Government projects are prone to corruption, even in countries where anti-corruption laws are strongly enforced. The popular definition of “corruption” is “a form of dishonest or unethical conduct by a person entrusted with a position of authority, often to acquire personal benefit,” while the legal definition is “an act done with intent to give some advantage inconsistent with official duty and the rights of others. It includes bribery, but is more comprehensive; because an act may be corruptly done, though the advantage to be derived from it be not offered by another.”
Whichever definition is used, an act of corruption involves an unethical conduct that benefits one party while creating damage to other parties. In a project, “other parties” can be translated as “stakeholders.” Thus, any act performed in a project by a stakeholder that damages other stakeholders is considered an “act of corruption.”
With this definition in mind, there are at least five stages in which damages can be done. According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), the five phases of a project management are project conception and initiation, project definition and planning, project launch and execution, project performance and control, and project closing. Every stage requires specific handling and precautions for corruption to take place.
In a government project, the ultimate stakeholder is the people, for the government works for the people. Thus, the weak spots in the five stages of a government project must be handled differently than in regular private projects.
Phase One: Project conception and initiation
In this phase, the project sponsor and the management must agree on whether the project will benefit the people as the ultimate stakeholder. This, in return, would depend on the political will of the government. If the will itself already corrupts, as Lord Acton once said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, it’s the people’s right to oversee the government through various channels, including the “accountability inquiry” by the press, which serves as a strong check-and-balance instrument, and the non-profit organizations as moral force.
Phase Two: Project definition and planning
In this phase, the project charter and the project scope will be written down and the tasks outlined. The project manager and the team members will be carefully chosen, and the budget will be properly calculated. The charter and the scope must be based on the annual development plan, which is the government’s promises to the people. The process of choosing the project manager and the team members must be done objectively based on technical, operational, and management expertise, away from nepotism.
Phase Three: Project launch and execution
At this stage, the tasks are distributed, and the team members are made aware of their duties and responsibilities. Individuals who are accountable for certain tasks are also be informed. Project risks and change processes are addressed accordingly to ensure smooth execution. To reduce the risk of corruption, tasks must be carefully drafted and their execution closely monitored. Internalize a sense of ownership among team members and cultivate a sense of accountability for their actions. Make sure that they clearly understand that the project would greatly affect the quality of life of the people. In government projects, the quality of the individuals’ character substantially determines the outcome.
Phase Four: Project performance and control
In this phase, project managers compare project status with the actual progress. Every milestone is carefully noted to ensure that things are right on track. Many corrupt acts can be caught during this stage, through the various discrepancies noted. While the project manager must notify the management of the damages done, the damage control must be executed with teamwork. Every government unit has its procedures on handling corrupt acts, which must be enforced among the team members and the involved stakeholders. It is the project manager’s job to ensure that strict enforcement does take place.
Phase Five: Project closing
This stage may involve a closing meeting and evaluation by the management to highlight the success and the lessons learned from the project execution. Any corrupt acts and the sanctions can be mentioned at the meeting to serve as a deterrence in future projects. However, the meeting should remain positive by highlighting the importance of the project for the people.
At last, corrupt acts occur in both the public and the private sectors. However, in government projects, corruption must be handled according to the procedures and sanctions be imposed according to the laws and regulations. In the end, every project is important to the stakeholders.
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