International - Written by on Tuesday, July 9, 2013 11:18 - 0 Comments

Opinion: People power & why the TI statistic that 1 in 4 people admit to paying a bribe is good news.

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The Global Corruption Barometer 2013 – a survey of 114,000 people in 107 countries makes sobering reading:

27 per cent of respondents have paid a bribe when accessing public services and institutions in the last 12 months.

Nearly 9 out of 10 people surveyed said they would act against corruption and two-thirds of those who were asked to pay a bribe had refused.

In 51 countries around the world, political parties are seen as the most corrupt institution. 55 per cent of respondents think government is run by special interests.

In the UK 5 per cent of UK respondents have paid a bribe in the last 12 months – a jump since Transparency International’s 2010 survey, when only 1 per cent reported as such.

Around the world, people’s appraisal of their leaders’ efforts to stop corruption is worse than before the financial crisis began in 2008, when 31 per cent said their government’s efforts to fight corruption were effective. This year it fell to 22 per cent.

Opinion

These are shocking statistics.  But they should be seen in context.

Public awareness of corruption are at peak levels with the increased attention and focus brought to the topic by organisations like Transparency International.

This is good news for two reasons.

First, only when the scale of a problem is understood can it be tackled.

Second, it is likely that raised awareness has also resulted in an increased propensity for people to speak out.  Put another just because the statistics have changed doesn’t necessarily mean that the problem has worsened.  Only that the true scale of the problem is becoming known.

Solving it requires a team effort where citizens, business and government play their part.

The good news is that 68 percent believe that ordinary people can make a difference in the fight against corruption, and 91 per cent would be willing to take action.

Business too can do something.

A strong tone from the top is critical and it is a concern that a lack of visible enforcement under the much heralded Bribery Act appears to be giving rise to a dangerous complacency in the UK with 5% of UK respondents admitting paying a bribe.

In our experience, employees in faraway lands welcome such an approach.  They want to know that in rejecting bribe demands they have the full backing of their bosses.

Government too needs to help.  The stick of enforcement must be wielded against those bad actors who view bribery as an acceptable cost of doing business.  However, those who do their best but fall victim as a result of a rogue employee should not be penalized.

Initiatives like those published last week by the British Standards Institute and the City of London Police to offer training to businesses about anti-bribery and practical steps to put in place should be welcomed.

We would like to see Embassies and Consulates properly funded to help businesses in difficult markets by engaging with their foreign government counterparts on behalf of business.

Our takeaway from the latest Global Corruption Barometer.

Corruption remains a large problem but the journey to reduce it started some time ago.  Change will not happen overnight but with 9 out of ten saying they would act against corruption and over two thirds thinking people power can make a difference:

there may be a long road ahead, but the outlook looks good.

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