ABDI: The corrupt are psychopaths who deserve no mercy

The vice can only be eradicated through timely investigations, prosecution and recovery of ill-gotten wealth.

In Summary
  • The corrupt cannot survive in strong ethical systems.
  • In the workplace, such individuals will endeavour to poke holes at any good system and fight any efforts to instil accountability and transparency
EACC offices at Integrity Centre.
CORRUPTION: EACC offices at Integrity Centre.
Image: FILE

What do you make of a politician who embezzles resources meant for improvement of health service for his people and yet complains of government neglect of the same people? Or a medical personnel who demands for petty bribes from a relative of a maternity patient for him/her to infuse a pint of blood she so requires for her survival?

Or a police officer who takes a bribe from a drug trafficker and leaves him to sell it to the youth? Or a school principal who sends a poor student home for irregular levies, which are usually unaccounted for, making the student to drop out?

Or a public officer who hides a file from a helpless, aged petitioner so as to extort bribes? Or a senseless tenderprenuer who constructs a substandard bridge and gets paid after bribing unethical ‘professional’ officers just for the bridge to collapse and cause death a week after it was launched?

What about a private company that channels hazardous waste to a river, which is the only source of water for the neighbourhood, and bribes the regulator to look the other side?

These scenarios are not hypothetical. They are real life experiences that demonstrate the endemic nature of corruption and fraud in Kenya.

The common traits of the perpetrators in all the above situations are that they have considerable influence over what they do, they lack empathy and emotion of wrongdoing, they are egocentric, they suppress and exploit the weak to gain advantage, they lack the conscience to think about the society. They exhibit predatory behaviours.

While executing all the above actions, these predators are always deceitful. They lie a lot. They are cunning and schemers and, funny enough, they do not want others to see their narcissistic characters. They prey on the weaknesses of others and of systems. The worst tragedy is when such persons are in positions of authority. They destroy any strong systems and perpetrate failure of institutions. These are textbook characteristics of psychopaths.

According to the celebrated forensic psychologist, Robert D. Hare, a psychopath depicts some personality disorders characterised by a range of interpersonal, affective, lifestyle and antisocial behaviours. These main behavioural attributes of a psychopath are deficits of emotional factors like empathy, remorse and compassion. Instead, they are usually callous, irresponsible, deceitful, selfish and lack the conscience to avoid the bad.

A study by Dean Balckbourn and others to assess the psychological profiles of a person convicted of corruption and white-collar crimes have shown that such individuals have high impulsivity, are sensation seekers and have high-risk appetite. At the same time, they have low self-regulation and are good at faking and manipulating. Further most of them are outgoing but personal liars.

Moreover, due to their manipulative character, the corrupt psychopaths in positions of influence pose the biggest danger to society. Corrupt people usually create the illusion of being good to people. They disguise as very caring and benevolent but are just cunning to buy loyalty and at the same time prove to be viciously opportunistic.

The corrupt fret order and an organised society. They cannot survive in strong ethical systems. In the workplace, such individuals will endeavour to poke holes at any good system and fight any efforts to instil accountability and transparency. They thrive in disorder and opaque systems. They are suffocated by openness and transparency. Strong laws and systems that will expose them usually threaten them. That is why institutions run by corrupt individuals have sick governance systems.

In any society, the corrupt are the epitome of decadence and destruction of social norms. The only things they contribute to a society is the spread of vices of greed, dishonesty and glorification of thievery.

A psychopath, in any organisation, remains the worm that eats up progress and growth. They perpetuate break down of the rules, norms and work ethos. They disregard or even circumvent the laws and cause the reduction of public confidence.

It is, therefore, imperative to take critical and deliberate steps to identify them in every society. There is need to restore social responsibility demands for the institutionalisation of integrity screening of persons in positions of influence. Just like any dangerous malady, earlier diagnosis is key to timely intervention. Institutions have to take integrity screening very serious to weed these worms out of the public sector.

Secondly, since such antisocial behaviours are acquired over time, it is important to focus on robust value-based education to imbibe good values during the formative years. There should be a comprehensive rollout of content on ethics and integrity in all institutions of learning and even make the teaching of national values and ethics as core units in all institutions. These might bring the hummingbird effects.

Thirdly, the society has to understand and accept that the corrupt are not only morally bankrupt but also socially ill and psychologically disturbed. All good people should shun and ostracise these characters. We have to come to realisation that elevating a psychopath to a position of influence and expecting service is the highest point of stupidity and the beginning of societal ruin.

Lastly, a strong fraud prevention and detection system is an anathema to these workplace psychopaths. Institutions, private and public, have to put in place measures that can expose and tether the itchy fingers of these individuals.

Such measures include institutionalisation of strong internal controls, ingraining of a sound organisational culture defined by integrity, automation of critical operations, conducting risk assessments and continuous monitoring, evaluation and review of governance infrastructure of the organisation.

Most importantly, there should be certainty in the enforcement of laws. The chronically corrupt only fear punishment. As such, timely and thorough investigations, prosecution and recovery of ill-gotten wealth will make these psychopaths regain their conscience and serve as a big lesson.


Lawyer and governance analyst

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