I have seen examples of corruption throughout my life. Some are pretty much like the Coca-Cola driver peddling hot drinks throughout my old neighborhood. How about the time when one of my football coaches offered cash under the table for us if we made major hits, touchdowns, interceptions, etc.? I have seen it all. Some have been petty and some had the potential of serious implications and outcomes if I would have agreed to it.
I have avoided or turned down 96% of the attempts made on me, but I am sure there are many who haven’t had the will power to turn away. How do you avoid it? It is easy, according to then Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano: “Don’t pay any bribes; there won’t be any bribery.” In other words the offers will be made to us all and the key to avoiding it is to just turn them down and walk away. I have taken his advice to heart.
A great spawning ground for corruption are the minority business programs throughout our nation. City, county, state, federal and corporations have some form of outreach and technical assistance for businesses that come from racial/socio economic disadvantaged groups. Most require participants to be ‘certified’ as a minority, female, etc. type of business ownership.
There is so much fraud involved in many of these applications that we can’t count them all. Cheating applicant, cheating employee overseeing the program and usually a cheating White-owned seasoned business conspiring with the others. Every one of these programs has some form of corruption in their daily process. Some do it for quick bucks and some do it to prolong their racist attitudes and/or greed.
I have had experience with mayoral offices during my travels. The Thomas Barnes administration in Gary, Indiana was a trip. They would demand my members who had won contracts competitively to pay a ‘fee’ before they received payment. One protesting member was told by an employee in the Deputy Mayor’s office: “What? Do you think we just give these contracts away?” He finally got his money after filing a claim in court. They gave him a check for the money due as he walked up the courthouse steps.
My experience with Mayor Willie Brown’s office of San Francisco was quite interesting. We set up an introductory meeting with the mayor. While I was waiting in the mayor’s office, an unscrupulous guy comes up to me and said, “I’m Charlie, best friend and adviser of the mayor. You need to meet with me outside before your meeting.” As we went outside the building, I said: “I know what you are trying to do. So just go to hell, and I am out of here.” (I don’t know for a fact that Mayor Brown was aware of what Charlie was doing.)
There was a similar experience with Mayor Marc Morial’s office in New Orleans. We called for a meeting and they said to wait for a formal response. A couple of days later, I received a phone call from this private attorney. He said that the mayor would like me to see him first. So I went to his office, and we had a discussion. What it amounted to was that the NBCC must hire him and use him as the communicator with the mayor. Paying legal fees in order to speak to an elected official? I don’t think so! A few years later, this attorney was indicted for his shenanigans and spent some good time in prison. (Again, I can’t say the mayor knew that he was soliciting work from us.)
There is much corruption going on with the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). This is similar to a free trade treaty. AGOA certified nations in Africa may export goods to America without paying any duties. There are two big abuses going on. 1) German auto manufacturer BMW has built a plant in South Africa for the sole purpose of shipping the product to the United States duty free. In essence, a European firm is benefitting from a program meant for African firms. 2) India has jumped into this AGOA action. The island nation of Mauritius is located in the Indian Ocean and has been given ‘nominal status’ as an African nation. India is shipping tons of raw products to this island of mainly Indian expatriates and then shipping the finished products to the Unites States under AGOA benefits.
How many trillions of dollars are taken out of our general economy because of corruption? How many good decisions and acts of leadership are lost to bribery, kickbacks and many other forms of corruption? It is an attitude that focuses on greed, quick money and a life style of cheating. You can’t get to Heaven living that way. Sooner or later most of the corrupt operators will get their justice. Too bad most will be replaced with others of the same ilk. Just how deep is corruption? Too deep!
(Harry Alford is the co-founder, president/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Website: <www.nationalbcc.org>; e-mail: <email@example.com>.)