Undisciplined mind cause of corruption

Undisciplined mind cause of corruption

Wednesday, September 25, 2013 – 10:15

China Daily/Asia News Network

When fallen corrupt officials confess in a Chinese court, they often repent having let their mind stray while in power, which they say has pushed them down the road to self-destruction. Take Zhang Shuguang, a former top railways official charged with accepting 47.55 million yuan (S$9.6 million) in bribes. On September 10 he admitted in court that after making some personal achievements, he turned to criminal activities as he “let his mind loose” and slackened in studies.Interestingly, three months earlier, the former railways minister and his patron Liu Zhijun also blamed “slackening in studies and letting his guard down” for his downfall, before he was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve for bribery and abuse of power.

You may brush aside such scripted excuses as hypocritical, desperate tactics aimed at being treated more leniently. But high moral standards of officials through incessant ideological indoctrination and self-study have long been a main anti-corruption strategy in China.

So when a corrupt official is caught, a lack of moral education and reflection often becomes an easy excuse, while he carefully avoids other more important causes.

Now as corruption pervades the Chinese social fabric, the question is, has the education approach ever worked to prevent moral deviations by corrupt officials?

The answer seems to be yes, but with almost negligible effects, at least judging by a growing body of research results on what corrupt officials were thinking when they embarked on their dangerous path. Researchers have identified a number of psychological triggers that prompted officials to commit acts of corruption and fraud, in the context of low salaries, ample loopholes and a porous monitoring system.

In a recently concluded study on corruption that surveyed 103 fallen officials at the vice-minister level or higher, Tian Guoliang, a professor at the CPC’s Central Party School, found five most common psychological factors: jealousy, peer pressure, compensation, risk-taking and superstition.

The once high-flyers were far less wealthy than well-off businesspeople, which caused an imbalance in their psyches. They followed suit and accepted bribes because their peers did.

Some officials sought compensation because they thought they had worked hard but failed to benefit from their positions and were intent on taking anything they could get before they retired, with the protection of their own god, Tian says.

A new book, Psychology of Fallen Corrupt Officials, published by the CPC’s Central Party School Publishing House, has summed up 10 common personality traits that prompted 300 Chinese officials to be corrupt. They included a strong need for power, greed, a need for instant gratification, jealousy, compensation, risk-taking, expectation of returns, and indulgence of children.

Some officials have more than one such trait, which made their corrupt behavior more aggressive and damaging, says the author, Liu Jizhou, a former anti-graft official.

Many experts on corruption now believe the strategy of moral education is an “immature idea”, Liu writes, as he concludes that “self-centeredness and greed are two major weaknesses of humanity” and an effective enforcement of complete regulations to combat corruption is essential for Party officials to be clean.

Hopes are high for the government’s pledge to set up a punitive and preventive system to ensure that people do not dare to, are not able to and cannot easily commit corruption.

While tougher punishment is already meted out to fallen officials, other moves, such as more forceful surveillance and declaration of assets by officials, are expected to be in place sooner rather than later.

Then the corrupt officials may be reluctant to claim they have stolen millions from the public because they were simply too relaxed or had skipped political studies.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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