Political Corruption: The Ghana Case

By Victor T. Le Vine | Go to book overview

-- 4 --
The Anatomy of Corruption: The Process at Three Levels

One of the basic assumptions of this study is that the office-holder in the formal polity occupies a pivotal position in the process of political corruption because he is the one who determines whether or not the political goods available to him will be dispensed in politically corrupt transactions. Most transactions which manifestly violate written or unwritten norms of official behavior can be readily characterized as "corrupt" within the terms of our definition, The distinction between corrupt transactions and non-corrupt transactions loses much of its clarity, however, when we consider transactions that are technically illicit or extra-legal yet sanctioned by usage or convention. In some societies, bureaucratic short-cutting, informal brokerage, and payment of "normal" or "expected" rewards for services rendered by office-holders become so much a part of standard operating procedure that they acquire their own semi-legality. In the Soviet Union, for example, the tolkach (expediter) remains very much a part of contemporary society because he offers services that may be essential when managers choose to operate indirectly to attain ends thwarted by bureaucratic blockage or some other systemic failure.1 Yet, as Steven Staats points out, "Such widespread informal mechanisms are not sanctioned by the rules or ideology of the system -- i.e., they are corrupt."2

In Africa, the function of the political broker is usually not as precisely defined as that of the Soviet tolkach, but comparable services are performed in various contexts and by various agents and intermediaries, both inside and outside the formal polity. In Ghana, for example, what could be called an "advance man" prepares the

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