By Christian Volney
A Dominican Patriot
The institutional environment in Dominica, not cultural norms, determines our society’s propensity to engage in corruption and other forms of opportunism. The incentive structures that our country’s market participants face-which are determined by the country’s institutional arrangements are responsible for creating opportunities for corruption and provide for an environment in which even honest and highly ethical individuals may be forced to engage in corrupt activities in order to survive. Such perverse incentive structures can be changed or modified through democratic constitutional reforms, yet its necessity continues to elude us…..
I , like many other Dominicans , feel the time to review and act on certain colonial inclusions in our governing framework is necessary and upon us. This has become an apparent necessity and reality that ‘should have been’ a requirement in complementing the implemented “Integrity in Public Office Act” had governance been sincere in its ethical compliance code of conduct!Some may argue that the perception of the state in Dominica is a “weak, fractionalized, and ineffective bureaucratic apparatus that consistently fails both to improve its authority and to serve the general interest” is flawed because it assumes that a “hard” state is necessarily more effective and promotes the general interest. Others may insist that corruption exists as a result of the disparity that exists between the earnings of high-level and low-level public workers implying that narrowing the gap would lead to significant decreases in corruption.I have reviewed the literature to the contrary that clearly identifies the well-compensated, top-level public servants and politicians as being actually amongst the most corrupt in “such” societies that lack an ethical institutional environment. Additionally, I think a more policy-relevant way to look at the cause of corruption practices in Dominica is to divide them into two groups: structural causes; and individual causes.Structural Causes of Corruption
The structural causes of corruption include:
(1) missing political prerequisites; and 
(2) the pattern of dominant loyalties and obligations in the society;

Absence of important Political Prerequisites. One of the more popular definitions of corruption and complaints in Dominica in recent times has been the “use of public office for private gain.” This definition implies certain things that are important for the understanding of the causes of corruption.When corruption is defined as, “use of public office for private gain,” it implies that society has some law against such activity. In other words, there exists a law that prohibits the abuse of public office for private gain. However, if public and private sectors are effectively fused or governments objective is not to serve the public, (as was the case with colonial governments, whose primary objective was to exploit the population and their resources for the benefit of the metropolitan economies, and of which our governing institutional framework was established), the issue of using a public office for private gain becomes academic. This is where the inherent problem and the necessity to revamp the institutional environment constitutionally, lies.Most former colonialized countries (such as Dominica) have not fully recognized (or come to terms with the reality) that there still exist laws and institutions that were inherited from the European colonialist, citizens may still consider these structures as alien impositions, do not see them as legitimate tools for sociopolitical interaction, and find them as incompatible with their traditional cultures, customs, and beliefs.

The introduction of “integrity legislation” and its implementation ‘was to be’ a tremendous step forward in the right direction combating corruption in public office, but without meaningful change to the existing institutional environment and framework that was created and established by the colonialist to promote and entrench such corruption; the levels of accountability required and expected through the implementation of this act will be severely compromised and diminished in its intent; as has become apparent by its ineffectiveness and its ‘imposed sanctions’ by governance.

Since post-independence, only a handful of leaders have made an effort to engage the people in a democratic constitution-making to reconstruct and reconstitute the neocolonial state. The only leader in Dominica that I heard any comments’ regarding this discourse was William “Para” Riviere in who recommended reconstructing and reconstituting the neocolonial state, especially its institutional environment. Why a study into Para’s suggestion of’ was not adopted or at the very least considered is incomprehensible to me and any other concerned citizen ‘of conscience’!

It has been determined and acknowledged that compliance to the law is determined primarily by the people’s belief that the laws are fair, applied fairly and not capriciously, and that they have been enacted by legitimate authority. Therefore even if the law strictly prohibits corrupt behaviors, members of civil society and state custodians (civil servants) may not have any respect for such laws. A case in point that comes immediately to mind is the “Dread Act.” In this case, the state lacked “a perceived” legitimacy (Patrick John’s Labour Party) and the people considered that both the law and its enforcement were unfair; we all know what the consequence to that relevance was. The People then dealt accordingly against the law in resolution of’!

