Monday, October 08, 2007
A fictional account of corruption in the highway department
In an exotic kingdom far, far away, they have many good roads built and maintained by very industrious and dedicated people in the highway department. The actual work of building and maintenance is carried out by world class construction contractors who employ highly skilled people and the latest in road building equipment. When a contractor bids for road work, he must show good faith by paying a fee equal to 2% of the bid amount. The successful contractor is required to pay a further fee equal to 12% of the bid amount. No accounting record or audit trail exists to show that these payments were made or that they were received or how these funds were disbursed. It is widely assumed by conspiracy theorists that these payments end up financing luxury homes and cars and a comfortable life-style for certain public servants who hold key positions in the highway department. The same conspiracy theorists also allege that the contractor, having already parted with the net income that he could have made from the project, is thus forced to find more innovative ways to make a living and they involve using sub-standard materials and skimping on specifications while fat and happy recipients of their payment to the highway department turn a blind eye. The product of this genius is that the sub-standard road soon goes to potholes and ruts that require new contracts for resurfacing and maintenance, more work, and more money for the contractors, and more fees for the highway department officials. The ever grateful contractors may even celebrate the early demise of their work by throwing a party for the highway officials and they may invite the highway police as well. Were it not for the kind cooperation of the highway police who are known to allow 30-ton trucks on to highways designed for 10-ton trucks, the road may have taken longer to go to pot and the poor contractors would have had to wait longer for the re-surfacing contract. Not only that, the highway police can actually collect a fee from the truckers for providing this valuable service. It's a win-win situation because all three parties involved in this ingenious enterprise get rich from their participation in it. Of course, if you are some kind of bleeding heart liberal who wants to count the taxpayer and the citizens who drive on these roads as stakeholders in this enterprise, you may come to more devious conclusions in collusion with the conspiracy theorists, but the reality is that the contractors are hard working people as they are always seen building roads and then re-surfacing them. This account is entirely fictional and this state of affairs does not actually exist in any country known to me or to the whistle-blower who first made these allegations about the fictional country in an article in the Bangkok Post on February 23, 2007.