A Look at Bribe and Poverty in Colombia

A Look at Bribe and Poverty in Colombia

Maria Teresa Ramirez-Garzon, Carlos Mario Muñoz-Maya, Rafael Perez-Uribe, Olga Lucia Diaz-Villamizar
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-8536-1.ch001
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The purpose of this book chapter is to inform on the perception of anti-bribe practices in Colombian companies, on some aspects of bribe in Colombia, on the relationship between bribe and poverty, and to present the most shocking bribe case in Colombia. To achieve the objective, a literature review is carried out by selecting publications on bribes and corruption, in particular on the Odebrecht-Colombia case, and on the relationship between bribery and corruption. The process begins with the description of the phenomenon of bribes in general and the different types of bribes. Following, the relationship between bribery and poverty is established, and finally, the most shocking case of bribery in Colombia is presented. The results show that there are bribe practices in Colombia despite adopting different legal mechanisms. In Colombia, there is the need to continue adopting coercive measures, and to develop a culture from education to form law-abiding citizens for the benefit of society.
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Theoretical Framework


Johannes-Teichmann and Monteiro (2018), defines bribe based on the contributions of the OECD Anti-Bribe Convention and Transparency International approved in 1997. Bribe is understood as:

An act in which a party intentionally abuses the power entrusted for private gain by offering, promising or giving any pecuniary or other undue advantage, either directly or through intermediaries, to a public official, for that official or for a third party, so that official acts or refrains from acting in connection with the performance of official duties, in order to obtain or retain businesses or any other undue advantage in the conduct of international businesses (p.21).

For their part, Roth-Unzueta and Acosta-Villegas (2018), relate bribe from corruption understood as a behavior that corrupts. The authors, referring to Dexter (1993), emphasize that although corrupt acts exist, there are also marked differences from these acts of corruption in relation to the moral judgment associated with such acts. This is how moral judgment becomes a subjective perception referring to the same fact. Roth-Unzueta and Acosta-Villegas (2018), give the following example:

(…) let’s consider two circumstances: in the first of them there is a regular prisoner who is allowed to escape in exchange for a certain amount of money. In the second, a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp who is also allowed to escape after having offered money to his guard. Do both acts have the same moral burden? Are both acts of corruption? Or is it just one of them while the other is an act of mercy rewarded by the victim? (p.62)

Taking into account the above, Roth-Unzueta an Acosta-Villegas (2018), consider that the definition of corruption becomes quite complex because the fact itself will depend on the context in which it develops, which can be physical, given this in a natural or built environment; social, determined by the presence of individuals or groups; cultural, given by human conventions; or it can also be symbolic with a content of subjective meanings that are part of the moral act. In this sense, the context is related to those variables that can be involved according to the situation that may affect the behavior of the individual, such as “place, time, actors, the very nature of the situation, the perceived consequences, among others” (p.64).

Considering the contributions by Roth-Unzueta an Acosta-Villegas (2018), bribe can be given by “subjective urgencies” which an individual can encounter when faced with obstacles that prevent him from carrying out his purpose, deciding without considering the complications that may arise.

According to Transparency International (2008), the term corruption means:

The misuse of power by the person or people to whom it was entrusted, for his or their own particular benefit. Bribe is the most common form of corruption, and it is defined as the giving or acceptance of money, gifts, or any other type of advantage as an incentive to do something dishonest, illegal or that is deemed a breach of trust during business (p.4).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Development and corruption: Corruption happens worldwide, but it is particularly worrying in the case of poor countries. With systematic corruption, even countries that have a significant number of natural resources may fail to develop in a way that allows citizens to obtain benefits.

Transnational bribe: Contribution in money or in kind made by a company or organization to political campaigns in another country, without having any relation to what is contracted by the official’s state.

Poverty: A person is in a situation of poverty when he/she has at least one social deprivation (in the six indicators of educational backwardness, access to health services, access to social security, quality and spaces of housing, basic services in the household and access to food), and the income is not enough to acquire the goods and services required to meet both food and non-food needs.

Bribe: The act of offering money, services, or other valuables to persuade a person to do something in return. Bribes can also be called backhanders, tipping, secrecy, protection fees, gratuity, etc. Bribe is considered a crime under national and international law. Bribing foreign officials is particularly prohibited by the OECD – Convention on Combating Bribe of Foreign Public Officials.

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