What is the image of corruption? Some visualize it to be a picture of one party handing an envelope full of cash to another party, but in day-to-day life this is seldom seen. Images are important to all of us—some people need to “see it to believe it.”
People are commonly more sympathetic to pain and suffering if they can see the physical signs, such as cuts, bruises, broken bones, and tears. Some people who cannot see the signs of depression and anxiety are less likely to be sympathetic to those suffering from mental illness. Thus, in much the same way, the images of the impact of corruption are seldom seen or visualized—it is as though they sit in an abstract, disconnected place.
Images are powerful and persuasive. Perhaps the strongest example of this was the photo of Phan Thi Kim Phuc, aka “The Napalm Girl.” The picture of her naked burning body taken by Nick Ut during the Vietnam War is credited with changing public opinion and the direction of U.S. policy. Thus, how do we project the image of corruption and provoke a change in attitude, even policy?
The answer may presently be all around us. In many developed countries, the health budget is one of the biggest receivers of government funds. All this money has become a honeypot for criminals seeking to target and misappropriate some of the same. Many governments—local, regional, and national—have healthcare fraud departments operating within and adjacent to the healthcare industry. The story is a very different one within second- and third-world economies, where years of corrupt practices are exposing thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of people to the fatal dangers of the coronavirus pandemic.
The pictures coming out of hospitals in South Africa project suffering, fear, and an unprecedented scale of death, all of which has been caused by years of chronic corruption. Mothers and babies are dying in maternity wards at alarmingly high rates within hospitals in Port Elizabeth. There are existing staff shortages, now compounded by COVID-19 infections, and charities seeking to assist do not trust the health authorities with their donations.
It is only now the devastation of the corruption is fully revealing itself next to patients in hospital beds dying because there is no oxygen available to keep them alive. Doctors carry out laundry services in order to be able to wear something that may protect both themselves and patients from infection. The staff who remain on the frontline face a constant danger of infection because of personal protective equipment shortages.
As COVID-19 infection rates and death rates rise, leading to mass graves, these too will be the images of corruption. We should use these images to train and influence our staff and our customers as to why we seek to stress the importance of due diligence, transparency, and certainty when helping customers to make and receive payments. The corrupt consultants who syphoned funds from health contracts also stole the oxygen from the lungs of people who subsequently died from COVID-19.