Information and news about corruption

Corruption Around the World
Corruption, which Transparency International defines as “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain,” is one of the most significant roadblocks facing developing countries today. The World Bank points out that corruption disproportionately hurts the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world, increasing the cost and reducing access to basic services like health care, justice and education. According to a 2017 survey by Transparency International, 25 percent of respondents worldwide said they had to pay a bribe to access a public service within the last 12 months. According to the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, bribery and stolen money drain the global economy of $3.6 billion every year.

This past June 2019, congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN9), along with a bipartisan group of cosponsors, introduced legislation to the House of Representatives designed to crack down on corruption around the world. The bill, titled the Kleptocrat Exposure Act, seeks to expose actors on the international stage who have attempted to undermine democracy or have promoted corruption around the world and to punish those actors with various sanctions. This article will explore the history of U.S. and international efforts to combat corruption around the world, before examining the details of congressman Cohen’s legislation.

The History of Global Anti-Corruption Efforts

In the late 1990s, regional groups of states began to sign anti-corruption treaties. In 1996, a group of Latin American states entered into the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption. Since its adoption in 1999, dozens of African countries have signed the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption. However, the most comprehensive and far-reaching international anti-corruption treaty is the United Nations Convention against Corruption, which went into force in 2005. One hundred and eighty-six countries around the world have ratified the Convention, which has pressured 86 percent of its signatories to adopt tougher anti-corruption measures.

U.S. efforts to fight corruption around the world started with the Foreign Corrupt Services Act, which it enacted in 1977. The Act prohibits U.S. individuals and firms, as well as certain foreign individuals and firms operating on U.S. soil, from making bribes to foreign officials in order to advance a business deal. The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) has worked on the ground with foreign governments to strengthen their ability to resist corruption. For instance, the INL worked with the Ukrainian Ministry of Interior to replace the country’s notoriously corrupt police force with 16,000 new patrol police.

The Kleptocrat Exposure Act

Steve Cohen introduced the Kleptocrat Exposure Act to the House of Representatives on June 24, 2019. The Act, which has four Republican and two Democratic co-sponsors, has entered the House Judiciary Committee for debate and has yet to enter to the House as a whole. The Act primarily aims to amend another piece of legislation called the Immigration and Nationality Act. In its current form, the Immigration and Nationality Act generally keeps information about visa refusals confidential, but with certain exceptions, such as when information about an immigrant’s visa status is necessary in cases going before a court.

However, this amendment would allow the Secretary of State to release information to the public regarding visa refusals to foreign individuals who have committed human rights violations or corruption. Under the Kleptocrat Exposure Act, the Secretary of State’s release of information about an individual’s visa refusal would have to be based on credible evidence that:

  • The individual carried out “extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights” against people trying to promote democracy or expose corruption within their country.
  • The individual acted as an agent for a person described above.
  • The individual himself was a government official in his/her country who participated in some act of corruption, such as “the expropriation of private or public assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, bribery, or the facilitation or transfer of the proceeds of corruption to foreign jurisdictions.”
  • The individual provided technological, financial or material support for one of the acts of corruption described above.

According to Skopos Labs estimates, the bill only has a three percent chance of becoming reality. However, the fact that this legislation has at least some bipartisan support could be a sign that U.S. lawmakers might be starting to recognize the U.S.’s role in exposing and punishing human rights abusers and kleptocrats. Even if the legislation fails in Congress on its first try, the Kleptocrat Exposure Act could just be the first step towards more sustained policy efforts to get the U.S. more involved in cracking down on corruption around the world.

– Andrew Bryant
Photo: Flickr

Corruption in Cuba
Ever since the small Caribbean nation of Cuba became a nation in 1902, corruption at all levels of its society has plagued it. From the face of the nation to the small-time citizen, corruption impacts almost every person in Cuba.

Cuba has suffered over a century of corrupt government officials, businessmen and everyday citizens taking advantage of the already impoverished nation. Cuba has formed policies in an attempt to stop the trends that so many are familiar with, but the country needs to do more. Here are 10 facts about corruption in Cuba including its history and what the country is doing to combat it.

