Does Low Pay Breed Corruption?

I recently responded to a statement from a Kenyan that came about in the Policeone forum.  The original post stated this, “global salary scale for police. in my view it would help curb corruption if police were paid well or got some of the incentives soldiers enjoy.. in Kenya for example they are not taxed.”

I posted my thoughts:

I am skeptical that a global wage scale would have an effect on curbing corruption. I base my skepticism on a couple factors. Primarily, Corruption is not a matter of economics, it is a matter of the heart. In the United States for example, we have a diverse police pay economy. Officers in certain areas make much more than officers in other areas, but corruption happens at a similar rate generally speaking. It isn’t about how much money you have, it’s about how much money you want. As long as public servants, including police have a poverty mindset, i.e. a mindset that tells you, “What I have is never enough,” we will have corruption. It does not matter how much money one makes, they are either satisfied or they are not.

Corruption (and anti-corruption) is global. You can find corruption throughout the globe in both wealthy and poor countries. You can also find poor countries and poor public service workers globally who are not corrupt. These people seem to rise above the corruption and either not engage or decide that enough is enough and break the cycle of corruption. This is my experience in Eastern Africa. I have met some wonderful police there who have made a very unpopular decision there to live within their means and stop taking bribes.

If we do want to claim an economic bent to corruption, the economic principles are basic, you get paid what you are worth, or, you get paid to the best of your employer’s ability. I am keenly aware that there are underpaid police in all corners of he world. This is not always because of the skill of the workers. In some cases there simply is not enough money to pay public servants. We do this job for so many reasons and compensation is just one of them. Who in the U.S. has not taken a 0% or fractional raise in the last few years? In these conditions, you better know why you got into this work, or you will find yourself wanting more. Globally, you better know why you got into this work, because it involves so much more than pay.

Finally, to curb corruption, focus n what you do have, not what you do not have. My friend in Kenya said it best:

“Gitahi Kanyeki TO THE POLICE OFFICERS——SURELY EVEN IF OUR SALARIES ARE LITTLE, what would those people who are living in 30/= per-day say we have shelters,we have water,some of us dont walk to our places of work,some we have free electricity,50/% fifty percent of our life in a day we are in uniform and government shoes and socks,… sweaters and jacket.-we save on clothing.DOES IT MEAN that we should make sure we have to milk members of the public their little 100/=to justify that we get little salary.please my fellow police officers let us stop this madness you are just cursing yourselves you will be given money meant to buy coffin just imagine what it means to you”