Integrity in Business: Key for sustainable and long term prosperity

TI-Romania-Conference held in Bucharest, 27-29 November 2013,
Round table: Corporate Good Governance

Dr Michel van Hulten, Professor Governance
SAXION School of Governance, Law and Urban Studies
Enschede / Deventer, the Netherlands;;

‘The purpose of this three-day conference is to debate why companies should take integrity seriously and engage their stakeholders to work together towards a shared vision of integrity’.

Already in 1999, the Council of Europe asked:
Why? “Because it costs so much!”


This answer was specified as
–          Threatens the rule of law, democracy and human rights,
–          Undermines good governance, fairness and social justice,
–          Distorts competition,
–          Hinders economic development,
–          Endangers the stability of democratic institutions and the moral foundations of society.’

Shortest definition of corruption:
Make use of entrusted power for private gain.

Power and Corruption, are like ‘brother and sister’, or better ‘twins’.

Longer, more scientific definition by Dutch criminologist emeritus Professor Petrus van Duyne:

Corruption is an improbity or decay in the decision-making process in which a decision-maker (in a private corporation or in the public service) consents to deviate or demands deviation from the criterion which should rule his or her decision making, in exchange for a reward or for the promise or expectation of a reward, while these motives influencing his or her decision-making cannot be part of the justification of the decision.’


This definition highlights five constituent components of the concept of corruption:

A decision-maker,

→ accepted rules and criteria by which his decision ought to be made,

→ de facto ability of the decision-maker to deviate from these rules and criteria,

→ accountability (in principle) of the decision-maker for his decision-making to another authority, and

→ exchange relation between the decision-maker and the person interested in the decision which is of hidden, improper nature.


General principles and ideas for the work in Romania

\in ten points/
I will highlight \/ what I think could be the focal points for anticorruption work in Romania. I call these ten points ‘principles and ideas’. For each one of them I give an indication what that particular principle or idea brings as a consequence for our work.

No country as such is corrupt, people may be is corrupt, eventually people is corrupt representing business enterprises, organisations and associations as well as local, regional, national and international government, CSOs, churches, professional organisations or events in sports and all kind of competitions.

Also Romania is not a corrupt country.

Forget about the CPI-Corruption Perceptions Index.
It is scientifically speaking ‘fake’.

In general corruption is unknown. No one likes to acknowledge that he is corrupt.
As a consequence individualize the problem. Do not attack ‘Romania’. Find the corrupt individuals, because as elsewhere corruption reigns in many sectors of socio-economic life. Organize the sectors in such a way that corruption is prevented.

It is no easy task to get rid of corruption. This will take time and much effort. The British took a century to get a clean police-force. Don’t think that there are easy and quick steps to be taken.

The NAS (Romanian National Anticorruption Strategy 2012-2015) radiates that this is possible! Don’t do that. Ten years of sustained efforts will be a minimum.

In all countries, not all people are corrupt.
On the contrary: most people are not corrupt, they are our allies.
Treat them as such!

Nevertheless, most anti-corruption programmes are phrased in such a way that obviously their basic assumption is that everybody is corrupt.

As a consequence

Any anti-corruption activity has to identify who our allies are:
Which people and which organizations are honest, transparent, and accountable, and could be relied on for initiatives and continuity in the fight against corruption?

How do we mobilize ‘the honest’?

Here it is that we need strong CSOs – Civil Society Organizations. (Are they honest?) How do we get them? Does the Government want them?

Corruption is closely linked to power. Abuse of power is the source of corruption, power that is mostly related to public authority and private wealth.

Poor people fail to have these. They do not have the means to buy favours.

Against corruption we need strong power in the hands of CSOs. Does the Government want this?  And what about the business-world?

As a consequence

Any government that really has the political will to fight corruption, will have to make it possible that businesses and CSOs organize their strengths.

For all governments this is a very difficult task as basic to all governments is that they do not like to share power.

Business enterprises, entrepreneurs, CSOs and their staff, need legal frameworks that force them to be(-come) honest. Make compliance legally compulsory.

In all countries there is corruption. It is nearly a miracle that some countries have less flagrant corruption than others. Good governance creates integrity and transparency. Obey the rules.

Break up the whole of the corruption phenomenon in smaller parts that can be handled. Create ‘islands of integrity’. Make citizens, entrepreneurs and their organizations take initiatives. Invent incentives so that they will do this. Connect these ‘islands’.

