Breken van geheimhouding breekt corruptie?

Civis Mundi Digitaal #115

door Michel van Hulten

Wie durft er nog te beweren dat de vele en bekwaam uitgevoerde acties en andere activiteiten zoals wetgeving, betere controles en vermindering van regels, om corruptie uit onze maatschappij te bannen, succesvol zijn? Opeenvolgende majeure bekendmakingen van wat er aan financiële fraude/criminaliteit zoal passeert, waarbij het om soms wel honderden miljoenen aan dollars en euro’s gaat, wekken ook al niet de indruk dat corruptie een verdwijnend fenomeen is. De Panama- (2016), Paradise- (2017), en Pandora- (2021) papers vormen een continuum waarbij je je het best maar kunt afvragen welk ‘P-woord’ met andere onthullingen we in de tussenliggende jaren gemist hebben. Was of waren er in tussenliggende en eerdere jaren nog andere clusters van financiële misdragingen, waarvan we alleen maar niets weten, omdat tot nu toe niemand bereid was informele regels van geheimhouding te verbreken?

Lichtvaardig geloof dat er minder- en meer-corrupte landen zijn, in de praktijk ongeveer gelijklopend met (omgekeerd) rijke en arme landen, begint deuken op te lopen. Dit geldt ook voor meer- en minder corrupte personen (democratisch gekozen of dictators, blanken of zwarten, mannen of vrouwen, oud(st)en of jongeren, veelverdieners of kleine krabbelaars); beroepsgroepen (fiscalisten, bankiers, generaals); en bedrijfstakken (bouwindustrie, farmacie, olie en gas, defensie, high tech). Het was al hoogst onwaarschijnlijk dat we zo de goeden van de slechten konden onderscheiden. De rijken en machtigen hebben immers meer te verbergen en meer te winnen met financieel wangedrag en hebben er immers ook de middelen en het geld voor om letterlijk ‘om te kopen’, en vrienden die bereid zijn hen langs fiscale en andere sluipwegen te leiden, die hen behulpzaam kunnen zijn. De lijst van banken die inmiddels voor honderden miljoenen aan dollars en euro’s boetes betaald hebben, is reeds te lang om hier ook op te nemen. Vroeger was ‘bankier’ toch een eerzaam beroep?

Het lichtvaardig geloven wordt inmiddels meer en meer in twijfel getrokken. Zo ook verdwijnt langzamerhand het geloof dat corruptie succesvol bestreden kan worden. Vast staat dat we dit laatste niet weten, want we kunnen niet meten. Er is geen yardstick om het aan af te meten, want er is geen aanvaardbare en algemeen aanvaarde definitie van corruptie als onderdeel van financieel wangedrag: wat wordt onder corruptie samengevat? Wat telt al dan niet mee? En als we al een definitie hanteren, wordt dan alles wat onder die definitie valt dan ook meegeteld om tot omvang te kunnen besluiten? En als we dat laatste niet doen voorafgaand aan acties en andere activiteiten en opnieuw erna doen met dezelfde methoden en technieken van onderzoek, valt er dan toch nog iets te zeggen over groei of verval van het fenomeen? Neen toch!
Zie nu de oproep aan het eind van dit bericht.

Onderstaande tekst komt van GAB, the Global Anticorruption Blog
GAB | The Global Anticorruption Blog
Guest Post: Succeeding or Failing… at What?
Posted on October 26, 2021 by Matthew Stephenson

Author: Michael Johnston | Colgate University
Michael Johnston | Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics  

Michael Johnston (Ph. D. Yale University, 1977) is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Political Science at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York. His book Syndromes of Corruption: Wealth, Power, and Democracy (Cambridge University Press, 2005) won the 2009 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order, presented by the University of Louisville.
(Ik schreef over die studie van Johnston in Civis Mundi digitaal#28, december 2014, omdat hij het verschijnsel ‘corruptie’ diversifieerde in Influence markets (o.a. Nederland), Elite Cartel-landen (o.a. Zuid Korea), Oligarch and clan corruptie (o.a. Rusland) en Official Moguls (o.a. China). Zie De vier corruptie-syndromen van Michael Johnston.

Quote uit het volgende artikel: ‘the consequences of a given control may be positive, negative, and negligible, depending upon the circumstances—and can depend upon who is doing the evaluating.’
Succeeding or Failing… at What?
A bracing and long overdue debate has surfaced recently on this and other blogs, focusing primarily upon the issue of whether anticorruption efforts have failed but also raising important questions about definitions, theory, analytical methods and—not least—the norms of scholarly discourse. Entries by Bo RothsteinMatthew StephensonRobert Barrington, and Paul Heywood offer searching critiques and a number of cautionary tales that I will certainly take to heart.
The discussions raise many more questions than I can analyze in this short discussion, but as for the issue that launched the exchange—whether many or most anticorruption efforts have failed—my answer is to raise another question: How would we know? To that I add a critical follow-up: If we were to see significant success, what might it look like? The first question, I suggest, has no single clear-cut answer, and never will. As for the second: In my view success would not revolve around levels of corruption, but about the prevalence of justice.

These questions are certainly linked to the other issues under debate, such as definitions, theory, measurement, and the ways we conduct our scholarly enterprise. But they ask us to look further, and to ask: What do we seek, and why are we doing all of this?

The impossibility of an overall verdict on success reflects many problems, most of them familiar. After all, corruption has no settled definition: I have problems with the “entrusted power” approach because the power in question has so often been inherited, stolen, seized at gunpoint, bought, sold, and rented out—in other words, not “entrusted” by anyone. We lack valid and reliable measures; corruption is embedded in complex, multi-level webs of causality that we should not oversimplify; and the field is marked by an academicians-vs-practitioners division that, while as Professor Heywood points out, is not as sharp as is sometimes suggested, still means we are sometimes talking past each other.

