Law enforcement authorities are perceived to be the most corrupt public institutions in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka
A new household survey released today by Transparency International reports high levels of corruption in public institutions in South Asia. Of the seven major public institutions, the police emerge as the most corrupt in all five countries surveyed. The judiciary was identified as the second most corrupt area in all countries except Pakistan, where land administration and the tax authorities were identified as the second and third most corrupt areas respectively. Land administration figures prominently in the list of the most corrupt sectors in four out of the five countries.
The latest report by TI, entitled Corruption in South Asia - Insights & Benchmarks from Citizen Feedback Surveys in Five Countries, identifies high levels of corruption encountered by citizens attempting to access seven basic public services. In India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, 100% of respondents that interacted with the police during the past year reported encountering corruption. In Bangladesh, this figure was 84% and in Nepal, 48%. In their experiences with the judiciary, nearly all Indian (100%), Sri Lankan (100%), and Pakistani (96%) households polled reported paying bribes. Judicial corruption was also significant in Bangladesh (75% of users) and Nepal (42 % of users).
After the police and judiciary, land administration was identified as the next most corrupt sector across the region, according to the experiences of South Asian households. In Pakistan, 100% of respondents with experience with the land administration authorities reported corruption and in Sri Lanka this figure was 98%. Land administration was somewhat cleaner in Bangladesh (73% of users reported corruption), India (47% of users) and Nepal (17% of users).
The survey, conducted in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka between November 2001 and May 2002, was carried out on households, both urban and rural, in each country, ranging from 2,278 households in Sri Lanka to 5,157 in India. In Pakistan, 3,000 households were surveyed, while 3,030 were surveyed in Bangladesh and 3,060 in Nepal. Commissioned by TI's national chapters, the surveys all used the same methodology about service delivery and corruption in seven public services: health care, education, power, land administration, taxation, police, and the judiciary.
"Across South Asia, public spending on basic services such as drinking water, education, health and law enforcement represents a significant allocation of scarce resources," said Gopakumar Krishnan, Asia Programme Manager at the TI-Secretariat. "The survey results show that even when public services are meant to be freely available, bribes and delays keep many from receiving them, and it is most often the poorest in society that suffer most."
"It is well documented that petty corruption is rife in South Asia and these countries score low on governance indicators, but this is the first comparative study examining what the users of key public services actually experience," said Gopakumar Krishnan. He continued: "Direct feedback from the public is a powerful tool to ensure public accountability. The lack of effective complaints mechanisms in these countries prevents most feedback from reaching the government. This regional survey establishes benchmarks that may help individual governments and departments to track changes over time and measure progress made."
The survey shows that bribes are a heavy financial burden on South Asian households, both due to the high frequency of bribes and to the large sums paid. More than half of the users of public hospitals in Bangladesh, for example, reported that they had paid a bribe to access a service, with bribes averaging BDT 1,847 (US$33). In Pakistan, 92% of households that had experience with public education reported having to pay bribes; the average amount paid was PKR 4,811 (US$86). These figures are startling in a region where 45% of the total population of 1.4 billion live in poverty. When asked about the source of corruption, most respondents answered that bribes were extorted by public servants. Middle and lower level civil servants were identified as the key facilitators of corruption in all sectors probed.
"The TI Corruption in South Asia survey strongly supports the case for empowering regulatory bodies, such as the office of the Ombudsman," said Gopakumar Krishnan, "to oversee the activities of public agencies, which across the region are the sole providers of many basic necessities. The findings also indicate that where the law is silent on standards of service, agencies simply provide poorer services." He added: "TI has identified that increasing measures to improve transparency, from citizens' charters to the practice of publicly posting official fees, has proven effective in holding public officials to account and reducing corruption. "
The full report is available here (338 kb).
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