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Middle East and North African governments have high risks of defence-related corruption

Every country in the Middle East and North Africa assessed by the first of its kind Government Defence Anti-Corruption Index leaves the door open to waste, impunity and security threats in the defence sector, because the majority lack the systems and the will to prevent corruption. The report for the region, launched today by Transparency International UK’s Defence and Security Programme, measures how governments prevent and counter corruption in defence.

All 19 countries in the region are assessed to have high risk of corruption in the sector. Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Yemen are found to have a critical level of defence corruption risk, meaning that there is hardly any accountability of defence and security establishments in all these states. The best-scoring countries in the region are Israel, Kuwait, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates.

The region has several key problems: excessive secrecy, lack of oversight, and lack of citizen engagement. Eighteen of the 19 countries assessed in the region don’t have a legislative committee to scrutinise the defence budget, or, if it exists, it receives only partial information and has few powers. Networks based on close family and business ties as well as restrictions on public debate and civil society freedom were found in most countries assessed in the region. Not one of the countries has a credible or safe ‘whistleblowing’ system through which concerned officers and defence officials can report suspected corruption.

In Syria attempts to initiate debate on defence issues were suppressed and resulted in the imprisonment of those involved. Meanwhile, countries in transition, such as Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, and countries in conflict, such as Yemen, have increased risk as a result of instability undermining the strength of checks and balances to ensure integrity. In 60 per cent of the countries surveyed the defence budget is not publicly available at all, or it is extremely difficult to obtain any detail regarding it. Corruption serves only to exacerbate turmoil and harms both citizens and the troops charged with protecting them.

Yet the potential for change exists, evidenced by some countries scoring well in selected areas. In Lebanon, for example, there is little military spending that is secret, and military personnel and pay systems are well established. Other countries in the region are also showing some signs of defence sector reform.

The Government Defence Anti-Corruption Index analyses what 82 countries do to reduce corruption risks. These countries accounted for 94 per cent (USD 1.6 trillion) of the global military expenditure in 2011. Countries are scored in bands from very low risk (A) to critical risk (F) according to detailed assessment across 77 indicators that cover five prominent risk areas in the sector: politics, finance, personnel, operations, and procurement. All countries assessed in the Middle East and North Africa placed in Bands D, E and F.

“Military spending in the region has averaged about USD 100 billion a year over the last five years”, stresses Mark Pyman, Director of Transparency International UK’s Defence and Security Programme. “Our study suggests that the corruption problem is pervasive in defence, with a significant proportion of this spending at risk. Worse, high levels of defence corruption lead to impunity and public mistrust. ”

Transparency International-UK calls on governments in Middle East and North African countries to make this highly secretive sector, which involves large public contracts, more open. Resource-rich countries in the region should not be complacent: the study finds that they have increased corruption risk compared with resource-poor countries. Defence establishments across the board should strengthen integrity in their Defence Ministry and Armed Forces and increase controls against corruption. Governments should increase citizens’ access to information about defence budgets and procurement. Legislators need much stronger powers of oversight over the sector, with the teeth and access to cut corruption down.

Transparency International-UK estimates the global cost of corruption in the defence sector to be a minimum of USD 20 billion per year, based on data from the World Bank and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). This equates to the total sum pledged by the G8 in 2009 to fight world hunger.

Notes to editors

  1. The Index is the sister index of the Defence Companies Anti-Corruption Index, released on 4th October 2012, which evaluated the capacity of 129 defence companies to address corruption risk.
  1. Visit for detailed assessments of the 82 countries amounting to over one million words of analysis.
  1. Transparency International UK’s Defence and Security Programme helps to build integrity and reduce corruption in defence and security establishments worldwide through supporting counter corruption reform in nations, raising integrity in arms transfers, and influencing policy in defence and security. To achieve this, the programme works with governments, defence companies, multilateral organisations and civil society. The programme is led by Transparency International UK (TI-UK) on behalf of the TI movement. For more information about the programme please visit


The Index bands countries according to their level of risk of corruption. The risk of corruption is determined by the danger and extent of it occurring and by the frequency citizens may face it.

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