With huge contracts and high secrecy, the defence sector poses unique corruption risks. In 2010 alone, the sector as a whole spent the equivalent to Russia or India’s GDP, but how much of that money can we follow? We estimate at least US$ 20 billion is lost to corruption in the sector every year. And that is only a modest estimation of the costs incurred when national security concerns become a veil to hide corrupt activity. Single source contracts, unaccountable and overpaid agents, obscure defence budgets, unfair appointments and promotions, and many more forms of corruption in this secretive sector waste taxpayer funds and put citizens’ and soldiers' lives at risk.
The cost is paid by everyone. What is wasted on defence corruption could be spent in improving schools, healthcare or infrastructure. Corruption destroys trust in military institutions and the armed forces, risking lives in the process. When leaders buy arms because they've been bribed or received favours, it is the soldiers in the field who are left with shoddy guns or inadequate protection. Soldiers exist to protect citizens, but governments have a duty to protect their soldiers, and they buy from defence companies to do so. Corruption, on the other hand, protects only the corrupt.
Citizens also perceive police corruption and police as some of the principal corruption problems in their societies. Bribe-taking, random arrests and corrupt avoidance of investigations are all commonplace in many countries. Such police corruption has been hard for civil society to tackle in the past. The solution?