COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
Corruption in the government has gone a long, long way – from being illegal, to immoral, to obscene, and now to a dangerous level. What Rodolfo Noel “Jun” Lozada Jr. at the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing revealed that in government projects, 22% of the budget goes to commission “is the norm” tells of a very critical situation.
If the budget is rightly priced then 22% of the money is laid to waste – not on labor, or materials, or managerial expertise, or human talent; and the finished project would be substandard. On the other hand, if the budget is overpriced then the money which is most of the time a foreign loan would translate to an external debt, and will come back to us in the form of devaluation and “structural adjustment” in the economy like the E-VAT.
While listening to people in the construction business engaging in government contracts, it appears that only about 40-60% is actually spent on labor and materials in the building of infrastructures, after taxes and profits and other expenses plus the graft money to this government official and that politician. No wonder that a concrete road that is supposed to last for thirty years has cracks and holes in ten years time. Then the repair that is being done is again substandard with this culture of corruption that the same length of road would cost double and quadruple in the long run.
Stealing from government funds has not been confined to big projects but instead has spread to the procurement of supplies and even in the conduct of small activities. One foreign national who once worked here told me a few years back that the regional head of a government agency had commissions on the food catering service during conferences and other functions. I never realized that it has gone to that extent.
In the late 80s when I was in the multi-level marketing business that was just starting in Tacloban, I came across a few sales persons who were selling government forms and other supplies. That was when I heard of the 10% SOP to be given to whoever the transaction was done with. Several years later, I met an acquaintance who was selling books and complained that a part in the south of Leyte was demanding 20% commission from her, way above the 10% standard cut-off, which made her exclaim that “they were so corrupt!”
But now it appears, as Lozada declares, 22% kickback is the norm. If the trend is not stopped then the percentage could go higher and more and more people getting involved thereby sacrificing efficiency and quality standards. Besides, stealing is basically wrong and an unlawful act. Stealing is getting something one did not earn or deserve; be it an idea, a time off, or money and property. And stealing from government funds is just one form of corruption.
The problem with corruption in government though is that nowadays, most people don’t know of its nature. One is not supposed to receive any remuneration from clients — even just a twenty-peso tip – or gifts of any kind in the conduct of one’s work. And it is unethical to give any gifts or money to your superiors or subordinates for favors asked. There are more to these guides in professional ethics and some laws that stipulate the nature of bribery and graft. But the most important of all is to delineate private and public property where one is not supposed to use public property for private use – even just a Pentel pen. (Try to compute the total cost if all government employees can just bring a box of Pentel pens each year to their homes for their children in school.)
Why is there a great lack of internal control in government agencies? Agencies in the private sector have better controls in their system and organization. Even if the government gives social services for those who cannot pay, I think it can operate like a private enterprise with strong internal controls – for efficiency, accountability, and quality service.