At an even more basic level, “corruption” is no one single entity or problem. I think I see four qualitatively different syndromes out in the world. While other and better schemes may well refute mine, it is difficult to argue that lobbying abuses, the activities of mafia-backed oligarchs, and the scheming of Chinese “princelings”—or, corruption by a big Danish bank, and that in (for example) Nigeria—are just variations on a single underlying dimension. When we speak of corruption in different places and eras we often are discussing quite different things. Similarly, what do we mean by anticorruption “success”? Zero corruption is not on the cards, and “zero tolerance” is an empty slogan. Further, we can imagine that replacing high-level impunity with competitive electoral politics, for example, might check some sorts of corruption but make way for other corrupting uses of political money. Other “successes” have had unanticipated consequences: Transparency regarding political contributions in the United States has arguably created government-compiled “target lists” for both candidates and contributors, while adding to some of the advantages incumbents already have over challengers. James D’Angelo has argued that such transparency also makes it easier for contributors to maintain discipline over recipients, ensuring that donors get political value for their money.

Overall, I stand by my verdict that our efforts have generally been “unimpressive, or counterproductive,” not in order to hide behind weasel words but to emphasize that the consequences of a given control may be positive, negative, and negligible, depending upon the circumstances—and can depend upon who is doing the evaluating. The effects of new automated procurement processes, for example, might simultaneously be positive for some and negative for others, even if we are looking only at honest bidders.

The common element underlying all of these variations, contrasts and contingencies is the imbalance of power that enables the few—officials, their cronies, middlemen, to name a few—to exploit the many. Hence my focus on justice as an overriding goal and justification of anticorruption efforts, and as a broad criterion for assessing their impact. “Justice” has as many subjective meanings and circumstantial variations as “corruption,” and its pursuit involves long timelines and complex causality. But rather than asking ourselves whether we are reducing the incidence of corrupt practices that lie beyond our abilities of measurement, we can observe whether government is performing basic functions and delivering services in fair and effective ways. Are more voices being heard in a safe and valued political space? Can people who see themselves as the victims of corruption defend themselves by political means? Deepening justice will not necessarily manifest itself in the form of broad social harmony. Indeed, it will often be marked by contention and controversy. But it is worth remembering that it is out of such contention—the conviction, often sustained by self-interest rather than by anything like civic virtue, that those in power should not be able to deny my freedom, seize my property, or exclude me from decisions affecting my life—that the basic notion of corruption itself originates, and that the energy needed to redress basic political imbalances is created and sustained.

None of this is to suggest that we should give up on checking specific corrupt practices. We can and should, however, rethink the reasons why we do so and the ways we assess any effects we might have. Neither am I trying, under the banner of “justice,” to smuggle Western-style liberal democracy back into the debate as a one-size-fits-all goal for reform. Liberal democracies and economies have corruption problems of their own—consider the emerging debate over “institutional corruption”—and within moral and ethical limits “justice” can be understood in rather different ways. It may be said that a justice-based perspective leaves us assessing impacts and progress by a range of airy and unattainable ideals, rather than by solid evidence. But if quantification is seen as essential, there are numerous justice-related indices of varying types, and techniques for measuring the ways governments do or do not deliver for their citizens. Finally, with injustice as with corruption we know it when we see it. In the societies we care about, people often can tell us how they are treated by governments and officials, and what they would see as fair and just.

The perspective proposed here, perhaps ironically, may shift our attention to positive aspects of the picture. While some norms are undoubtedly crumbling, other elite activities and privileges that were once standard operating procedure are now controversial and widely challenged. An anticorruption movement that did not exist thirty-five years ago, during a time when those of us working on the issue were seen as unserious people pursuing trivial questions, is a major presence on the global stage. Mark Pyman, with whom I have enjoyed several exchanges about global corruption trends (his views are more positive than mine), has launched the Curbing Corruption website, showing us what can be learned and done with an emphasis on sectors, not just whole countries.

Controlling corruption, in itself, will not guarantee justice. But I look forward to a day when anticorruption analysts and organizations, by backing technocratic perspectives with a sound understanding of the social realities of the problem, can show that we are making progress against the political injustices that make corruption worth worrying about to begin with.


Call en Prospect
Net als internationaal, wordt er ook in Nederland twijfelend aandacht gegeven aan anti-corruptie acties en andere anti corruptie en pro integriteit activiteiten. In 2015 begon een aantal hierin geïnteresseerden samen te komen in maandelijkse bijeenkomsten, hun initiatief is nogal provisorisch vastgelegd in een ‘Beginselverklaring’. Hun activiteiten vonden ook al herhaaldelijk een weerslag in nummers van Civis Mundi. In het volgende Civis Mundi nummer van eind november (# 116) komt van twee van de participanten (Andrea Wiegman en Michel van Hulten)  documentatie te staan die gebruikt zal zijn in de bijeenkomst die op 26 november in de VU wordt gehouden van 13:00 – 15:30 uur, onder de titel: Corruptie onuitroeibaar , als het COVID-regiem dat dan toelaat, anders wordt dit een ZOOM-bijeenkomst. Wilt u die bijeenkomst meemaken, dan dient u zich tijdig voordien te melden bij de voorzitter Harm Meijer, 06-5192 2910, of , die zal beslissen hoeveel meer deelnemers we kunnen toelaten gezien de beschikbare ruimte en de COVID-regels.   

Ga voor de Beginselverklaring De Buitenkamer Versie: 1.2 naar:
T: 06 5192 2910, Datum: juni 2016. E: ,
www.BeginselverklaringBuitenkamerjuni2016.pdf   ,
Welkom - Buitenkamer ,