General News of Wednesday, 2 December 2015
Ghanaians are among the most negative in Africa about the scale of corruption in their country over the past year, during which some 75 million people on the continent said they had paid a bribe, according to a new opinion poll by Transparency International (TI), the global anti-corruption watchdog.
The other countries where citizens were most dismayed by corruption are Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Liberia.
TI noted: “Shockingly, we estimate that nearly 75 million people have paid a bribe in the past year – some of these to escape punishment by the police or courts, but many also forced to pay to get access to the basic services that they desperately need.
“A majority of Africans perceive corruption to be on the rise and think that their government is failing in its efforts to fight corruption; and many also feel disempowered as regards to taking action against corruption.”
In the report People and Corruption: Africa Survey 2015, part of the Global Corruption Barometer, TI partnered with Afrobarometer, which spoke to 43,143 respondents across 28 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa between March 2014 and September this year to ask them about their experiences and perceptions of corruption in their country.
The majority (58 per cent) of Africans in the surveyed countries, say corruption has increased over the past 12 months. In 18 out of 28 countries surveyed a large majority of people said their government was doing badly at fighting corruption.
The survey noted that despite these disappointing findings, the bright spots across the continent were in Botswana, Burkina Faso, Lesotho and Senegal. Citizens in these countries were some of the most positive in the region when discussing corruption.
For the first time, people reported business executives as highly corrupt. Business ranked as having the second highest levels of corruption in the region, just below the police.
The police regularly rate as highly corrupt, but the strongly negative assessment of business executives is new compared to previous surveys.
Many Africans, particularly the poor, are burdened by corruption when trying to get access to basic services in their country, the survey found.
Twenty-two per cent of people that have come into contact with a public service in the past 12 months said they paid a bribe.
Of the six key public services that the survey asked about, people who come into contact with the courts and police are the most likely to have paid a bribe: 28 per cent and 27 per cent respectively.
Across the continent, poor people who use public services are twice as likely as rich people to have paid a bribe, and in urban areas they are even more likely to pay bribes, according to the survey
“Corruption creates and increases poverty and exclusion. While corrupt individuals with political power enjoy a lavish life, millions of Africans are deprived of their basic needs like food, health, education, housing, access to clean water and sanitation,” said TI Chairman José Ugaz.
“We call on governments and judges to stop corruption, eradicate impunity and implement Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals to curb corruption. We also call on the people to demand honesty and transparency, and mobilize against corruption. It is time to say enough and unmask the corrupt,” Ugaz added.
Transparency International said it was increasingly clear that citizens were a key part of any anti-corruption initiative. However, the survey finds that corruption reporting mechanisms are often seen as too dangerous, ineffective or unclear.
More than one out of three Africans thinks that a whistle-blower faces negative consequences for reporting corruption, which is why most people do not report, according to the survey.
“Our work as civil society is clear: we have to spread a message of hope across the continent. Corruption can be tackled. People need to be given the space to stand up against it without fear of retaliation and governments need to get serious about ending the widespread impunity,” Ugaz noted.
The survey was carried out face to face. In each country the survey was sampled and weighted to be nationally representative of the adult population aged 18 and above.
This estimate is made based on the approximate total number of adults aged 18 and above living in each of the surveyed countries according to the most recent census or other available population data.
TI urged governments to strengthen and enforce legislation on corrupt business people and anti-money laundering to curb the high volume of illicit flows from the continent.
It noted that this could address the negative perception of business if those profiting are held to account.
The corruption watchdog also recommended that governments establish right to information and whistle-blower protection legislation to facilitate the role of civil society in making public institutions more transparent, accountable and corruption-free.
It also called on governments to show a sustained and deep commitment to acting on police corruption at all levels by promoting reforms that combine punitive measures with structural changes over the short- and medium-term. Cracking down on petty bribery has direct impact on the most vulnerable in society.
TI urged the African Union and its members to provide the political will and financing needed to implement the review mechanism established for its anti-corruption convention.
It warned: “Unless it’s stopped, corruption slows development and economic growth while weakening people’s trust in government and the accountability of public institutions.”