Corruption or Culture?


What is Corruption ?

Corruption is often defined as the “misuse of entrusted power for private gain”; a complete undermine of any rule of law framework that has been put into place to promote legal formalities.

Transparency International is an organisation set up in 1993, to promote transparency amongst public officials who are appointed to carry out duties on behalf of the public.

One of the ways in which it demonstrates this is via their publication of the Corruption Perception Index (CPI), which started in 1995. They rank nations in how corrupt a country is perceived to be.

Easy Right?

Well one of the major issues with this publication is the subjective nature of corruption.

The concept of corruption differs across the world, whether you are from a small village in Sierra Leone or from a city such as London.

So, what is the key to the varying perspective?


Culture provides social norms and values, and this varies across the world, ultimately altering attitudes towards how businesses ought to be conducted. Offering money to bypass government inefficiencies in order to speed up decision-making can be considered normal practice in one nation but labeled bribery in another.

This leads to the question, is it really corruption or is it culture?

If one can agree that culture plays an influential role in defining ones morals and values, then under who’s perception does organisation’s such as Transparency International form its judgment in regards to the level of perceived corruption?

Quick Fact.

There are 54 countries that form the African Continent.

Between 2009-2013, only 4 countries on average in the Continent managed to be included in the top-50 least perceived corrupt.

Question Time…

Does the large representation of the west in the top 50 give an indication as to whose ideology dominates Transparency International?

And if so, is Africa a victim of a publication that fail to acknowledge possible culture clashes?

In order to move forward from this, it is imperative we acknowledge the importance of culture but highlight the fact that there must be room where culture falls within the scope that encourages ethical behaviour.

This is where the role of global leaders and influential people become critical in redefining what is right and wrong.

In our follow up we will discuss corruption at another glance, and discuss whether any good can come from it.

2 thoughts on “Corruption or Culture?”

  1. In the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) allowance is made for so called grease payments that are not to be considered as falling under the Act’s definition as illegally corrupt or improper. This exception was made in recognition of the problem of minor bribes paid to government officials to encourage them to do their jobs. The root causes of the need for such payments are many but one important factor is non-payment of the government staffs’ wages, hence their need to find other ways to get paid.


  2. Thank you for your comment, very informative!

    The US is an interesting case!
    I would like to point out that could the cultural of the US be a factor for creating such an act that deal with foreign transactions?

    For example, the idea of paying for tips after becoming a beneficiary of a service in the US is a common feature, to the extent that it is somewhat strange not to pay extra even though the act of giving tips is discretionary and not mandatory. A possible reason being that in some industries, staff in the US are underpaid leaving them to rely heavily on tips to offset the difference.

    Therefore, it makes it easier to understand, in relation to this topic, the possible reasons why there is an act that accepts that one can pay additional in foreign countries and would not be seen to be conducting illegal practices.

    In the UK however, the act of paying beyond the cost of a service is relatively strange and is widely accepted that it is at your discretion should you want give tips. It is at no surprise then, that there is not an act that recognises the use of ‘ grease payments’, and therefore does not draw a distinction between these small payments and bribery.

    In regards to the non-payment, I beg to differ as I believe it is a little extreme, but I do believe that government staff are underpaid, hence why they rely on this form of income.


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