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Governments don’t do enough to fight corruption, says new poll

Global Corruption Barometer shows police, political parties, parliaments most compromised

Millions of people around the world come face-to-face with corruption in their daily lives, and urgently want their government to take action to stop it. This is the resounding conclusion of Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer 2006, launched today in advance of International Anti-Corruption Day on Saturday, 9 December.

The 2006 Barometer, a public opinion survey conducted for Transparency International by Gallup International, looks at the extent of corruption through the eyes of ordinary citizens around the world. It explores the issue of petty bribery in greater depth than ever before, highlighting people’s personal experience of bribery, and identifying the sectors most affected by corruption, its frequency, and how much people must pay.

To read the Background Data please click here.

This worldwide poll shows that corruption has a dramatic effect on the lives of individuals. Its power is enormous,” said Huguette Labelle, Chair of Transparency International. “When basic services like electricity are denied to the poor because they cannot afford a small bribe, there is no light in the home, no warmth for the children and no escape for the government from its responsibility to take action.”

Scepticism about government efforts

Most respondents have a poor opinion of their government’s anti-corruption efforts. Sixty nine percent say their government is not effective in fighting corruption, or that it makes no effort to fight it, or that it actually encourages corruption. Only 22 percent labelled their government’s actions “effective” or “very effective”.

Regionally, 42 percent of Europeans and 50 percent of North Americans think their government’s actions are ineffective, with 19 percent of North Americans, 15 percent of Asians and 23 percent of Latin Americans stating that their governments actually encourage corruption. In contrast, many African respondents were more positive, though African views about government anti-corruption actions are more mixed.

Bribes for essential public services

The Barometer asked respondents about bribes they paid in conjunction with public services. The findings: bribes are most commonly paid around the world to police.

In Latin America, for instance, about one in three respondents in contact with the police end up paying a bribe. This indicates that the gears of law enforcement have been jammed by corruption, with the judiciary ranked the third most corrupt institution.

Citizens rely on the police to protect them, and on judges and the judiciary to punish the criminals. When these guardians are for sale, some people simply lose faith; others take the law into their own hands,” said Labelle.

Bribery for access to services is most common in Africa. Registrations and permits command the biggest bribes – on average, more than €50. Bribes to utility companies average a much smaller €6, still large enough to place electricity and other vital services out of the reach of many of the continent’s desperately poor citizens. “The public is the victim in this vicious corruption cycle,” adds Labelle.

In wealthier regions such as North America and Western Europe, the Barometer showed that concerns about large-scale corruption run high despite a low level of direct experience of bribery for services. In spite of the lack of day-to-day experience with bribe-paying, respondents in North America think that the business environment (85 percent) and political life (89 percent) are affected to a moderate or large extent by corruption.

Political parties again seen as most corrupt

Ordinary citizens perceived political parties, on average, to be the institution most affected by corruption, followed by parliaments and legislatures and then by the business sector. Police top the chart in respondents’ own experience of bribing, though the police are perceived as the fourth most corrupt institution.

Corruption has infiltrated public life and burrowed in,” said Robin Hodess, Policy and Research Director at Transparency International. “Legislatures are elected with a precious mission: to place the interests of their citizens above their own. The Barometer shows that this trust is being violated, at great cost to the legitimacy of elected officials in many countries. The democratic process is at stake if this warning is not heeded.

Religious bodies, NGOs make a positive showing - barely

Perceptions of sectors and institutions are presented as a point score on a scale from 1 to 5, with 3.0 considered the mid-point. Institutions with a score below 3.0 reflect more positive than negative public opinion.

Globally, only three institutions make a positive showing: religious bodies (2.8), non-governmental organisations, and registry and permit services (both 2.9), though none of these scores are strong endorsements.

Corruption affects personal, political and commercial life

Respondents were also asked how corruption affected their personal, commercial and political lives. Political life was seen as being the area most compromised by corruption. The percentage of respondents who believe corruption affects their personal or family life varied greatly among regions, with 22 percent of Europeans feeling personally affected to a great extent, compared to 70 percent of Africans. In Bolivia, Kenya, Nigeria, Philippines, South Korea and Turkey, more than 70 percent of respondents indicated that corruption affects their personal and family lives to a large extent.

UN Convention is key

UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC)
First Session of Conference of States Parties and related Civil Society Meetings 8 – 14 December 2006, Jordan

This opinion survey should not just rap the knuckles of public sector institutions; it points to urgently needed action. Through the United Nations Convention against Corruption and results from other corruption surveys, governments now have a clear direction and concrete areas for improvement to address the concerns that citizens have expressed so clearly in the Global Corruption Barometer.

Countries that are party to the Convention will come together at an intergovernmental meeting, the Conference of States Parties in Jordan on 10 to 14 December to decide the fate of the only global legal instrument in the fight against corruption. They will decide whether and how to commit to monitoring implementation, and how to ensure compliance with this landmark agreement.

Civil Society Organisations will meet ahead of the Conference of States Parties to prepare their contribution to the discussion on implementation mechanisms to be adopted. Transparency International and the Coalition of Civil Society Friends of the UNCAC are organising this Preparatory Meeting on 8-9 December 2006.

The Convention creates obligations on everything from protecting whistleblowers and denying criminals safe haven to codes of conduct for civil servants. It contains tools to fix many of the problems that the Barometer identifies, which affect a broad range of institutions and the citizens that depend on them.

A wake-up call, says Labelle

Today’s report on the Barometer is a wake-up call for governments that have yet to make fighting corruption a top priority,” said Labelle. “The people have spoken unequivocally, and governments must act now to stop corruption in all forms, curb money laundering, protect whistleblowers, and ensure the return of looted assets."

Next week in Jordan, governments have an opportunity to take concrete steps to implement the Convention and monitor its progress. My message for countries that have not yet ratified this landmark agreement is clear: your absence is conspicuous. This is your chance to join the fight. The world is waiting.”


Note to editors

The Global Corruption Barometer is a key tool for measuring corruption. The fourth in an annual series, it is based on a poll of nearly 60,000 people in 62 countries carried out by Gallup International, on behalf of Transparency International, as part of its Voice of the People Survey. This year’s Barometer includes six new countries: Albania, Congo-Brazzaville, Fiji, Gabon, Morocco and Sweden. Countries that dropped out of the Barometer since the last edition include Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Georgia, Guatemala, Republic of Ireland, Lithuania, Nicaragua and Togo.

TI’s Global Corruption Report, with a special focus on corruption and the judiciary, will be published in the spring of 2007. The legal system and judiciary is one of the three institutions most prone to bribes, according to the Global Corruption Barometer 2006.

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