How Contextual Factors Fuel Corruption in the Procurement Cycle of Construction Projects

How Contextual Factors Fuel Corruption in the Procurement Cycle of Construction Projects – By Jones Kalyongwe,*, Mubiana Macwan’gi, Balimu Mwiya, Mundia Muya, Jonathan Tambatamba, Lungowe Matakala, Nalukui Milapo, Kahatibu Kazungu, & Vincent Byusa from the University of Zambia, Open University of Tanzania, and The National University of Rwanda, Kigali, Rwanda.

They say …In an effort to understand the nature of corruption, different approaches of identifying and estimating the extent of corruption exist. Macwan’gi et al. [3] state that corruption has crippling effects on national socio-economic development and governance systems. Despite many anti-corruption measures being implemented over the years, most governance and corruption indicators show that corruption remains a major challenge in Zambia. The 2014 National Corruption Diagnostic Study [4] shows that corruption is the third most serious problem in Zambia (unemployment and high cost of living being first and second respectively).

Similarly, the World Economic Forum’s 2013-2014 Global Competitiveness Report identified corruption as the second most problematic factor (after access to financing) fordoing business in Zambia; and the Global Economic Crime Survey–Zambia Report [5] indicate that bribery and corruption was the second most prevalent form of economic crime in Zambia. Very little literature exists on corruption in procurement in the construction sector in Zambia. However, the literature that exists suggests that the construction sector is riddled with corruption.

Transparency International [6]indicate that corruption is one of the main unethical practices in the construction sector, while Shakantu [7]observes that corruption in the construction industry is one “area which everybody in the industry knows about but nobody wants to go there”. Similarly, Sichombo et al., [8] 678 How Contextual Factors Fuel Corruption in the Procurement Cycle of Construction Projects reveal that the construction sector in Zambia is perceived to be the most corrupt by 35% of the respondents (followed by the consultancy sector at 33%).

Additionally, Mukumbwa and Muya [9] report that the prevalence of unethical practices was in all phases of the procurement cycle of construction projects in Zambia. Because corrupt acts are often masked, conducted in secrecy and not exposed in public [10] it is important to understand what drives corruption in procurement of construction projects in Zambia. This paper focuses on contextual factors as contributors of corruption. Contextual factors are said to be factors that reflect a particular context, characteristics unique to a particular group, community, society and individual.

Contextual environmental and personal factors play an essential part in how corruption manifests and how it affects procurement of construction projects in Zambia. Understanding these factors in the Zambian context would enable evidence based anti-corruption solutions. The fact that parties involved in the corruption are in most cases satisfied with the perceived gain from their acts makes awareness of contextual factors critical. Considering the socio-cultural environmental factors such as cultural norms gives an indication of how and why corruption takes place. Norms are the agreed upon expectations and rules by which a culture guides the behaviour of its members in any given situation.

Members of a culture must conform to its norms for the culture to exist and function. They first must internalise the social norms and values that dictate what is “normal” for the culture; then they must socialise, or teach norms and values to, their children. If internalisation and socialisation fail to produce conformity, some form of “social control” is eventually needed. Social control may take the form of ostracism, fines, punishments, and even imprisonment.

Yang [11] asserts that, activities in certain cultural circles, which might be regarded as essential to getting the job done, and a lawful means of doing so, may well be seen elsewhere as dishonest, or unlawful. For instance, in China, gift-giving is not only seen as obligatory in certain contexts, but also as a legitimate solution when, for instance, trying to obtain and change job assignments, buy certain foods and consumer items, and obtain better education. Yang [12]writes, “In the Chinese cultural discourse there is often a fine line between the art of guanxi and bribery”. For instance, bribery and corruption are pejorative, negative terms, whereas guanxi connotes “human sentiments” friendship, long-term personal relationships, and an image of people helping one another. So there is a good side of guanxi which bribery does not have. It follows that if the two parties do not have a prior personal relationship already, such as shared native homes, kin relationship, and one party is seen to help the other, then society will surmise that there is bribery going on”.

In Tanzania, one of the cultures that encourage corruption is that of “Achievers”. This entails the treating or regarding of openly corrupt individual in society as achievers.

In Zambia, the cultural setup is influenced by how people are socialised to relate to parents, elders and traditional leaders in a community setting and employers, superiors and leaders in a formal work environment. For example, the young cannot question parents and elders. Likewise, at places of work juniors or subordinates cannot question their superiors or employers. This has resulted in leaders or those with authority acting with impunity. Historically, in colonial times subjects’ submissiveness was equated to “loyalty to authority”. Today this is visible in some management styles of institutions, where submission still shows loyalty to authority.

Published by Kemman

Regulatory and Independent Consulting Professional with expertise in Financial Crime Risk Compliance encompassing Anti-Money Laundering (AML), Countering Terrorism Financing (CTF), Anti-Bribery & Corruption (ABC – FCPA & UKAB), Global Trade & Sanctions, Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), Know Your Customer (KYC) and Customer Due Diligence (CDD), Internal Audit Testing, Reviews, Validation, Risk Assessment. Worked in Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, North America (USA). Banking & FinTech, Anti-Sex & Human Trafficking Advocate, FOREX & Cryptocurrency trading, Travel & Tours, Telecommunications & Energy.

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