chapter  6
17 Pages

Corruption

One of the key tasks of the Afrobarometer survey in African countries has been to adequately define what is meant by the term ‘corruption’. To some this may seem a strange quest, surely the answer is obvious: ‘over-billing, bribes, kickbacks, “ghost” employees, retainers for relatives, excessive overtime claims, personal use of pension schemes and state vehicles, misappropriation of state and donor funds, extravagant travel abroad for suspect state purposes, the falsification of public documents and records’ etc. (Gundy 2000: 46). Others put it more pithily: corruption is ‘the unsanctioned or unscheduled use of public resources for private ends’ (Lodge 1997: 10), or more succinctly ‘the abuse of entrusted power for private gain’ (Transparency International 2007). So why bother interviewing and asking questions when the answers are widely known and acknowledged? Well, one reason is because a debate has developed regarding the possible cultural causes of corruption. That is, societies who see a cultural obligation to give gifts or who place familial loyalty over the demands of office may not fully identify corrupt practices: ‘from an African perspective it is perfectly in order to exchange gifts’ (Ouma 2005: 473-90). So gift-giving may be carried from the private to the public sphere with no acknowledgement that the environment may be different (Robertson-Snape 2006: 589-602). The Afrobarometer study wished to establish if corruption really did have a cultural base and whether the concept was perceived differently in varied communities. Essentially, it asserted: is it accurate that the ‘international community may be defining as corrupt actions that merely reflect normal cultural practices of “gift giving” in Africa?’ (Afrobarometer 2005: 32).