10 Facts About Corruption in Cuba

  1. It was not until the presidency of Jose Miguel Gomes in 1909 that Cuba experienced major public corruption. He earned the nickname of The Shark because of his involvement in several government corruption scandals that became public. The second president of Cuba and his supporters were guilty of embezzlement of funds.
  2. In 1952, Fulgencio Batista and the army led a military coup on the sitting president, Carlos Prio Socarras. Batista subsequently became president and led a corrupt dictatorship that would make millions off of profiteering from foreign investors’ illegal gambling and even criminal organizations. Batista received 30 percent of profits from Cuban casinos and hotels owned by the gangster, Meyer Lansky, alone.
  3. After six years of corruption and exploitation under the dictatorship of Batista, the Cuban people had enough. Fidel Castro led his revolutionary forces to depose Batista from power on January 1, 1959. The style of government that Castro installed did not fix the problem of corruption; it only changed those in charge.
  4. Corrupt officials take bribes from the few foreign companies in Cuba in exchange for lucrative contracts. An incident like this led to the arrest of the Canadian CEO of the Tokmakjian Group in 2011. Cy Tokmakjian was guilty of giving gifts to Cuban officials in exchange for government contracts for his Ontario, Canada-based transportation company.
  5. The police in Cuba often search the vehicles and homes of the Cuban people, and instead of charging individuals with a particular crime, they seek bribes to gain profit for their time. The police have the power to stop and question any citizen and carry out search and seizure operations without a warrant. Officially, in order to search someone’s home, police need a warrant, however, they still confiscate goods without these warrants.
  6.  State employees steal and sell state goods on the black market. As much as 20 percent of goods are stolen and distributed around the country. The Cuban government provides most of the goods for the people; items become very scarce or not seen at all as a result of the overwhelming theft. For example, people have a difficult time locating construction materials, such as paint wood and cement, because people steal them frequently.
  7. The practice of sociolisomo is widespread in the Cuban government and top positions of power. Sociolisomo translates to partner-ism and is the reciprocal exchange of favors by individuals. Those in power and control of the state-run resources often let people gain access to these resources via bribes or some other form of material compensation. For example, hospitals give people preferential treatment if they can supply the hospital with scarce material items, such as pens and paper, or provide other services to the hospital.
  8. Today, Cuba is progressing in the right direction when it comes to corruption. Transparency International has ranked Cuba at 47 out of 100; this is up from the country’s lowest of 35 in 2006. One hundred means that a country is completely free of corruption and zero means the country is very corrupt. Transparency International has ranked Cuba 61 on the list of 180 countries.
  9. When Raul Castro took power in 2008, he promised to crack down on corruption in all of Cuba. In 2009, he created the Office of the Comptroller General, which was tasked with auditing companies and state-run institutions. This was meant to bring to light and put in check the levels of corruption that have run rampant in the highest levels of government for decades. Recently, the office discovered in 2018 Cuba’s economy suffered millions of dollars worth of damage. Investigations found that 369 public enterprises were to blame for corruption including a lack of control of accounts and breach of payments. The office determined that 1,427 people were responsible.
  10. In 2001, the government of Cuba created the Ministry for Auditing and Control to help combat corruption in Cuba. Through auditing and inspections of the Cuban Civil Aviation Institute in 2011, the Cuban government was able to discover millions of dollars in the home of Rogelio Acevedo. The investigation found that Acevedo was leasing state airplanes off the official books and keeping the money for himself.

Despite a long history of corruption in Cuba, the new leadership is taking steps to combat corruption on the island nation. Corruption in Cuba still exists today but data shows that the country is heading in the right direction. Only time will tell if the newly implemented policies will have a positive impact on the Cuban people.

