Bribery 101


It is said that the PM of Pakistan sat down with his ministers and advisors and said, ‘I did not sleep last night… I recieved terrible news yesterday…Pakistan has been voted the “the second most corrupt country of the world” only after Nigeria!’.  After a brief silence a minister stands up proudly and says, ‘Sir…we were actually #1 on the list, but I paid them off to bring us down to #2!’

And so has been my two years in Pakistan in dealing with the government.  Bribery has been institutionalized (prices are generally standardized) and is called ‘commission’ (!!).  So, if you want to get something illegal approved–you will pay a high price, and it will get approved in no time.  AND if you want to get something legally approved–you will pay a price as well (not as high, though).  If you dont pay the bribe/commission, your file will sit with the ‘clerk’ for days and weeks.

So,  I have had many, many battles with guys in all departments….trying to instill the fear of God in them–telling them that the money I pay them will be borne by the poor residents of Saiban, since we are a non-profit.  Many have come around to accepting the Saiban project as an exception to their norms (they consider that they are doing their part in charity by foregoing the commission!)

All of this came to a climax (read: my head was going to explode) last week.  We are building a 3 KM road (US$ 150,000)leading to Khuda Ki Basti-4, of which the government is funding 80%.  As the government issues payments in installments, upon verification of work completed, everyone in the food chain lines up to get their share.

So I sat down with a guy who said he would process the claim for us in a fraction of the time we would take on our own…and the conversation went like this:

Me: Hi, how are you, fine, good, ok…..what can you do for us?

Him: I will process the file for you in one week, BUT you have to pay all of the bribes along the way

Me: OH NO!!, who takes bribes in this process?

Him: local sub-engineer, SDO, District Officer-Roads, his personal assistant, the personal assistant of the Executive DO-Roads

My heart is racing now, and I am furious…’I know the Executive DO himself does not take any bribes, as he is a personal friend and is an upright individual’

Him: you are right (then he continued) the Executive DO-Community development, his assistant, the DO-Social welfare, his assistant

Me: I am NOT paying any of thes guys bribes, that is my headache, you tell me how much you want to carry the file through–what is your fee for service?

Him: Hmmm, I will take 3% of the project amount to collect all payments as they are needed.

Me: What!? US$ 4500 for carrying the files through the departments…(I started my ‘speech’)…this project is for poor people, blah blah..

Him: I am poor too

At that point we ended the conversation and I walked away.  He takes $4500 for a job that will take him four weeks to do and he claims that he is poor as well….I wanted to smack him on his head to knock some sense in to him, but didnt 🙂

So, what did I do after all of this…I set up a meeting with the road contractor and told him, ‘you deal with government contracts for a living…and how you manage to do it is not my problem, but getting these payments released is your problem from today on, not ours–we are not paying bribes’.  Luckily he accepted the proposal–apparently that is standard for them.

Sometimes I think a revolution is the only way things will change in such conditions.

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