A new survey of Africa, has revealed 75 million people have paid a bribe in the last year. But corruption is a worldwide problem.
The British American Tobacco company is accused of undermining a WHO antismoking initiative. FIFA has been charged with racketeering and embezzlement. Corrupt peshmerga fighters allegedly smuggling oil into Jordan and Turkey from the Islamic State. Just some of the scandals of 2015.
From the developing world to the western super powers, corruption is damaging countries and economies. These are five ways to help create a new era of transparency and ethical politics.
1/ Local Reform
There are 140 signatories to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, but treaties,do little to combat fraud in daily life. International legislation can only ameliorate corruption and its commitments are largely symbolic. In reality, an on-ground approach is needed tailored to each individual country. Reform must start from within, and begin with some of the most vital institutions of state. How are whistleblowers going to continue to speak out if the police are accused of racketeering and blackmail? How are businesses going to remain moral in executives rely on embezzlement? How are governments going to usher in progressive policies if officials are taking bribes? In order for progress, institutions have to open themselves up to scrutiny. They must root out offenders, maintain adequate records, and hold themselves to account.
2/ Individual Liability
The term ‘whitewash’ is synonymous with modern business and politics. Unless companies, corporations and governments allow independent investigation the air of suspicion will always linger. And with good reason, one needs only look at the 2007 finical crisis to see immoral double-dealings. The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission cited “widespread failures in financial regulation and supervision,” and “dramatic failures of corporate governance and risk management at many systemically important financial institutions.’ Finally and most importantly the recession was down to a “systemic breakdown in accountability and ethics.” When companies, banks or even governments avoid responsibility by always deferring to a senior figure, and the senior figures passing responsibility back down, no one is accountable. Legally speaking they remain indemnified. Corruption becomes a chain that continues to be forged out of anonymity. This can only be broken when individuals take their share of responsibility.
3/ Publishing Audits.
Corruption flourishes when financial dealings are buried. Companies governments and people, should be made to publish their expenses, assets and liabilities. Furthermore audits must be undertaken by independent industry regulators. If a company or person relies on their own staff, then embezzlement is couched in double-speak and bribery swept under the carpet. When audits are made public not only does it encourage healthy investment it also leads to industry reform.
4/ Company Listings
How much money is made from tax avoidance? Latest reports estimate up to 32 trillion dollars worth. Most of this is in offshore accounts, tax havens, trusts or even dummy companies. Some of this is legal but unethical exploiting the loopholes of financial law and regulation, for a fast buck. However, much more is unlawful. The slippery slope toward money laundering, misappropriation of funds, and tax dodging is an easy descent. One needs only look at the UK’s 2009 expenses scandal in the UK to see this. House of Lords member John Taylor was convicted of false accounting 11 000 in bogus parliamentary travelling arrangements he never took. He was sentenced to 12 months in prison, but only served 3. On the other hand, my local MP for St Albans Anne Main claimed £22 000 for a second home allowance. She just got off with a warning. If a company is listed then it can be shown to be legitimate and not a way to siphon capital. If expenses are declared people can be sure officials are acting ethically and legally.
In today’s world we take corruption for granted. It has become part of our culture, whether it is the liaisons of the Mexican government with the Cartels, the widespread doping of Olympic athletes under the watch of the IAAF, or simply big companies like Apple, outsourcing work to illegal factories in the developing work, we can only shrug. However, when we discover ISIL are profiting from illegal oil trade due to corrupt opposition fighters then we’d do well to pay attention. These scandals aren’t just made by corrupt companies or officials they are failings of the system. This is the work of accountants but it trickles down to health, schooling, military spending, press freedom and human rights. Corruption is part of a chain w, which has a corrosive effect on nearly all aspects of society. It is no coincidence that countries ranked low of the Human Development Index are also ranked high on corruption. The point being, that poverty and living standards are linked to the undercutting of economies by fraud. When corruption is viewed with not only scorn but indignation, will a fairer and more transparent society can emerge.
And yet, no one method of the above five can work alone, indeed all five are interlinked and codependent on each other. Much like corruption is never single act but part of a chain which imprisons progress, transparency is like a ring of trust which creates integrity and commitment in all areas of society. A delicate balancing act to say the least, however what is certain that in order for the developing world to create lasting change to their economies, we cannot turn a blind eye. By shining a light on corruption both on a national and international level, the mutual transactions can lead to a more prosperous world for all.