Among the myriad number of major problems facing the coalition in Afghanistan (and in Iraq) is infidelity, soldiers and policemen trained by US and NATO forces more often than not turning their guns many times on their own instructors and/or fellow soldiers. While some of the time it has been a spur of the moment decision, frequently militants have deliberately infiltrated the Army and the police, only possible by compromising those responsible for their screening.
As much as in Afghanistan corruption prospers at all levels in our society, at the lower level involving public officials, particularly those in the procurement section of contracting agencies. Corruption is entrenched (i.e., a society established wherein low level government employees accept bribes for passports, visas, driving licenses, etc.). On the other hand
Use of bribery as a means to get access to individuals of influence or to facilitate a contract is common in developing countries like Pakistan. Other than outright bribery the modus operandi of contractors is to use wine and women, particularly where this is restricted, as a means to get things done. Personnel within the procurement section of the different agencies carry out unfair “technical evaluation” to knock out competition and cook the financial evaluation to reflect false figures. This misleading of their superiors by lower level employees is endemic in procurement departments of international agencies. Companies that do not pay bribes or use other unfair means fail to get contracts.
The World Economic Forum’s (WEF’s) Global Agenda Council’s (GAC) on “Transparency and Anti-Corruption” has proposed that all international procurement entities and multi-national companies that bid for contracts follow the OECD’s good practice guidance and internal controls, ethics and compliance or the World Bank’s“Integrity Compliance Guidelines” (crafted by Panel Member Nicola Bonucci) that has a clear policy on corruption, including the process for vetting partners, employees, and subcontractors. With a training program for all staff on corruption policies and reporting requirements, international agencies in particular should be required to report corruption and the impact that it may have on service delivery. An “internal affairs”department should undertake a thorough analysis of the risk of corruption, the forms it may take and who is likely to be involved. What is alarming is that some international agencies informally acknowledge that corruption may be a factor and put the projects and their own personnel at risk by not honestly carrying at a correct assessment of the potential impact.
Companies in developing countries that cannot compete on a level surface employ personnel to exploit the human weaknesses of personnel in the procurement agencies. In a well-researched paper Mark Carruthers of Centerra advises establishing parameters about tolerance for corruption, what approach to take and what leverage can be used to reduce the impact of corruption and establish mechanisms to address corruption and practice policies internally can be set by (1) Establishing clear guidelines on the level of tolerance for corruption(zero tolerance being the correct message) (2) Identify individuals tasked with monitoring corruption and associated mitigation efforts (3) Train all staff in corruption and anti‐corruption practices recognized by host country bureaucrats and security forces at all levels and (4) Establishing expectations and communicating issues early, all international agencies must be required to report any instance of corruption by establishing a clear reporting system.
Kept hidden as a well-known “secret” for various reasons, companies and their personnel are forced to adopt corrupt practices to sustain their business in an environment where it is a done thing. The personnel of all international agencies who manipulate the system makes them active collaborators and accessories of those that may commit infidelity. Clear policy must be set on the tolerance of corruption with the policy being disseminated to all levels, with clear reporting guidelines and the consequences for failure to report. Procurement departments must be aware of their Agencies’ “zero sum” approach on corruption and not only have adequate measures in place to prevent corruption but of reporting all suspected corruption.
During the evaluation of a bid for providing security services for the personnel and property of a foreign government that prides itself (and very rightly so) on the honesty and integrity of their procurement process, the “technical evaluation” committee opined that the reason for not accepting the bid was the exclusion of three fairly insignificant and innocuous points in the syllabus of the training program of guards. Imagine the surprise of the security services providers when the contract was awarded to a company that did not even have a training school, let alone having a training syllabus and program thereof! Prima facie a case of blatant corruption, those who practice corrupt means to achieve their objectives are as guilty as those who use corrupt means.
During (WEF) GAC’s recent meeting on “Transparency and Anti-Corruption” in Abu Dhabi, it was noted that international agencies and private companies both were finding it exceedingly difficult to work in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, etc without condoning corruption even though in some developing countries the opportunity for, and the pervasiveness of, corruption makes prevention difficult. It is incumbent upon the senior hierarchy of international agencies to ensure that their procurement staff is not involved in corrupt practices that may seriously endanger their security personnel by infidelity and in turn put in jeopardy their mission statement. Unfortunately the recurring danger is that this weakness can be exploited, the extent and impact of corruption tending to increase the level of infidelity in contracts involving security of personnel and material. Some like Mumtaz Qadri, who assassinated Governor Salman Taseer, revel in resorting to infidelity out of their own perverted belief, a fair number do so for money. Corruption in facts feeding infidelity as much, or even more, than belief.
Personnel coming from western countries to places of conflict for providing training and assistance must be properly briefed about dealing with infidelity. For foreign governments and international agencies working in developing countries ridden with internal conflict, it is most important that the means to control infidelity is given as much priority in evaluation as competence in providing security. The over-riding question is, what to do with those who foster corrupt practices leading to infidelity? (Based on discussions in WEF’s GAC on “Transparency and Anti-Corruption Panel” in Abu Dhabi recently and as a Member of WEF’s “Partnering Against Corruption Initiative” (PACI)).
The writer is a leading defense and political analyst of Pakistan. He can be contacted at email@example.com