– Sam Bostwick
Photo: Flickr

Combating Global Corruption
Cosponsored by six congressmen, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) re-introduced the Combating Global Corruption Act of 2019 on May 2, 2019. The bill requires the Department of State to rank countries into three tiers by how the country complies with the anti-corruption standards established in section four of the bill. This bill previously died in the 115th Congress. However, the 2019 re-introduction has already proven to be more successful. In mid-July 2019, the Senate placed the Combating Global Corruption Act of 2019 on its legislative calendar.

Cosponsor Sen. Young says, “I am proud of this bipartisan effort to combat corruption around the world by standing with the world’s most vulnerable and holding those in power responsible for their actions.” Global corruption is a direct threat to democracy, economic growth, national and international security. It increases global poverty, violates human rights and threatens peace and security.

Corruption and Global Poverty

Bribery negatively impacts literacy rates and access to adequate health and sanitation services. Eight times more women die during childbirth in places where over 60 percent of the population report paying bribes compared to countries with rates below 30 percent. Bribery significantly increases the costs of services like education and health care while decreasing a family’s disposable income. For example, in Mexico, the average poor family spends one-third of its income on bribes. Some families must use the income meant for school or dinner to pay a bribe to local law enforcement.

Corruption and Human Rights

Article six of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states: “Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.”

However, UNICEF reports that every five seconds, a child under the age of 15 dies of generally preventable causes. Over five million of these deaths occur before the age of five due to lack of water, sanitation, proper nutrition and basic health services. Impoverished families living in corrupt communities often do not have access to these services. Therefore, they suffer from higher rates of child mortality. Children are 84 times more likely to die before their fifth birthday in Angola, the sixth most corrupt country in the world, than Luxembourg, the 10th least corrupt country. Corruption denies children their right to life.

Peace and Security

Transparency International’s report “Corruption as a Threat to Stability and Peace” found that corruption fuels conflict and instability. Consequently, more than half of the 20 most corrupt countries have experienced violent conflict. Iraq and Venezuela have violent death rates above 40 per 100,000 individuals.

Further, one of the most profitable forms of corruption is human trafficking. UNICEF estimates that human traffickers generate $32 billion by smuggling approximately 21 million victims each year. Human trafficking occurs in unstable environments where corrupt officials allow criminal activity to persist. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that addressing human trafficking and combating global corruption together will generate better results.

Combating Global Corruption Act of 2019

The Combating Global Corruption Act of 2019 will establish a three-tiered system of countries by their level of corruption and efforts to combat injustices.

  1. Tier one includes countries complying with the minimum standards stated in section four of the bill.
  2. Tier two includes countries attempting to comply with the minimum standards in section four but are not succeeding at the level of a tier-one country.
  3. Tier three includes countries to which the government is making little, to no effort to comply with the minimum standards in section four.

The minimum standards set expectations about national legislation and punishments to deter and eventually eliminate, the corruption inside a country’s borders. The second part of the Combating Global Corruption Act sets forth a procedure to conduct risk assessments, create mitigation strategies and investigate allegations of misappropriated foreign assistance funds to increase the transparency and accountability for how the U.S. provides foreign assistance to tier-three countries.

Sen. Cardin has four points of focus:

  1. Fighting corruption must become a national security priority.
  2. The U.S. government must coordinate efforts across agencies.
  3. The U.S. must improve oversight of its own foreign assistance and promote transparency.
  4. The U.S. can increase financial support for anti-corruption work by using seized resources and assets.

According to Sen. Cardin, the Combating Global Corruption Act of 2019 “recognizes the importance of combating corruption as a hurdle to achieving peace, prosperity and human rights around the world.”

– Haley Myers
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Poverty in Malaysia
Malaysia is a South Asian country that consists of two noncontiguous regions; Peninsular Malaysia which West Malaysia and Thailand share, and East Malaysia which Malaysia shares with the island of Borneo. While this nation has been able to rapidly tackle its poverty situation, millions of Malaysians still struggle every day. Here are 10 facts about poverty in Malaysia.

