A bit more on corruption in Peru

Yesterday this article popped up on my Twitter feed. Other than the headline number of $3.5B in estimated annual corruption, the part about corruption in regional governments is eye-opening:

“…corruption in Peru’s regional governments have been in the spotlight with a number of regional presidents detained over accusations that they misused and profited from public funds … currently 22 of the 25 regional presidents are being investigated over allegations of corruption.”

Talk of corruption in Peru always reminds me of a conversation I had with a Peruvian friend of mine in the US, just before I left my job at GE to spend more time in Peru. My friend lives in the US but his father lives in Lima. Since we were both in aviation and my friend’s father was an officer in the Fuerza Aérea del Perú (FAP or Peruvian Air Force), my friend arranged for some introductions for me with aviation businesses in Lima.

One day before leaving my job in the US my friend and I had a conversation about bureaucracy in Peru and my friend insisted if I needed anything, to call on his father, his father had a good network and knew how to navigate the bureaucracy. Then my friend thought about this and said if I ever really needed any help, if I had any problems with the bureaucracy, that an even better solution would be if I called on his grandmother because she knew exactly how to “play the system” and waive a dollar bill at the right place and the right time. My friend said the idea wasn’t to waive a lot of money, just a dollar bill at the right time. In fact, he was convinced his grandmother would be able to get more done than his father.

This struck a chord with me because my friend’s father was a high ranking, well-respected officer in the FAP. He answered directly to the Minister of Defense. How could it be that a person waiving a dollar bill in the face of a bureaucrat can get more accomplished than an officer 2 levels down from the President of the Republic?

Sadly, my friend might have been right.

Make the bed you lie in

I’m late to this but there was a poll a while back that showed 41% of Limeños would vote for a candidate they know robs public funds, as long as their candidate does “obras” (public works).

roba, pero hace obras

(Datum via Frequencia Latina)

This is in the context of the upcoming municipal and regional elections in Peru. I don’t follow Lima politics much but I believe the current mayor in Lima @SusanaVillaran has focused on organizational reforms (most visibly public transportation reform which is badly needed) and public opinion is that she doesn’t do enough brick-and-mortar public works.

It’s somewhat understandable that a person living in the poor “Pueblos Jovenes” cares about nothing more than getting running water and sewer but I’m sure the 41% also includes smartphone toting professionals and university students who should know better.

Corruption with impunity is endemic at all levels of leadership in Peru. Mamacita linda has been auditing local municipalities on behalf of the national “Controlaria” (a governmental audit agency) and their findings are horrible. At one small municipality, there was a payment of S/.15,000 (~US$4,500) for “expenses” to a close aide to the mayor. There are no receipts, no indication what the “expenses” were or how they were related to official business. Nothing. To put that in perspective, teachers probably make less than S/.2,000 per month in this town.

When the auditors finish their report, the national Controlaria will review the report and send it to the Fiscalia (Justice Department) where it will die. 6 months down the line a small blurb will be published in a legal register somewhere that the auditors’ report is invalid because the lead auditor only signed 126 instead of the full 128 pages as required by law nr 23456.45(b)(ii)(j) para 65.34.9 and there it ends.

* * *

Yesterday Ollanta Humala swore in a new Finance/Economy Minister here in Peru. You can view the details of the transition at IKN. Mamacita linda said something this morning about “not sure what will happen next” with the Peruvian economy and I opined that it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.

On her way to work Mamacita linda yelled out the door “I don’t know, some economists are kinda crazy sometimes!”

My first bribe in Peru

Bribery is part of life here in Peru. If you get pulled over in traffic for example, just step out of the car and leave S/.20 (~$7) on the front seat. The cop will politely wish you a good day. While that may seem rather innocent, corruption in Peru has historically reached to the top levels (in English from IKN) of Peruvian government.

I’ve managed to get through nearly 2 years in Peru without bribing anyone, unless you count the time we were on the way to hand out Christmas presents to poor kids in a rural town and we had to give a cop a piece of Paneton for safe passage. Seriously.

Aside from the fact that I’m a cheap Dutchman, I just hate the thought of being part of the corruption. The bureaucracy is like a cancer here in Peru, with a bunch of middle class folks hiding in their comfy government offices enjoying the status quo, lining their pockets without doing a thing to improve their country. So I stubbornly persisted through getting legally married in Peru and obtaining my carne extranjeria without bribing anyone. But all that changed last week.

I got bribed.

OK, it wasn’t a real quid-pro-quo thing, more like what GE would call a facilitating payment. On the last day of class, which are always interesting, one of my students gave me this beautiful hand-made sweater for our baby girl.

My first bribe in Peru

My first bribe in Peru

It wasn’t the first time a student gave me a gift, but in this case the girl had missed more classes than she was supposed to, so it had a bit more of a “teacher please help me out” feeling attached to it 🙂

Honestly the so-called rule we have about students not missing classes is totally disregarded anyway, so it wasn’t as if she would have failed the class, but when she gave it to me in front of all her classmates, everyone laughed and said things in Spanish I’m only too glad I didn’t understand 😉