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#21 Stamping out Corruption

February 9, 2011

Expat Aid Workers are an upright group of individuals who frown upon the corrupt practices and favoritism exercised in many of the developing countries where they work. The EAW (and any foreigner working in a developing country for that matter) has a moral duty to help local people learn the ways of democracy and good, fair business practices.

The Expat Aid Worker, upon arriving to a new position as Country Director, may find rampant nepotism: many of the local staff may be from related families or the same ethnic group or political party. She may discover that, despite her organization’s stringent administrative and purchasing procedures, the  service providers that are awarded the largest contracts have a strange and familiar relationship with the head of procurement or logistics.

The EAW program manager visiting communities to oversee implementation will narrow his eyes and carefully take note when finding that the local community leaders’ friends and family are the ones who are invited to all the meetings, make all the decisions, and reap all the material benefits of a project. He will observe, for future discussion and resolution, that the local staff are given fruit, chickens and other treats by certain of the community members, and that projects and opportunities are often meted out to a particular segment of the community or society, leaving out marginalized or excluded groups. He’ll carefully watch how communities and districts are selected for a program and try to ensure that favoritism has no part to play in it.

It’s important for Expat Aid Workers to work with local governments, NGOs and communities to end corrupt practices and encourage local people to behave ethically.

“Zero Tolerance for Corruption” starts at home, and a good way to alert staff and visitors to the INGO’s zealous anti-corruption policies is hanging up posters (with generous amounts of clip-art, Comic Sans, and ALL CAPS) on every door and bulletin board around the office, stating in no uncertain terms that the organization does not tolerate corruption in any way shape or form.

Simultaneous with the poster hanging,  newly hired EAW Country Directors or Operations Managers can overcome favouritism in the office by “cleaning house.” This consists of ridding the organization of staff and managers who are suspected of giving preference to friends and family. It often involves making existing positions “redundant,” changing the job title slightly to fit the exact profile of a certain someone that the Country Director wishes to hire, and re-opening the positions. To ensure that corruption is seriously dealt with, the EAW Country Director  will usually re-fill these positions with trustworthy people from the last organization where he or she worked.

By hiring friends that he or she knows are honest, a Country Director can ensure that favoritism and nepotism are stamped out in the local office, at least during his or her time in country. (Note: The acceptable number of new hires from a Country Director’s old organization ranges between 30-40% of the total high level positions at his or her current organization. At meetings and in written correspondence, these new hires should avoid accidentally referring to the current organization by the name of their former organization, as this can contribute to an identity crisis in the current organization and catalyzes negative mumbling and rumor mongering among local staff).

An added benefit to aggressively dealing with corruption and nepotism in the office is that the career EAW can build up an extensive network of honest and trustworthy individuals to call on as he or she moves from organization to organization or in the case that he or she — or a son or daughter for that matter — needs a recommendation or job placement in the future.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. February 10, 2011 3:01 am

    So true!

  2. February 10, 2011 8:07 am

    Damn, I was writing a post on corruption too… EAW really must like it!

    Also note that as much as working to stamp out corruption is the very essence of our being and forms one of the principles of EAW Righteous Indignation, indulging in petty corruption is a sure-fire way of establishing field cred: i.e. paying $20 to get your passport to the top of a pile at the Min Foreign Afairs, giving a bottle of perfume to a local official who wrote you a particularly important letter that was pivotal in securing donor-funding, using UN funding to fund a booze up with local police as part of institution building etc.

    • March 20, 2011 11:01 am

      Hey… if there is someone who is willing to participate in a survey on corruption in humanitarian assistance for my MA thesis, please be welcome. I’m quite in a hurry but I will make some space for those ones interested. You can find me in twitter @ximenacontla. Everything stated there will be anonymous.

  3. February 11, 2011 5:28 am

    Your tongue and cheek approach working as a member of the ‘development set’ reminds me a lot of Bill Easterly and his blog AID WATCH
    ya gotta have a sense of humor ..or you’ll either go or go nuts!

  4. February 11, 2011 6:51 am

    I think this has become my favourite post so far. Just wait till me and friends get deployed again and we can come clean up all that terrible nepotism. Just wait.

  5. Grammar Cat permalink
    February 20, 2011 9:12 am

    It’s not corruption when we pay a local’s one-month salary to get a driver’s license without taking a written or street test, or waiting for a few hours. Plus, added bonus – *our* driver’s licenses are good for only 12 months, not the 3 years for locals.

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