Soon after International Anti-Corruption Day, there is an interesting story from India: the Economist reports that citizens are handing out rupees to government officials freely. This is no act of charity, however. The rupees are fake, and they are meant to send the message that fraud and corruption are wrong.
The gesture is a dramatic statement against the culture of corruption that affects so many governments around the world. In India, more and more citizens are getting fed up with the “business as usual” atmosphere that is, in many cases, plainly unethical and lawless. The fake rupee notes read: “I promise to neither accept nor give bribe..(sic)” and the monetary amount is zero.
The symbolic action carries more weight than just a protest – the rupees serve as tangible reminders that the public is watching, and the notes don't just disappear when the latest corruption case falls off the news pages. Also, as the article explains, experts believe that the unified effort behind the campaign lends a level of protection to those who wish to participate and take a stand against corruption:
“Such campaigns might be risky in countries where bribes are extorted at gunpoint. But in places where public opinion is already shifting, they could be a useful way of making bureaucrats behave better. Shaazka Beyerle, an expert on civil resistance campaigns, says that using the zero-rupee note offers protection. It shows a person’s affiliation with a larger movement which cannot be brushed aside by one angry official.”
The message from someone handing out a fake rupee might equate to the following: “There are more of us out there, and we aren't going to take it any more.”
Corruption is an enduring problem and it shows no signs of letting up. Developing countries are especially susceptible, where laws might go unenforced and even those charged with stamping out violations look the other way. One thing is for sure: it has a huge impact on business, and your company could be victimized by such practices when expanding into new regions or partnering with companies across international borders.
CRI Group's due diligence services include a level of preparedness and protection from regional or local corruption issues, helping organizations avoid stepping into a murky, and possibly illegal, situation. In today's business world, it is better to stay informed and protected, rather than engage with corrupt partners or officials.