Topical Issue

How corruption has become a powerful structured system

To the International Anti-Corruption Day

Studies carried out by the National University of Mongolia and other research institutions of the country indicate how high-level grand corruption has become a structured system in the country.

By Professor Orolmaa MÜNKHBAT, National University of Mongolia

The turnover plan for the 60 billion price tag on “civil service”, the public announcement by President Battulag how 30 families (earlier they numbered 300) in a matter of 20 years have amassed the country’s wealth which otherwise could have fed the 3 million Mongolians for several generations have become the “talk of the day” at all levels of our society today – at the top and amongst the commoners.
Many Mongolians did not recoil when the lid was blow over the news about the 60 billion. On the contrary, they just waived it off saying “well this is the kind of government we have.” And their reaction was no different either to the news about the “wealthy’ 30 families, just wondering who they actually were.
All this are clear indication that such high-level corruption as seizing power, influencing the outcome of elections returns by buying over voters, becoming wealthy by “stealing” the so-called natural wealth belonging to the people, and dealing in government posts and positions, which although are rampant are taken as mere common-place phenomenon.
Even the so-called “Independent Agency Against Corruption” of Mongolia has been treating the case around the 60 billion as a deal which is normally transacted at the Narantuul flea market and has summoned government officials, appointed after the 2016 elections, asking them “Did you pay any cash for your appointment?” and have made an extremely naive conclusion saying “There hasn’t been any deal or transaction of this nature.”
Would anyone in a country, where both the bribe-giver and bribe-taker are punishable by law, dare come forward and admit “Yes – I gave bribes.”
In reality, the sensation around the 60 billion case is the fall out of deeply entrenched conflict of interest, the gravity of corruption and that of the conspiracy scheme and secret dealings of the people in power, and this risk does not stop at only embezzling public money and assets, but also has assumed the nature of a well-structure system that compromises national security. And just a single honest President or even a group of MPs would fail in their war against this kind of systematic corruption.

The crux of the matter

The outcomes1 of both quantitative and qualitative studies carried out in recent years on issue of corruption show that corruption in the last ten years has been one of the first five “top” concerns in the country. The public, researchers and scholars note with deep concern that corruption has become an entrenched chronic issue at the level of state decision-makers, policy-makers and political parties as its reach is no longer restricted only to the organizations and officials providing medical, education, taxation services.
As the fight against corruption become more blunt and ineffective, the following two trends are being observed. One, the general public is increasingly becoming pessimist that fighting corruption is beyond possibility and believe that since highly-placed state and government officials are acting arbitrarily, greasing someone’s palm or providing favor to others are absolutely normal and so there is a growing tend for justifying favoritism and corruption. Two, a second thought of line that is making trend is an extremist feeling that corrupt politicians and high government officials must be publicly executed by hanging on the central Sükhbaatar Square since it’s impossible to fight against corruption within the framework of the law.

How high-level grand corruption has become a system

Corruption is spreading its tentacles to literally every single fabric of social life, disrupting and mutilating some of the social structures and as it grows and expands, the forms of bribery and favoritism are becoming much more refined. Let me explain how corruption is becoming a well-structured, high-level organized system from the standpoint of theory of system.
High-level corruption can be defined in the following three manners. One. Stakeholders:  High-level state and government officials and decision-taking institutions; Two. Affected Interest: Common interests of the country and the people are affected; Three. Consequence: Undermines national independence and security. The amount of money being given or taken is not as important as is the risk posed to the common interests of the nation and the people. To put it straight, high-level corruption is synonymous to selling the interests of the nation with cash, and in this respect, according to researchers, corruption poses a direct threat to the country’s independence and the life of the people
Corruption can be divided into the following three categories depending on the manifesting form and its impact. (see table below)
The manifesting forms and impacts at different levels may not be identical but in the final analysis, what’s common is the danger they pose to the social system as a whole.
Researchers have also concluded that corruption is rife among high-level decision-making officials. For example, when dealing with foreign countries, group interests are given priority, that is, they take decisions that have a negative impact on the country’s interests and owing to high, inefficient loans, when they are unable to realistically evaluate their economic damage, the situation is further complicated.
According to the researchers, participants in high-level corruption, can be summarized as follows:
Involving parties and their manifestation:
•    Political parties: Deflect elections, which are expressions of the wishes of the people, and thus try to influence on the election returns. In this respect, Among Parties – Make deals on election constituencies, swap candidates after agreeing on their names, buy over a third force or an independent candidate with the best chance for winning, create barriers for their participation in election, tarnish their image, or sow seeds of discord and resort to all possible tricks. Within a Party – Set high benchmark for monetary contribution, begin horse-trade on constituencies, distribute constituencies as agreed upon among factions within the party, apply dirty technology during election campaigns, deprive the people the right to correct information etc.
•    The Legislative: The State Ikh Khural and local assemblies at all levels – “create” a legal and policy environment that are “favorable” to corruption, create so-called different immunities for MPs, place party above the law and turn state and government appointments into commodities.
•    The Executive: The Government – misuse and divert law implementation, make appointments in contravention to the law on conflict of interest, give privileges (give the right to arbitrarily award bids and concession contracts etc.), tit-for-tat reward for support during election, and apply the principle of “revolving door” when it comes to developing policies or making appointments.
•    The Judiciary: The Court and Monitoring Agencies – Undermine the principle of equality before law and fairness, tame the “rebellious” and protect the “inviolable.”
•    Business Grouping: National and multi-national corporations and oligarchy groups – Create oligarchy groups by way of interference in politics, implement business projects that are detrimental of national interests and security, and control major investors.
•    The Media: Mass media means – “Brainwashing”, “protect” key players in the high-level corruption system from “bad” news by way of signing “closed” contacts,  spread “Fake news,” divert the attention of the people from national-level issues and agendas, and engage in “cheap” sensational news.
•    NGOs AND CSOs: So-called “pocket” organizations – The reputation of civil society organizations are taken advantage for the purpose of creating a favorable environment for the corruption system, pay for the organization of different kinds of press conferences, meetings and demonstrations by giving semblance that they are being supported by the public, thus create a pseudo-democratic atmosphere.
Parties involved in these systems would have created a strong network, like a strong cobweb by a spider, wherein the participants complement each other with their “interests” and these corrupt ones mutually support each other.