10 Facts About Poverty in Malaysia

  1. Malaysia’s Poverty Definition – Malaysia’s government defines poverty as families earning between the Poverty Line Income (PLI) of MYR800 and those families living below the national median household earnings by 50 percent. As of 2015, only 0.4 percent of the population was living below the national poverty line.
  2. How Malaysia Measures Poverty – Malaysia calculates poverty with the PLI and Consumer Price Index. The Department of Statistics (DOSM) uses micro-data to calculate poverty. It conducts household surveys and the micro-data refers to those responses. The lack of transparency between the government and its citizens lies in the fact that the government hides these results from the public. This leaves many unanswered questions about the poverty situation in Malaysia.
  3. Unemployment – As of September 2018, Malaysia had a 3.3 percent unemployment rate and youth unemployment of just over 10 percent. The total number of unemployed people is 516,400. Limited English language proficiency, unpolished skills and a lack of digital literacy are common reasons for unemployment.
  4. Access to Clean Water – The Orang Asli, or the first peoples of Malaysia, are significantly unhealthier compared to others due to their inability to access clean water. This caused the Global Peace Foundation to initiate the Communities Unite for Pure Water (CUP) initiative by installing water pumps in a village to filter water into each household. This helped the entire village gain access to clean running water.
  5. Access to Health Care – Malaysia has a two-tier health system, public and private. Both are easily accessible, yet the public sector suffers from severe overcrowing and wait times are very long. This resulted in many people changing from public to private health care, which is very expensive, leaving families one accident away from becoming poor.
  6. High Living Costs – The government implemented the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on April 1, 2015, in order to replace sales and services tax. This added tax of six percent caused people to look for new jobs in order to better situate themselves for the new tax. Only 19 percent of responders said that the tax had done nothing to their routine.
  7. Corruption – People know corruption to be Malaysia’s “public enemy number one.” Bribery and corrupt activities went from 19 percent in 2014 to 30 percent in 2016. The 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) case is an example of corruption in the government. Prime Minister Najib Razak looted $4.5 billion from a state fund focused on financing infrastructure and “other economy-linked deals.” This scandal affected a wide spread of people “including financial institutions” from Malaysia to Singapore.
  8. Minimum Wage – Malaysia’s minimum wage was RM1,000 per month before the National Wage Council’s September 2018 meeting announced its new minimum wage of RM1,050. The government wanted to keep costs of production and wages low so Malaysians did not lose competitiveness with foreign investors. After many protests, Malaysia raised its minimum wage to RM1,100.
  9. Common Diseases – Poor diet and nutrition cause killer diseases in Malaysia. Coronary heart disease, cancer and strokes affect Malaysians the most. The Malaysian Rare Disorders Society, founded in 2004, is a voluntary organization that looks out for the welfare of families and represents them as rare disorders affect them. The organization helped Aminisha, a girl with the congenital disorder of glycosylation (CDG) Type1b, in May 2004. It provided her tube feeding, plasma transfusion and extraction of excess fluids.
  10. Social Programs – Under Malaysia’s 2017 Budget, the Malaysian government allocated about RM10 billion for government aid and subsidies. The government helped the Ministry of Women, Family, and Community Development, which financially helps single mothers for a year by providing a minimum of RM100 per month per child and a maximum of RM450 per month if there are more than four children.

Another way Malaysia combats poverty is through EPIC Homes. This NGO has been providing “safe and sustainable housing” for poor families, mainly the Orang Asli, since 2010. About 82 percent of Orang Asli are in need of housing. Over 5,000 builders have constructed over 100+ houses in over 10+ villages. With the continued work from Malaysia’s government to increase the country’s minimum wage and aid from different initiatives, Malaysia’s poverty status should improve.

–  Isabella Gonzalez
Photo: Flickr

10 facts about corruption in brazil
As the largest nation in South America with a population of over 200 million, Brazil’s importance on the global stage is clear; however, corruption charges and convictions have riddled the country’s reputation. In 2014, one of the worst economic recessions in Brazil’s history hit it and left it in a state of political and economic instability along with ongoing corruption investigations. It is just beginning to recover. These 10 facts about corruption in Brazil serve to better understand one of the world’s most influential, and most corrupt, global players.

