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World: Anticorruption Group Says Worldwide, Political Parties Considered At Heart Of Corruption

  • Daisy Sindelar

The global anticorruption watchdog Transparency International has released the results of a public survey looking at which institutions private citizens find the most corrupt. In more than half the countries surveyed, the general public rated politics as the institution most affected by corruption. The Transparency survey, released today to correspond with the first United Nations International Anticorruption Day, ends with a plea for the global community to adopt a policy of zero tolerance toward political corruption.

Prague, 9 December 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Whether you live in France, Israel, Argentina, or Ukraine, it is in politics -- rather than business or private life -- where corruption is seen to be at its worst.

That is the conclusion of the Global Corruption Barometer, a study of 64 countries issued today by Transparency International.

Transparency International Director Cobus de Swardt summarized the results of the Barometer at a press briefing today in Paris.

"The Barometer shows that world public opinion is very much concerned by corruption in political life. The general public identifies political parties, followed by the parliament and legislative systems, as the institutions the most affected by corruption. It also indicates that political corruption, or grand corruption, is an even more serious problem than petty corruption," de Swardt said.

Transparency is best known for its annual Corruption Perceptions Index.

Issued each October, that report ranks 146 countries in terms of how corrupt they are perceived to be by experts both inside and outside the country.

The Corruption Barometer -- first launched last year -- is based on surveys of private citizens living in the 64 countries included in the study.

Jeff Lovitt, director of communications for Transparency, tells RFE/RL the Barometer is a more personal indicator of how the public views local efforts at fighting corruption.
"I think what's important about it is that it's a survey of the general public. And many surveys on corruption are actually of experts and businesspeople. So this gives an indication of perhaps more the public's awareness of corruption and where perhaps the biggest problems are."


"I think what's important about it is that it's a survey of the general public. And many surveys on corruption are actually of experts and businesspeople. So this gives an indication of perhaps more the public's awareness of corruption and where perhaps the biggest problems are," Lovitt said.

In nearly all the countries surveyed, political bodies are considered far more corrupt than tax authorities, religious bodies, education systems, and the media.

And political parties fare the worst. More than half the countries in the Corruption Barometer say parties are the source of the worst corruption. The worst ratings came from countries ranging from Ecuador and India to Romania and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

There are exceptions. Macedonia, Croatia, and Afghanistan rank the legal system and judiciary as the most corrupt political institution.

Citizens in Russia and Georgia said it was the police who were the most corrupt.

The police also fared poorly in Moldova, where people said law enforcement and customs authorities were equally corrupt.

Kosovars said customs and medical services were the institutions worst affected by corruption.

In Ukraine, where the public is now sharply divided over a prolonged standoff between the country's two presidential hopefuls, people found nearly every aspect of political life equally corrupt. Ukrainians gave equally bad ratings to political parties, the police, customs officials, and the parliament.

The Corruption Barometer also looked at how individual citizens ranked the impact of corruption on their daily lives. In many Central and Eastern European countries, at least one in five people said they, or someone in their household, had paid a bribe during the past year.

The news isn't all bad. Lovitt notes the Barometer registers a cautious expectation in some countries that corruption is on the decline.

"Certainly in one of the questions, which is about whether the general public expect corruption to decrease or increase over the next three years, there are a few countries where there is increasing optimism. And two of those are Indonesia and Georgia, both of which have over the last year elected new governments who have been elected, in a sense, on an anticorruption platform. And the positive sign there is that, six to nine months after that, in the case of Georgia, there's still optimism," Lovitt said.

In 2003, just 1 percent of Georgians surveyed said they expected corruption to decrease significantly in their country. This year, that figure jumped to 23 percent. An additional 37 percent said they expected corruption to experience at least a small drop.

People in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Macedonia all expressed optimism that they would see minor improvements in anticorruption efforts.

Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Albania, and Croatia all indicated that corruption levels would stay approximately the same.

The Transparency Global Corruption Barometer coincides with UN International Anticorruption Day, launched this year in a bid to press national governments to step up efforts to fight corruption.

This includes the ratification of the UN Convention against Corruption, which was released in 2003 but so far has only 12 of the 30 ratifications needed to come into force.

The Transparency Barometer is limited to countries where the international polling organization Gallup has local affiliates.

Jesse Garcia, a press officer in Transparency's Berlin offices, tells RFE/RL's Turkmen Service why Central Asia is not included in this year's Barometer.

"There are very little data from the CA [Central Asian] countries in this particular survey, unfortunately. [It's] just because of the difficulty, I think, of getting information via such a survey method -- it's a telephone survey, conducted by Gallup International. Each year they're able to interview more people as part of this survey, which is called the Voice of the People survey. But it is logistically difficult," Garcia said.

The Barometer offers a final, sobering insight into the lives of many people around the world. Even as public citizens cite the problems of political corruption, people in countries ranging from Afghanistan and Georgia to Romania and Russia say it is poverty, inflation, and unemployment -- and not corruption -- that are their society's most worrying issues.

(Cobus de Swardt's audio comes courtesy of the Foreign Press Center in Paris (CAPE). RFE/RL correspondent Antoine Blua and RFE/RL's Turkmen Service contributed to this report.)

(The full text of the survey can be found at http://www.transparency.org)
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