Grow in time and space.

Parliamentarians should take the lead in their constituencies. Voters should learn how to push parliamentarians in the right direction.

As a consequence

Do not only establish the rules that create integrity and transparency. Rules have to be learned.

In the family, in the school, in the church, youth movement, workplace, sports-arena, wherever.
Fighting corruption needs education
Fighting corruption has to integrate with all formal and informal education and character-building.

Ask teachers how to do that. Make them proud of their task to learn the youth not to be selfish.

Fighting corruption is best done in preventing corruption, repression comes second. ‘Stress more safeguarding of integrity’, than ‘fighting of corruption’ (carrot versus stick).

Corruption is a crime based on bad governance habits, acceptable to many. This mechanism needs to be broken.

As a consequence

Therefore, absolutely needed is: freedom of speech, of the media, of association and of assembly.
And academic research and investigative journalism are to be promoted.
‘Educate to be honest’.


Rules need control. If there is no supervisory administration or board, it is extremely difficult to assure that any organisation will remain free from corruption.
‘The low trust of the people in the Parliament and MPs, generated by the low level of accountability’ and the MPs under corruption charges (as identified by the NIS-Romania study*) is a serious concern and has to be attacked.
*NIS-study – National Integrity System Assessment Romania by TI-Romania).

As a consequence

The NIS-study in many places observes shortcomings, that investigative journalists and academic researchers should be invited (and paid by the Government), to follow up on these observations and to identify what is done to remedy. It is a shame that Ombudsman and Supreme Audit Institution ‘are neither visible nor effective’ (p. 18). Become creative how to change this state of affairs.

Worry about the low ranking of Romania in the CPI of TI. Although the CPI is not based on facts, but on ‘perceptions’ and their ranking, these cannot but influence the behaviour of those that are active in vulnerable situations and activities.
If your counterpart thinks that you are corruptible, (s)he will try to use that knowledge. Perceptions create corruption.

As a consequence

In any case change the situation in the country making use of all available means to diminish corrupt behavior.
But pay also attention to the needed change in the ranking as a consequence of the perceptions, as it is difficult also for honest people to prevent corruption in their socio-economic behavior if their counterparts think that they are corruptible.

This requires a strong PR-campaign:
CHOC – Change Habits, Oppose Corruption.

The man in the street is very much interested to see the Government fighting ‘petty corruption’: the bribe to be paid to the teacher for a place in the classroom, or to the doctor for a bed in the hospital, or to the policeman to prevent a ticket. Anything that annoys the people. We cannot forget this part of the corruption.

Important is whether a feeling can be created that salaries are high enough and do not justify this kind of private funding.

Are official salaries sufficient for decent life?

As a consequence

We should convince the man in the street that paying a bribe is not a duty. It is in the first place his own personal responsibility not to do this.
Nevertheless, this is a problem.  Here also the ‘Islands of Integrity’ could play a role as well (see above point 4). Those that do not ask and do not receive bribes any longer are understandably less capable and less inclined to pay bribes. Those that continue to ask bribes should be taught to understand this change in society and in behavior of some. How? Use in particular the media.

For the national economy it is much more important to fight the ‘grand corruption’ the corruption of the rich and powerful that buy themselves favours. It is certainly interesting to see the rather long list and the numbers of those public officers convicted for corruption (see page 6 in the NAS), but where are the payers? And are those convicted the big shots? What is the role of business in corrupting others?

As a consequence

Is it visible enough to the general public (the men in the street) that the fight against corruption is more than words, and that the real big shots are under fire?
Make sure that corruption-fighting is not seen as merely a political weapon to get rid of adversaries.

More important than investigating people and getting the guilty in court and convicted, is to change the socio-economic environment in which people get easily corrupt.
‘Trading in influence’ and networks of people involved in corrupt behavior, demand another type of fight against corruption.

As a consequence

It seems that Romania has sufficient legal instruments to battle the anticorruption fight but are these used, and effectively used against the real criminals, the powerful?
These networks stretch all over Europe, and also a new power-centre as the European Commission in Brussels, is attractive for corrupt behaviour. The more reason to keep an eye on the thousands of lobbyists that have settled in Brussels.

Abuse of power

If you want to know more about abuse of public power to win unjustifiable private (business) gains, go to

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