Investigating Officials: Investigate friends, relatives, and cronies

Nepotism and cronyism are among the most pernicious forms of corruption. Favorable treatment given to family and friends may include a government job, a public works contract, subsidized housing, a loan from a state bank, even leaked questions in a government exam. Such favors are often accepted as the norm and officials think that rewarding family and supporters is part of the perks that come with a government post. It is this widespread thinking that leads to abuses of public office and of the public trust.

Corrupt officials typically distribute the profits from, and opportunities for, malfeasance among their kin and cronies. Even if office-holders are themselves clean, their family and friends can still use their connections for various forms of malfeasance.

Investigators of corruption should therefore be adept at unraveling “the ties that bind.” One of the strongest ties is family. It is important to know how officials are related to each other or to businesspeople who will benefit from, or be harmed by, legislation or government regulation.

Other ties are those formed in schools, fraternities, civic clubs, and professional associations. Religious and ethnic or linguistic- group affiliation are also strong ties. These often give clues as to why an official is favoring a particular businessperson or firm.

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