Corruption has had, and still has, important political significance, this being one of the reasons why discussions on this topic have recently been focused on the political arena. The truth is that this is not only a responsibility that falls on our representatives, but also on each and every one of us, thus becoming our shared dutyo avoid it in any sphere or social interaction.

The approach of this op ed goes beyond political discussion, which, although important, has made us lose sight of how we ourselves are part of the solution (or the problem). Discussing this topic with my father, we talked about practical cases that explain how corruption occurs at all levels, from the person who offers money to a traffic policeman to avoid a fine (even when he is aware that he has committed an offence), to the person who pays a third party to prepare their degree project and present it as if they were the authors of said document, or who gets a job position without knowledge or experience, simply because they have “leverage” in the organization; these are all clear forms of corruption.

Due to these examples and working on this article, the following question arose: Have we, as a society, normalized the occurrence of acts of corruption? The answer is left to the discretion of the reader. However, from my perspective, the answer is yes and I am going to explain it under a concept that I have called “selective corruption”, which, for the purposes of this article, is defined as corruption that is socially permitted as long as there is a retribution or when it is in “fair proportion[1]”.

Selective corruption at the macro level is explained from an expression that I have heard in various scenarios: “to steal but invest at least a little bit”, the expression “to steal” is an express acceptance of an act that is contrary to general interest – and which is generally linked to an act of corruption – which is deemed irrelevant as long as there is a remuneration for the company/individual, even if it is less than it should be.

This type of corruption also occurs when we, as members of the public, promote or take part in acts of corruption, even in the practical examples set out at the start of this article. When we look at this at a global level, we understand that this is not just one citizen, but thousands of people around us who are doing the same.

This is why I hope this article encourages us to ask ourselves how we can contribute so that discussions about corruption extend beyond the political sphere, where of course we have to continue monitoring and pressing as members of the public, so that we add to the discussion from our own different environments (family, work and personal), to explore what more we can do to combat corruption?

From my perspective as a citizen and member of the public, the first thing we have to do is stop normalizing any incidence corruption, even when it is not on a large scale, because in the end, all acts regardless of their scale and whether they take place in the public or private sector, are serious an usually bring consequences that have an impact on public interest.

In my work as a Compliance Officer, and for those of us who are in a compliance department, from our experience, we can sensitize other people (in addition to the role we play at work in our respective companies), to help explain how corruption occurs day-to-day and how to avoid certain behaviors. In the end, part of not normalizing this type of behavior is understanding the negative implications that this has on our society.

This is why I believe it is so important to understand that we, as citizens, as workers, as representatives, as leaders or in whatever role we may play within society, have the responsibility to prevent these kind of  acts from taking place. Corruption is prevented from our homes, in our educational institutions, at work and during any other social interaction. We must  refuse to normalize it, and of course, denounce it where appropriate. Understanding this is crucial to starting the cultural change that we so badly need.

Finally, the question should not be: whose problem is corruption? Because we will always try to find a “culprit.” To contribute to the change, what really needs to be taken into account is what we can do so that as citizens, and from each of our roles, we give this issue the importance, scope and awareness it requires, becoming the anti-corruption allies that the country needs and looking for concrete, forceful and exemplary actions in our environment, in our companies and by the National Government when these situations arise.

Those who wish to share their opinions/comments on each of the questions included in this article are welcome to do so, so that we can build together.


[1] In 1978, Julio Cesar Turbay, the former Colombian president, in the middle of his presidential campaign, stated: “We have to reduce corruption to fair proportions.” Each person may have his own interpretation of the moment and context in which this phrase was used; however, for me it means accepting corruption in certain circumstances, settings, cases or activities.