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Michael Landau Fights Corruption With Entrepreneurship

Question: How does fraud occur in Africa?

Michael Landau: There’re two different sorts of frauds as I understand: fraud and corruption just lump them together. You’ve got theft corruption just to give you, you know, kind of an example.  And, again, I’m not looking to be insulting to the various developing world governments and to say that they’re all fraudulent and everybody there is fraudulent. They’re clearly not, there are some very honest and a lot of very, very good people over there. 

But some of the challenges become that, you know, when the Ministry of Finance transfers the money to the Ministry of Education, you know, there are occasions where some of the money, and it goes, the Ministry of Education converts that check into cash. That cash now has got to get distributed to the districts. And then, the districts have got to, then, distribute the cash to the local parishes. Then, the parishes are going to distribute it to the schoolmasters and to the principals in the school. 

So you can imagine how there could be situations where some people along that chain of the cash take their tithe along the way. So by the time the people at the, who are suppose to receive their salary, you know, the 100 percent of the cash that was given upfront to the ministry is only 80 percent left by the time it gets to the teacher at the bottom end. 

Now, these are the sort of situations that have been described to me as being very typical--it doesn’t always happen in every single place but, clearly, these are problems. And then, when the young woman wants to collect her, collect her $80, left over from the 100 that she was originally supposed to get, then the person who suppose to give it to her very often will abuse the woman until he actually gives her the money because he got the power over the money. In addition to that, there are also many, many ghost employees in the system because there are no very good checks and balances. 

So that’s one element of the corruption and the fraud which MAP system will be able to provide a solution for us. So the governments are very keen because they’ll save a lot of money because the people get paid, you know, kind of directly so that people will be happy, they’ll get paid the amount that they’re suppose to get paid so they’ll suddenly start finding that they’re saving a lot of money from their, the time they send out one million dollars or whatever the number is from the top, that they’ll find that that million dollars were actually send directly to the people. The people will get the money they’re supposed to get, but there’ll be a lot of employees that didn’t really exist. So that’s one level of corruption. 

There’s another level of corruption, which is that you have to pay people to make things happen.  And haven’t thought it through well enough to see kind of can MAP solution come and help out in that situation. I don’t know if we can solve every situation. But in terms of the corruption and the fraud and the lack of transparency and the abuse of payments of government payments to people and the pensions, you know, that not everybody gets all the pension they’re suppose to get because of the cash distribution, those are the sort of situations that MAP solution can provide a great benefit to developing world governments. 

Question: Can governments abuse the personal information banks provide?

Michael Landau: When people aren’t identified, they just don’t exist. And there’s a lot of discussion before you ask me the next question, what about the privacy rights, you know, of the people if the governments are going to have so much information about the people because they have the biometrics. There are no, they have the health information. They have potential access to some financial information. Currently, these people don’t exist so the government has ultimate power over these people.

The more you enable individuals to become part of a formal society, the more freedom they have, the more economic success they have, and everybody recognizes that economic success creates an environment of stability and of peace. So it’s very, very much in the best interest of the countries themselves, that, you know, that they can have stability and peace and it’s in the interest of the developing world to be able to create an environment where people are happy, people, you know, kind of, other people exist. And from a larger perspective, today, we’re dealing in an environment where there’s very limited money available for an ODA, an Overseas Development Assistance. So the challenge for the governments is to find ways to maximize the efficiency of the money that is being used. And I believe that by, for the donor countries, whether it’s partly through the World Bank or USAID or DFID, all these agencies, their ability to identify private sector companies that will have their own skin in the game, that have got their own agenda to ensure long-term sustainability of the projects, that there’s the ability for these companies to leverage the donor money and convert equity to growth and create an environment where there’ll be long-term success, is the way the governments need to be looking at their development.

Recorded on: June 15, 2009

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