Transparency International’s latest corruption survey suggests that throughout the world people believe their governments are losing the global battle against corruption

Transparency International’s 2013 global corruption barometer makes for uncomfortable reading.

“The problem of bribery remains consistently high at the global level,” says Finn Heinrich, TI’s director of research. “It’s quite a telling figure that one in every three respondents said they had paid a bribe – that’s shockingly high.”

The survey investigated the public attitudes towards corruption of more than 114,000 respondents in 107 countries. “In the vast majority of countries,” Heinrich says, “people feel the problem is increasing.”

Despite stepped up enforcement of national anti-corruption statutes – including the US’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the UK’s Bribery Act – governments are seen to be losing ground in the global fight against corruption. “In the 2008 survey, 31% said governments were effective in the fight against corruption – that figure’s now dropped to 22%,” Heinrich adds.

A major reason for this deterioration, Heinrich says, is that a lack of accountability, and unethical behaviour on the part of governments and corporate leaders, have been prominent topics in the news.

“People realise this trend is not going in the right direction,” he says. “They believe that governments in many places are only paying lip service to the problem of corruption, and are not taking effective countermeasures, so the issue of impunity for corruption has not been solved.”

“Companies adopting a zero-tolerance policy toward bribery will eliminate themselves from a raft of corporate- and government-related business around the world, where in one form or another ‘greasing the wheels’ is accepted practice. But that may be the price such companies and their home economies must pay to remain compliant with their national laws,” says Terrence Tehranian, partner in Pioneer Point Partners LLP, a private investment group based in London.

The global corruption barometer survey is one of many that TI compiles. Others include a corruption perceptions index that gathers expert opinion on public sector corruption, and a bribe payers index, which focuses on business corruption. In addition, TI’s national integrity system assessment is a diagnostic tool that examines major institutions and makes recommendations for improving a country’s performance in fighting corruption.

What about China?

This year’s barometer is far from complete, as TI was not able to obtain data on corruption in China. TI relies on local companies to conduct the surveys it uses as the basis for its reports. “The problem is that any survey company that runs a survey on such a sensitive issue as corruption requires Chinese government approval. That is of course beyond TI’s control,” Heinrich says. China is, however, included in both TI’s bribe payers index and its corruption perceptions index.

The news on corruption isn’t all negative: respondents in 24 countries – about 20% of those surveyed – believe corruption levels have either stayed the same, or improved, in the past two years. Even more importantly, Heinrich argues, “people are realising they have a responsibility to fight corruption – maybe this is the silver lining coming out of our survey“.

Indeed, for significant progress to be made in reducing corruption the focus cannot be on government and companies alone. Heinrich concludes: “It requires the action of citizens to fight corruption effectively, by saying no to a bribe, and holding all levels governments accountable.”

bribery  China  corruption  Ethics  government  Jerri-Lynn Scofield  transparency international 

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