Letters: When Corruption Is Hard To See : Planet Money A listener shares a story about trying to get some maps printed in Kenya.
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Letters: When Corruption Is Hard To See

Ellen Moscoe doing field work in Kenya. Ellen Moscoe hide caption

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Ellen Moscoe

Ellen M. writes from Kenya:

I was just listening to episode 137 and I wanted to share a corruption story: Sometimes it's hard to tell what is corruption! I work in a research office in Kenya (we do randomized experiments like the one in this episode.) We went to get some maps printed from the government survey office, and they gave us the price per map if they supplied the materials, and another price if we brought the special paper for the maps to be printed on.

Often keeping materials like that in stock is a problem here, so I assumed that this was the reason. After much more talk and negotiation, it turns out that if we supply the paper, they can't give us an official receipt. The plan was to print our maps over the weekend, on their own time, and keep the money. Since they wouldn't have depleted the supply of special map paper, no one would know! Well, now we know...

In contrast, sometimes corruption is blatant. There are about 4 road blocks between my town and Nairobi, and the buses get pulled over by police officers who "check" your permits. They will keep you for a long time, going over every part of the bus, unless the driver puts some cash in with his papers when he hands them to the officers. They don't even try to hide it!