Bribery: Not everyone does it.

A recent survey of ordinary South Africans conducted by the Ethics Institute of South Africa (EthicsSA) and sponsored by Massmart-Walmart gives a fresh view on everyday bribery in the country.    

A recent survey of ordinary South Africans conducted by the Ethics Institute of South Africa (EthicsSA) and sponsored by Massmart-Walmart gives a fresh view on everyday bribery in the country.    

 “What makes this research different is that we posed open questions, thus allowing people to report their actual experiences of bribery without being constrained by our imposed categories” says Professor Deon Rossouw, CEO of EthicsSA. “Research like this is important because it moves us from the anecdotal to the concrete—and thus puts us in a better position to understand the challenge we face and, of course, to overcome it.”

The research was conducted in Massmart stores in Gauteng, Durban, Cape Town and Polokwane. The 6 380 respondents were evenly split in terms of gender, with good representation across age and income groups.  Twenty-six percent of respondents earned less than R100 000 a year.

Some of the key findings include:

  • 26 percent of respondents knew of somebody who had been asked for a bribe in the past year.
  • 75 percent of those who were asked for a bribe ended up paying it.
  • Most bribes were reportedly asked to avoid traffic offences (36 percent)
  • Bribes for jobs came in next (17 percent), with unskilled and semi-skilled workers being most vulnerable to bribe requests in order to obtain jobs.
  • Bribes relating to tenders accounted for 7 percent of the responses.
  • 4 percent of bribes related to getting reduced prices or free goods from businesses.
  • The most common bribe amount was R100, with over half of all bribes (55 percent) falling under the R1 000 mark. Unsurprisingly, bribes amounts relating to tenders were the highest on average (R103 288), while the lowest average bribe amount was for traffic offences (R219).
  • Of the four provinces covered in the survey, one is most likely to be approached for a bribe in Limpopo (48 percent).  Bribes are least likely to be solicited in the Western Cape (19 percent), followed by Gauteng (25 percent) and KwaZulu-Natal (26 percent).

Professor Rossouw says that the findings show that bribery is equally prevalent in the private sector, despite the widespread view that it is primarily something that affects the public sector. “While we expected that bribery for contracts and jobs would be prevalent in the private sector, we were surprised by the extent to which private sector companies are being targeted for bribes to get discounts or free goods.”

“While bribery is quite prevalent, we are not yet at the point where ‘everyone does it’” observes Professor Rossouw. “It is interesting to note that while 78 percent of respondents do not believe they can get through everyday life without paying a bribe, the fact is that only 20 percent of people know someone who has paid a bribe in the last year.”    

By far the majority of people believe that bribery will be frowned at by their family members and friends.  At the same time 75% of people who were asked for a bribe paid it.  “This is perhaps most worrying”, concludes Professor Rossouw. “Virtually everybody agrees that not enough is being done to combat bribery in the country, but perhaps we should be talking more about people’s individual responsibility not to participate in bribery.”

ENDS