One in three senior managers would offer a bribe to win or retain new business

The market doesn’t always decide.
The market doesn’t always decide.
Image: Reuters/Thomas Mukoya
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More than half of business professionals around the world say corruption is widespread in their industries and even more are willing to justify it, according to a new survey on fraud conducted across Europe, the Middle East, India, and Africa.

The survey by the professional services firm EY found that 51% of more than 4,000 respondents across 41 countries said bribery and corrupt practices were common in their country. And 77% of board directors and senior managers surveyed were willing to justify such behavior to help their businesses survive. One in three were willing to offer cash payments to win or retain business.

In Africa, that figure was higher, with 77% of those polled reporting corruption in their sectors. Kenya ranked the highest in Africa, ahead of South Africa and Nigeria, and sixth globally.

Kenya regularly tops lists of the world’s most corrupt countries. Money destined for infrastructure, public services, and even its Olympic team have all gone missing. The country’s auditor general said in 2015 that only a quarter of the government’s 450 billion shilling ($4.35 billion) budget could be accounted for. In the private sector, cases of fraud, bribery, and nepotism are common.

Kenya’s next generation of business leaders may be even more accepting of corruption. Almost two thirds of respondents between the ages of 25 and 34 believed unethical behavior for the sake of one’s business interests was acceptable. Only 49% of those between the ages of 45 and 54 agreed.

“With 73% of respondents from Generation Y holding the view that unethical action can be justified to help a business survive, it is imperative to pay attention to this younger generation, since they are the future of businesses,” says Dennis Muchiri, leader of fraud investigation and dispute services at EY in East Africa.

Here’s the breakdown of what percentage of respondents said corruption is widespread, by country: