed give local people the power to remove dishonest officials at election time.
    It relies on the likelihood that, with a free press, local people are likely soon to be aware of corrupt local officials.

    Similarly, an elected official who allows their unelected subordinates to demand bribes, or is responsible for a department with a local reputation for this, would fear removal at election time, and be more likely to ensure it does not occur.

  6. Initially give elected officials and politicians a short term of office; increasing this term after each successful election

    We must anticipate countries where proper democracy and honest officials and politicians are not the norm.
    It is pointless there to allow a politician or official to be elected for, say, four years and then expect the threat of losing office to be a deterrent after they are initially elected with this bringing to justice so far into the future.

    The obvious answer is to elect senior officials and politicians initially for a shorter period.
    Perhaps this should be, say, for12 months, or even for 6 months, and so create a sort of ‘probation’ period to check to see if they can be trusted.
    After that short period, the official would automatically come back before the electorate for them to judge how they have performed.
    I suggest that honesty in public office would be a clear factor in the minds of such an electorate.

    After a successful re-election this time the next term of office is extended automatically to, say, two years– twice the previous term – and the next election after those two years would allow that candidate to be elected for a full term of four years.

    Then, after they have proved themselves, all subsequent elections of that official would be for the normal full term.

    The result is that new politicians will have a ‘probation period’ in office where they can become used to being honest.

  7. Trust the democratic process 

    All of the above will not work unless there is a proper democracy with most people enfranchised and also using their franchise.

    Often, there is an ersatz form of democracy overlaid onto a feudal system when local overlords or religious leaders have set themselves up as politicians.
    They are then are either elected unopposed or easily win any election where they are the representatives of that area’s majority religion, sect or tribe.
    Such powerful figures usually have the power to bribe or strong-arm election officials to usurp the election process.

    So, how can the local populace gain faith in the democratic process in this type of society?

    The may not be used to how effective elections can be, either of elected officials or of politicians, and may take some time to realise the enforced honesty that democracy eventually produces.

    Next, ensuring everybody can vote and encouraging them to do so, thus creating representative, free and fair elections is encouraged by using incorruptible election technology.

  8. Use Technology to ensure fair elections

    As mentioned, in countries with no tradition or experience of real democracy, it is very easy for the local or national heavies to lean on election officers to ‘work’ the elections so they or their candidates succeed.

    Unrepresentative elections arise where, although conducted legally:

  1. The franchise is not fully taken up i.e. most people are not on the electoral list as registered to vote
  2. Once on the list they do not use their vote

    Unfair elections arise when illegal acts are carried out such as:

  3. ‘Creating’ non-existent voters.
  4. Election software is hacked into and the results changed.
  5. The party in power ensure success by sequestering ballot boxes in crucial polling areas and:
  • take out opposition votes and/or
  • Insert their own voting slips in exchange and/or
  • Insert voting slips votes from people on the electoral list who did not vote because they have died/moved away or who have not bothered to vote.

    These five reasons amount to the count not being representative of the real wishes of the local electorate.


    There is now quite simple and inexpensive technology to ensure fair elections against the above illegal election practices.

    I suggest using this technology, as follows:

  1. If some of the electorate are in remote villages with no mains power, ensure all election devices are able to be solar powered.
  2. Fingerprint scanners are now cheap enough to appear as apps on mobile phones.
    In the months before the planned election, use portable sealed fingerprint scanners, to take a thumb print from everyone who is eligible to vote in that election district.
    Thus produce a solid election list which therefore cannot contain non-existent or duplicate constituents.
  3. A digital copy of these fingerprints, coupled with the identity of the voter, is then easily sent to a central computer so that the identity of the whole eligible electorate can be collated and used in present and future elections.
    Such transmission of the thumb or fingerprint information is able to be packaged and sent in a compressed format by wire, or by mobile phone data transfer.
  4. At election time, at each polling station all those arriving to vote have their thumb print scanned again and compared against the master database, to prove their eligibility.
    In real time, this also records the fact that a particular constituent has used their vote at a polling station, During the polling period this data is then sent by mobile phone data transfer or by wire to the central repository.
    It is counted against the number and identity in the electoral list database, making the polling numbers immutable and easy to discover any differences between the number of people voting in a particular polling district and the number of voting slips in that district’s ballot boxes.
    A difference in the numbers results in the election ordered to be rerun for that area.
  5. When the elector completes their voting slip it also contains a carbon-less back sheet of their vote both with unique bar codes.
    However, each voter takes away to keep the back copy with its bar code.
    This bar code is separate to the thumb print ID and cannot be cross referenced to it by the authorities and so discover who voted for whom.
    However, it does cross reference to a particular ballot slip in a ballot box.
    Where there is a fear that there has been a ‘stuffing of ballot boxes with false voting slips, this becomes important.
    As stated, this is independent of the thumb ID which only ensures the number voting is consistent.
    Where voters suspect election fraud and complain, they can volunteer to demand their copy voting slips to be found against their own bar-coded copy and so ensure their chosen candidate appears on the top copy voting slip and was therefore correctly counted.
    It is easy with to track where in the piles of voting slips is a particular bar coded slip with a scanning machine that can zip through tens of thousands of slips in minutes.
    Thus where there are sufficient objections and a representative sample of voting slips are checked for genuineness against the copy slips and a disparity is revealed, the election is rerun in that district.
  6. Source codes for all the above election software must be open to ensure there is no method of hackers ‘miscounting’ votes.
  7. The above technology is already with us and is inexpensive.
    In the interests of international democracy I would suggest such technology is provided by an international monitoring body who oversees such elections which may appear to be vulnerable to rigging i.e. the fingerprint scanners, the open software and the carbonless bar-coded voting slips.
  1. Produce an Accurate Electoral List

    I would have thought that producing an accurate electoral list would be one of the first actions of any invading army which is determined to set up democracy.  Recent examples are Iraq and Afghanistan

    The taking of thumb prints to be checked against the name and address keeps the electoral list honest – so no more “vote early, vote often” –  as alleged to have been the cry in past Irish elections.

