Corruption is endemic
Not one single country in the world is corruption free. According to Transparency International’s 2016 Corruption Perception Index, over two-thirds of the 176 countries and territories included in their index fall below the midpoint between 0 (highly corrupt) and 100 (very clean). The global average remains at 43 which means citizens face the impact of corruption on a daily basis.
The best ranked countries were Denmark and New Zealand with 90 points each, whereas Somalia and South Sudan remain at the bottom of the list with 10 and 11 points.
“In too many countries, people are deprived of their most basic needs and go to bed hungry every night because of corruption, while the powerful and corrupt enjoy lavish lifestyles with impunity,” said José Ugaz, Chair of Transparency International after the index was released in late January.
The results show there’s a connection between corruption and inequality, which creates a vicious circle between corruption, unequal distribution of power in society and unequal distribution of wealth, reported the NGO. This also feeds populism because when traditional politicians fail to tackle corruption, people distrust them and instead turn to populist leaders who promise to break the cycle. Nevertheless, this is likely to exacerbate rather than to resolve the problem.
According to the index, the lower-ranked countries have untrustworthy and badly functioning public institutions like the police and judiciary. Even if they have anti-corruption laws, these remain ignored and people often face situations of bribery and extortion.
Instead, higher-ranked countries tend to have stronger standards of integrity for public officials, higher degrees of press freedom and access to information about public expenditure. But, even if the most obvious forms of corruption don’t touch citizen’s daily lives these countries are not immune to closed-door deals, conflicts of interests and illicit finance.
So how is the world’s public sector doing?
For the Americas the average score in the index was 44 out of 100 which means governments are failing to tackle corruption. Canada was the best ranked country with 82 point whereas Venezuela scored just 17.
Nonetheless, the region is shifting towards more active enforcement by authorities in response to online and traditional media discussions and mass protests.
Investigations around corruption sparkled in 2016 with the Panama Papers, the Odebrecht and Petrobras scandals, also former Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kircher is under investigation, and the FIFA scandal investigation continued.
The majority of the region’s countries remain at the bottom half of the index. This can be attributed to unaccountable governments and lack of oversight.
Europe and Central Asia:
“There are no drastic changes in Europe and Central Asia on this year’s index, with only a few exceptions. However, this does not mean that the region is immune from corruption. The stagnation also does not indicate that the fight against corruption has improved, but rather the opposite.”
Middle East and North Africa
The region hasn’t seen any progress in the fight against corruption and impunity in the last years. Most of the countries dropped in the ranking, with 90% of them scoring less than 50 points.
Sub Saharan Africa
Last year elections were hosted across the region, but corruption trends remained. In Ghana, for example, people showed their dissatisfaction with the government’s corruption record at the polls where for the first time in the country’s history, an incumbent president was voted out.
How can we change this situation?
For example, the G20 countries promised in 2015 to follow a set of Anti-Corruption Open Data Principles. Governments should publish information about what they do and this data could be freely used, modified and shared by anyone for any purpose.
“Publishing this data would allow civil society to monitor things like the use of public resources and taxes, the awarding of public contracts, and the sources of political party finance, the research underlines, explaining that this would make it easier to hold governments to account and deter criminal activities like bribery and nepotism.”
Nonetheless, Transparency International and the Web Foundation, examined the extent to which five G20 countries (Brazil, France, Germany, Indonesia and South Africa) are living up to these promise and found there isn’t enough progress. No country released all the data-sets required and much of the information proved either hard to find or difficult to use.
Meanwhile, “citizens must keep up pressure on leaders and continue to demand the transparent, accountable and functioning institutions the region needs to make sure these and similar commitments are delivered on.”