The impact on high-level corruption on national security

The National Security Concept of Mongolia state, that “Mongolia’s genuine national interests shall incorporate the very existence of the Mongolian people and its civilization, independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of its borders, national unity, constitutional establishment, security, economic independence and sustainable ecological development2. ”
Judging by the above, national security means that a given country’s existence should be independent and sovereign, its people should be guaranteed security in all their parameters. Researchers of major global research institutions have maintained3 that the national security of countries riddled with corruption tend to be weak and porous.
Researchers have concluded, as outlined in the chart, that high-level corruption negatively affects every single pillar of national security. They have also warned that there is no coherent link between existence, economic, international, human, environment and communication security that form the backbone of the country’s security, and they have not been formed in an integrated manner. Researchers have also cautiously linked the threats being posed to national security in the absence of or the non-implementation of a correct state economic and social policy, methods and mechanisms, because behind them are big issues of corruption and bribery nature.
High-level corruption affects and undermines national interests are manifested through clandestine transaction by officials of land and the wealth underneath, permissions and licenses for their use and ownership, in other words, wealth that is important not only for the economy but also for the fundamental interests of the country, and thereby making illegal personal gains out of them.
Experts and scientists, who were involved in these studies, link national security to such values as the inviolability of Mongolia’s borders, its territorial integrity, safe life of the people, unity, economic independence of the country, fundamental right to protect and preserve the country’s history, culture, language, customs and traditions, which are identical to the meaning and substance of the national security concept of the country. In recent years with growing foreign investment and interest in the mining sector, there is growing suspicion also surrounding the issuance of mining licenses, which is in fact a warning that corruption is increasing taking the shape of a system and which, according to Mongolian researchers, is a serious warning to the very national existence of the country.
Apart from scientists, an opinion poll was also carried out among common citizens. 92.5% of pollsters in an opinion poll conducted among 500 people4  have said that high-level corruption, in some respect has reached a level that could have a negative impact on the national security.

    As corruption grows and encompasses all spheres of the society, its negative impact on the society starts to grow to reach a level that it could threaten the country’s national security even. Also, the general public believes that high-level corruption is much more dangerous than other forms of corruption (92.1%), powerful people are involved in high-level corruption, and so such corruption cases are covered-up (88%) and irrespective of the size of bribery, the guilty must be brought to justice (81.9%).

How to tackle corruption and high-level corruption

Researchers have said that high-level state and government officials and government institutions are involved in high-level corruption, who pass decisions, policies and take actions that under national as well as people’s interests, and through distortion of law they create for themselves and for their interest groupings advantages and immunity. This is done primarily by taking advantage of the people’s trust, justify their actions as if they are in state interests, and use the elections as a stepping stone to strengthen their own positions and to gain greater power, and so they tend to only pay lip-service to combating corruption, while in deed, they work to create a favorable legal and policy environment for corruption.
The graph below shows, in percentage, the will and desire of state and government officials in combating corruption.
Another opinion poll shows that the public views as unsatisfactory or poor the anti-corruption actions of the state and government institutions (54% of people think as unsatisfactory the actions of the Government, 42.8% – the State Ikh Khural, 45% – the Judiciary, and 44.4% – the Court and monitoring agencies), while some have evaluated as mediocre such actions (including 38.2% of the questioned believe that IAAC, while 33.4% says the President’s actions are mediocre).

    A system that can stand-up to corruption can be defined as follows:
1.    The growth of a responsible political party that has the political will to openly tackle corruption;
2.    A state and government that are honest and respect the law;
3.    A fair judiciary that implements the law;
4.    Independent media, and,
5.    Democratic non-governmental and civil society organizations that ensures genuine participation of the people.
Just the President or the Independent Authority Against Corruption alone cannot be successful in the fight against the high-level corruption system which can be successful only through a comprehensive system that can function at the macro-social level.
A successful fight against corruption, and consolidation of justice can help guarantee greater opportunity for social and individual growth and progress, and genuine improvement in the life of the people.

This is an adapted version of the article by Professor O. Münkhbat, who has been researching and writing extensively on issues related to corruption.


1 “The opinion of representatives of non-governmental organizations regarding civil servants,” 2009, Social Policy Institute, National University of Mongolia. Asia Study Center; “A study to identify the general perception and knowledge about corruption.” Sant Maral Foundation; “Program to Promote Governance and Transparency in Mongolia,” UB. 2013; “Serial fundamental research –People, Society, Life”, (2011-2013), Social Democratic Institute, Ulaanbaatar, 2013; “State of corruption in the business environment,” Program to Promote Governance and Transparency in Mongolia, UB, 2013; “High-level corruption and National Security” A study conducted by the Political Science and Sociology-Social Work Departments, National University of Mongolia, UB, 2014.

2 National Security Concept of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar, 2010

3 Transparency International study.

4 “Corruption and National Security” – Result of an opinion poll. Department of Sociology, NUM and Parliamentary Standing Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy of the Mongolian Parliament, 2014

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