    In addition, this thumb-print ID can be put onto ID cards as a crude form of identification to ensure the supply of aid is to individuals who are so thumb print registered.
    Thus a by-product of this is that aid packages can be guaranteed to be given fairly to all individuals, with no more diverting of supplies – each package can be similarly bar-coded as they are given out and matched to a person…

  1. Pay People to Vote!

    As well as going as far as possible towards a fully franchised populace, there are many reasons to persuade the electorate actually to use their vote.

    For many third world countries, especially those coming out of dictatorships, there is a resistance to voting.

    This may be based upon the perceived uselessness of elections as ‘things never change’ or those offering themselves for election are always corrupt etc.
    This resistance may be based on real experience in the past.

    However, I do not believe that real change can happen unless democratic accountability is used to rein in the power of those in charge.
    As a Libertarian, I resist the Australian option of making it an offence not to vote without a good reason.

    Therefore, I propose that there is created a financial incentive for people to vote.
    This could take the form of a small proportion of the national wage, perhaps the equivalent £10 in the UK.

    Again, like as the sponsoring western country which supplied or paid for and organised the above mentioned polling station devices and software, the same country would pay the total amount to the populace and again upon producing their thumb print to first show they used their vote, and second to ensure that there is no ‘slippage’ with these “payment to vote” moneys.

    To save bureaucracy, if there is a benefits system in the country, then the payment figure can be added into the next welfare payment.
    With a sophisticated enough taxation system, the voting payment can be incorporated into tax allowances.

  1. Ensure a Free press

    A free exchange of ideas and information is a prerequisite for democracy.
    A free press acts as a check on the power of petty bureaucrats.

  1. Allow Social Media

    Social media is now spread mostly by mobile phones and this is having the wonderful effect of keeping things honest. The Establishment do not appear to like this in the sorts of countries we are talking about, but it now appears unstoppable.

  1. Enforcement – making aid depend on the gradual taking up of these measures

    In the absence of a wide number of Internet connected people in a developing country’s population it is even more important to have a free press as an ultimate goal.
    Regretfully, just making this a condition of receiving Foreign Aid is a condition too far for many despots.

    Thus, I suggest we look to push change in the form of a series of smaller concessions by a corrupt government that gradually reach towards this target. As well as the cost of the third world country taking up the above measures, the pressure to do so must also come from outside.

    In Sub-Saharan Africa there can be a violent suspicion against what may be seen as Neo-Colonial interference in the internal affairs of a country.
    However, it may be that we would have to consider attaching the granting of Aid to the gradual take up these remedies in order to cure the patient instead of treating the symptoms.


    The consequences of all the above?

    The consequences of these sorts of measures are that Officials may not go into poorly paid public service if they cannot supplement their income with a steady line of bribes.
    Therefore, there may be the extra cost to the country of raising the salaries of central and local government officers.

    However, I believe the most significant result of removing the dead hand of corruption will be a surge of confidence, growth and wealth in the country.

    Jim Murray

The budget – Jim’s opinion

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It is the elephant in any roomful of economic politicians.

These days, no other group comes close to being as important to our economic future as…

…the bankers.

Put the bankers in Jail – ASAP

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

The untold wealth these people made from their criminal acts make the proceeds from the average bank robbery laughable. (more…)

Fat kids need help

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

With all the publicity given over to the increase in obesity, I give my views.


100% LVT* – take all property inflation for the community

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Surely it is wrong that we, as a nation, fully expect to gain from property inflation.

It is wrong because such ‘profits’ are unearned and yet, for the most part (and certainly in the long term) guaranteed.
This is completely unlike investment in shares where there is always risk, a need for judgement and in the end, a gamble but with eyes open to the risk. (more…)

Corruption in the Third World… An Answer?

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Corruption in the Third World

The Beginnings of an Answer?

by Jim Murray (more…)

We welcome sensible ex-prisoner treatment

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Re-offending is a real problem, especially that by ex-prisoners who have been in expensive custody – costing over £40,000 per year.

Ministers now want ‘value for money’ (more…)

Emergency Powers Must Be Temporary Powers

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Prime Minister David Cameron says we are “at war” in recession and he needs war-time emergency powers to sort out out our huge debt and low growth problems.

Well, I for one am prepared to believe him in his assessment of the problem and its remedy – after all, he is in charge. (more…)

Young drivers need to be protected from themselves

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Everyone wants young drivers to keep out of high speed driven accidents.

Jim Murray suggests an answer, and without needing new legislation. (more…)

Regional Pay is Inevitable

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Yes of course regional public service pay differentials are the right way to go.

But not just now…

…not in the middle of a depression.

Having South East wage scales for public servants in the North West will always suck the talent out of the private sector here and eventually should be ended. (and, I think, will be)

The immediate problem is that highly paid Government workers, teachers etc have excess cash left over after paying the very low local rents and mortgages payments, entertainment etc as all overheads are cheaper than in the South.  They will deny this extra cash, of course, but compare their situation to cash strapped teachers and other public servants further south where house values are huge as then are mortgage payments and rents and everything else. (more…)