Posts Tagged ‘leadership’

Civil Service Corruption and What One Country Did to Defeat It

March 19, 2015

Government Corruption

How does corruption among governement officicals become the norm in some countries?

The former head of the civil service of one of the poorest countries in the world describes what happened to the excellent civil service he had helped build in his own country.  During a dinner with Paul Collier (Director for the Study of African Economies at Oxford Uiversity), he describes how the civil service became a vehicle for looting the country, rather than for developing the country.

Paul Collier,

Paul Collier, Director for the Study of African Economies, at Oxford University, England

The former director asked Paul “to imagine being a school boy in his country on the eve of independence.  The bright boys in the class aspired to join the civil service to help build the country.  At the other end of the class, what were the aspirations for the dumb class bully?  Forget the civil service with its tough exam.  So the class bully set his sights on the army.  Fast-forward two decades and a coup d’état.  The army was now running the government.  Between the class bullies, now the generals, and their objective of looting the public sector, stood the class stars now running the civil service.  The generals didn’t like it.  Gradually they replaced the clever boys with people more like themselves.  And as they promoted the dumb and corrupt over the bright and the honest, the good chose to leave.”

Paul Collier says that economists have a name for this:  “selection by intrinsic motiviation.”

While there are probably a number of paths to government officials becoming corrupt, sometimes honest and reform-minded politicians come to power.  “It is very difficult for them to implement change because they inherit a civil service that is an obstacle rather than an instrument.  It is hostile to change because individual civil servants profit fromt he tangled mess of regulations and expenditures over which they preside,” Collier explains.

Fighting bribery and corruption from the top down, by the use of threats, doesn’t seem to help much in diminishing the problem.  How poor governments spend money and their lack of accountability is a major problem.  In Chad (in 2004) only one percent of the money released by the Ministry of Finance intended for rural health clinics actually reached those clinics, according to a tracking survey.  Another survey in Uganda (mid-1990s) found thad only 20 percent of the money that the Ministry of Finance released for primary schools (other than teachers’ salaries) actually reached those schools.


Mutebile-Tumusiime, now governor of the Central Bank of Uganda

Ugandan Finance Minister Tumusiime-Mutebile (now the governor of the Central Bank of Uganda) decided to try a new approach. Instead of suppressing the shameful report, Tumusiiime-Meutebile took action.  “Each time the Ministry of Finance released money, it informed the local media, and it also sent a poster to each school setting out what it should be getting.”  Only three years later, 90 percent of the money was getting through to the schools.

It’s difficult to find solutions to the power of corruption, but let this example serve as a shining beacon of hope to those who are looking for solutions.

–Lynne Diligent

(For more information see Paul Collier’s excellent small book, written for the general public, The Bottom Billion:  Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can be Done About It, Oxford University Press, 2007.)

The Bottom Billion

Meritocracy vs. In-Group Loyalty: Two Methods of Team Building

April 17, 2011
The Apprentice 5 Finalists

Sean Yazbeck (left) and Lee Bienstock (right)

In the Season 5 Finale of Donald Trump’s The Apprentice (see video), two male finalists, Lee Bienstock from New York, and Sean Yazbeck from London, used two completely different methods for choosing their final teams from the previous fired cast members.  These two methods are illustrative of opposite values often espoused by different cultures.

Sean assembled his “dream team” covering all the bases in marketing, sales, and event planning, while at the same time making sure to pick team members who all like each other personally so that they could work well together.  Sean’s meritocratic method was illustrative of individualist cultures, such as the United States (in spite of Sean being British of Lebanese Arab descent).

Sean then expressed total confusion at Lee’s choice consisting of cast members who were fired early on.  Lee (an American from New York City, of Jewish descent) went for a totally different approach, that of choosing team members who liked him, and would be loyal to him, who he was sure wanted him to win.  Lee expressed his opinion that it would be useless to have someone brilliant, but who secretly wanted to sabotage him.  Lee’s approach was illustrative of in-group cultures (such as the Middle East) where who you are, and your relationship and loyalty to the top man, is more important than your particular skills.

The two teams were then to coordinate two high-profile charity events. Sean’s team was given the task of staging an Atlantic City rock concert featuring the Barenaked Ladies, while Lee’s team was given the task of of organizing a celebrity hockey event.

So, which team-choosing strategy paid off best?  I felt Sean’s strategy was closer to my own, but only 38% of the audience agreed that he had the better team.  Sixty-two percent felt that Lee would win with his team–even though Donald Trump expressed surprise in the boardroom at the team Lee chose, with members who had been fired early on.  Donald said, “I hope Lee knows what he’s doing!”

Donald Trump

The final two candidates are challenged to coordinate two high-profile charity events. Lee works with the returning Lenny, Pepi, and Roxanne to organize a celebrity hockey event. Sean works with the returning Tammy, Andrea, and Tarek as he tries to hit all the right notes while staging an Atlantic City rock concert featuring Barenaked Ladies.

In the process, Lee displayed some weak leadership and his team members did not perform strongly.  However, in the end, the event came off well.  Lee felt sure he had won.

Sean’s team worked well together, but hit a snag when one team member had a medical emergency.  Sean felt his team was outstanding and worked well together.  He said, “I’m so, so pleased that I surrounded myself with the best people.”  Sean also felt sure he had won.

Sean was hired.  Three months later, Lee was also hired.

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