Bribing is a way of life for South Africans
Paying a bribe to get a job, obtain “illicit” business discounts or secure a tender contract are three of the top five reasons people pay bribes in South Africa, according to a new survey.
The study, conducted by the Ethics Institute of SA and the first of its kind, polled 6 380 people in urban areas in Limpopo, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape, and found that 75% of the respondents who were asked for a bribe ended up paying it.
A total of 78% of the respondents believed that it was impossible “to get through life” without paying a bribe.
Kris Dobie, organisational ethics development manager at the institute, said almost twice as many people were approached for a bribe in Limpopo (48%), compared with those in the Western Cape (19%), KwaZulu-Natal (26%) and Gauteng (25%).
The average value respondents said they paid to get a tender was R100 000, to get a job was R3 000 and for “illicit” business discounts or theft from business services was R1 800.
“The majority of respondents indicated that it is unlikely that their family or friends would pay a bribe, irrespective of what it is for. It does, however, seem to happen slightly more frequently for avoiding a fine or criminal charges, or getting a job,” said the report.
In the report, Dobie added that the responses to the survey showed “a very clear sense that unskilled and semiskilled labourers are most vulnerable to being exploited to pay bribes for jobs. There almost seems to be a belief among them that there is no choice but to pay a bribe if you want a job.”
Dobie said the results also showed that bribery was not just a government problem, but was also rife in the private sector.
There were as many instances of bribery for jobs and tenders in the private sector (47% and 42%, respectively) as there were in the public sector (53% and 58%, respectively).
The majority of the respondents said they either knew of someone or had themselves paid bribes to get jobs in the mining sector, as nurses, police officers and teachers, or to gain a promotion.
Avoiding traffic fines was the leading cause of bribery (34%), followed by gaining jobs (17%), obtaining a driver’s licence (13%) and tenders (7%), while business theft and unlawful discounts accounted for 4% of all bribes, according to respondents.
“There are somewhat more mentions of tender bribery in the public sector, but it is clearly also prevalent in the private sector. Tender bribery is not a public or private sector phenomenon. It occurs everywhere,” said Dobie.
However, when respondents were asked whether it was unacceptable to pay a bribe in all the instances, more than 80% agreed that their family and friends also viewed bribery as “socially unacceptable”.
“The likelihood of paying a bribe is rated slightly higher than the social acceptability of paying a bribe, even if by a small margin across the board. We can deduce that a small group of people may likely pay bribes even though they view it as socially unacceptable.”