Compelling Loyalties.
Another structural factor given in the development literature (I reviewed in this case study) as a cause of corruption is “compelling loyalties” In countries in which civil servants are not adequately constrained by the law and norms prohibiting opportunistic use of public office are weak, (as some would argue was, and ‘still’ is, prior to the implementation of the act) civil servants and politicians will tend to “privilege other loyalties” along political lines and affiliations. This facilitates corruption and or corrupt acts as loyalty to the party supporters by the civil servants and politicians will take precedence over compliance with the law.

We must however caution here that although this suggestion tends to conclude that corruption results from institutional dysfunction and we could prescribe a litany of things to fix these institutions and restore balance and hence, minimize corruption, it is equally important to note that most solutions to date are only a “band-aid” (hence the ‘intended’ importance of this act and its implementation, had its intended purpose ‘without amendment’ been secured)!

The most effective way to deal with corruption is to engage in comprehensive institutional reforms involving state reconstruction, through democratic constitution-making, to create laws and instructions that not only enhance entrepreneurial activities through the guarantee of economic freedom but also ‘adequately constrain the state and its agents.’

The latter approach is superior to the one that calls for fixing individual institutions because it allows for the construction of institutions that are locally-focused, complementing existing institutions, including informal ones, and are considered by the relevant stakeholder groups as legitimate tools for regulating their sociopolitical interaction.
Makes sense to me and is formidable in principle, would you not agree?

Individualist Causes of Corruption
Unlike political scientists and sociologists, it is of my understanding that many economists studying corruption, have tended to make the individual their basic unit of analysis. The individual is assumed to be a rational being that makes choices to maximize his (or her) utility. I noticed that the economist then analyzes the incentives faced by individuals engaged in corrupt activities and then recommends changes in those incentives in order to affect behavior and hence, minimize corruption.

Klitgaard (1988) has provided one of the most cited formulas used in the individualist analysis of corruption to date. According to him, corruption = monopoly + discretion – accountability. It is generally believed that if a state custodian (e.g., a civil servant) has monopoly power over a good, service, or authority, which he (she) can allocate and is not accountable to anyone for the decisions that he (she) makes, then he (she) is most likely to allocate the resource in his (her) favor. The solution suggested is to reduce the discretion granted the civil servant, introduce competition in the allocation process, and increase accountability of the civil servants’ activities.

Economists, especially so-called new institutional economists, have examined the incentive structures faced by civil servants – particularly those that entice these agents to participate in corrupt activities. These include (1) discretionary authority; (2) temptation (i.e. salaries); (3) monitoring and supervision; and (4) sanctions (which usually include job loss and damage to one’s reputation and standing in the community).

In the Klitgaard formula given above, discretion is considered as an important contributor to corruption. Hence, corruption can be minimized by reducing civil servants’ discretionary powers. The process of reducing the civil servants’ discretion should also include streamlining bureaucratic processes and bringing to a minimum the number of offices that business owners have to visit in order to obtain permits to engage in productive activities. This revelation is widespread and conducive when conducting business in Dominica as echoed by potential investors in recent times.

Another way to limit discretion and improve efficiency is to introduce competition into public provision. The competitive process will allow public service providers to become more efficient as they struggle for clients, and in the process bid down the equilibrium level of corruption. While it is true that competitive provision will indeed enhance efficiency in public provision and reduce levels of corruption, introducing competition into public provision must be carried out only as part of a comprehensive effort to reconstruct the state. If competition is introduced into public provision through ordinary legislation, the changes are most likely to be reversed by subsequent governments in response to lobbying from interest groups. Based on what I have concluded to date during this exercise, the most effective way to make public provision competitive is to create overlapping political jurisdictions with constitutionally guaranteed autonomy, including fiscal authority.

Another suggested formulation in discouraging public servants from engaging in corruption and corrupt activities would be to bridge the financial compensation disparity between the private and public sectors. By bridging the inequities and asymmetry in the distribution of wealth and income between socioeconomic groups within society such as the public and private sectors, the government will attract more qualified, better trained, and more honest individuals to the public service, and they would be less likely to engage in corrupt activities.

Remember my friends, this power to act morally is furnished by a goal-directed disposition that all living beings possess, but which in man is elevated to the rank of a conscious striving toward self-realization.

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