Corruption siphons off 20-30 percent of funding for basic services, estimates non-profit Transparency International (TI), and tackling it should be higher on the international development agenda.
“Corruption is a tax, and adds to the overall bill of development efforts - the percentage of resources could be as high as 20 or 30 percent,” TI’s programmes’ director, Christiaan Poortman, told IRIN, following the launch of the 2010 Perceptions of Corruption Index. “It will hamper the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals,” he added.
Research by TI into corruption in the water sector estimates in some countries that 30 percent of funds are siphoned off. Similar figures are emerging for construction. “Corruption also means quality in these sectors goes down - so in construction, the quality of the buildings will be poorer... They would collapse in the next earthquake. It really can be a matter of life and death,” Poortman added.
The Perceptions of Corruption Index, launched on 26 October, shows corruption levels in the 178 countries reviewed have changed very little on previous years. On a scale of 10 (low corruption) to 0 (highly corrupt), almost three-quarters of the 178 countries measured, scored below five.
Many fragile states, with a legacy of conflict, fare worst. The bottom 10 scorers in the index are: Somalia, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Iraq, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Sudan, Chad, Burundi and Equatorial Guinea.
TI advocates stricter implementation of the UN Convention against Corruption, the only global initiative that provides a framework for putting an end to corruption. Under the convention, all signatories are being reviewed for their anti-corruption efforts over the next three years.
Leaders must display a commitment to getting rid of corruption, said Poortman, who cited Zambia, Botswana and the USA as setting a good example.
Corruption is on the agenda of the upcoming November G20 meeting in Seoul. “With global financial reform, stamping out corruption is now on the agenda of the G20, so it does get more traction than it used to, but whether or not major changes are being made at a governance level, is unclear,” said Poortman.
Other target areas to diminish corruption include strengthening institutions; strengthening the rule of law; making decision-making transparent; educating youths and setting up better whistle-blower protection schemes. “If you muzzle civil society and go after people who try to do the right thing, that is a major disincentive.”
Corruption scores have improved since 2009 for Bhutan, Chile, Ecuador, Macedonia, Gambia, Haiti, Jamaica, Kuwait, and Qatar; and declined for the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Madagascar, Niger and the USA.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions