Government Employee Corruption


I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi, over 20 years ago. I was an urban planner, & my task was mostly development control. The government  employees were not able to limit illegal developments of public buildings due to developers paying off politicians. So, they needed an outsider  who was not beholden to anyone to get  things straightened out.

When I first got there, my counterparts, honest young men, told me I didn’t know what it was like. I told them. “I am from Chicago. We have had a single party system for over 30 years, I know EXACTLY what it is like.”

But what I found was that the Africans are no more corrupt than anywhere else.  It’s the same where ever you go—except in the USA, the government employees often use legal loopholes to  steal.

Witness the front page story in The Chicago Tribune June 22, 2012, on how Craig Bazzani, a University of Illinois administrator– a vice president of business & finance who RETIRED IN 2002—managed to increase his  $300,000+ pension by about $42,ooo due to a legal strategy.  Well, it wasn’t illegal.  Unethical?  Obviously, the  Trib dances around this.  But that is what the reporters infer. The gist is that Bazzani was able to increase his pension by using a formula intended for police & fire personnel.  A change  in the state law allowed those in supervisory positions to  be eligible to  extra pension benefits. We generally call it double dipping.

Don’t forget, our state & federal legislators are also  entitled to  pensions based on their full pay at retirement (or when they get unelected), and  also, if they had other government positions, collect that pension as well. No vesting period for  politicians.  You work a day, you get a full pension.

&—this is why we can’t afford a ‘single payer’ health care system like other developed countries. What? European Union countries are bankrupt because of fee medical care?  No, European countries are bankrupt because their politicians also have bled the system—& in Greece, add to it that they don’t collect  property taxes from the  well heeled.

It’s great that we have a free press,. & that reporters have reported on this. Now what?  How do we go about changing this? Can we?  I mean, we can all try to emigrate to Norway & Sweden. but we object to how high they tax everyone, & the cost of living. Where can we go?

In her last book,  The Challenge for Africa, Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai addressed the problem of lack of government transparency &  respect for rule of law, and what Mo Ibrahim is doing to entice  heads of state in Africa to leave peacefully, honorably, and with dignity.  The reason Dr. Ibrahim  set up the award is because Africans generally don’t get pensions, or speaking engagements, or  write books.  They have no way to support themselves in retirement, and the  award  is an incentive to not hold on to power. So far, it hasn’t been that successful, and  some years it is not awarded.  But that is not  cogent to  my point.

Our politicians have enormous chutzpah, as do the employees  of our governments.  They have no incentive to not bankrupt the system, as they are making more money than they know what to do with.  They can gamble it away, invest in risky schemes,  award lavish gifts to family & church.  it’s their money.

Michal Lewis, the writer, has addressed  what has happened in California: that  local governments are collapsing. Soon, Illinois will follow.  Our politicians do not care, and have no incentive to care.  It would take reporters reporting on their  ineptitude  and sleaze every day.  Meanwhile  our governments will be bankrupt before the system is fixed.

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