10 Facts About Corruption in Brazil

  1. Major corruption scandals have entangled Brazil’s last three presidents: Former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva received a conviction in July 2017 on charges of receiving over $1 million in kickbacks which he put towards renovating his beachfront apartment, with additional charges of money laundering. Brazil impeached his successor, Dilma Rousseff, in 2016, for mismanaging the federal budget in order to hide the extent of the country’s deficit. Brazil arrested her successor, Michel Temer, in March 2019 (only three months after leaving office) on charges of funneling an estimated $470 million into a criminal organization he spearheaded.
  2. Many recent corruption charges have emerged from Lavo Jato, also known as Operation Car Wash: Conceived in 2014, this operation’s original focus was on exposing a car wash money laundering scheme. Results from the investigation indicted hundreds of government officials and business elites spanning 12 countries in one of the largest corruption scandals in Latin American history. By October 2018, Lavo Jato had resulted in over 200 arrests made on the basis of corruption, abuse of the international financial system, drug trafficking and money laundering. The arrest of former president Michel Temer is a direct result of Operation Car Wash.
  3. The working class felt the consequences of Operation Car Wash: Almost half of state-owned oil-giant Petrobras’s employees received lay off after Operation Car Wash exposed the extent of bribes taken by Petrobras in exchange for giving government contracts to Odebrecht, a construction company. The more than 100,000 laid-off employees, not directly involved in the corruption efforts, had to find new work during one of the largest economic downturns in Brazil’s history as a result of Petrobras’s corrupt actions. Executives from both companies face prison time (a U.S. court has even fined Odebrecht $2.6 billion for it to pay to U.S., Brazilian, and Swiss authorities).
  4. Brazil’s domestic corruption affects many countries: Operation Weak Flesh, an investigation launched by Brazilian officials announced in March 2017, has exposed Brazilian companies JBS and BFR, the world’s largest beef and poultry exporters, to public scrutiny, bringing Brazilian corruption further into the global spotlight. JBS and BFR bribed quality inspectors to approve the exportation of spoiled meat which they exported around the world, including to the U.S. The U.S. has since banned JBS and BFR products. Authorities have arrested the Batista brothers, heads of JBS, for insider trading and lying to authorities. They also charged JBS $3.16 billion in fines for bribes totaling $600 million spread across nearly 2,000 officials.
  5. Economists indicate that political instability caused by corruption contributed to Brazil’s recession: Consumer confidence drops in conjunction with political crises, resulting in GDP losses. For example, the value of Brazil’s currency dropped eight percent after a recording implicating Michel Temer in a bribery scheme released in May 2017. The election of current president Bolsonaro has been described as one of the most politically polarizing and violent elections in Brazil’s history. Bolsonaro himself was a victim of such political violence; he suffered a stabbing during a campaign rally in September 2018. Continued political instability and violence will breed further economic havoc, according to economic experts.
  6. Corruption places Brazil’s indigenous community at risk, as well: Current president Jair Bolsonaro’s agenda involves the loosening of current deforestation regulations that may result in denial of indigenous peoples’ land claims. Experts agree Bolsonaro’s election was in response to public frustration with government corruption. Threats of illegal deforestation to indigenous reserves have increased since Bolsonaro’s election, causing indigenous groups and NGOs to mobilize around the issue. Bolsonaro has plans to drastically cut funding for Brazil’s two agencies responsible for defending the Amazon from intruders; in response, a group of indigenous people has created the Forest Guardians, an unsanctioned patrol group set on defending indigenous lands from criminal intruders Bolsonaro’s campaign promise to limit regulations on deforestation and public land mining may embolden.
  7. The “Brazil Cost” was a common term to describe the price of bribery in Brazilian business: While Operation Car Wash has exposed many high-ranking political and business elite, the systemic extent of Brazil’s corruption crisis goes far beyond the elite; the “Brazil Cost” applies almost universally across businesses. Some companies even had the “Brazil Cost”, an estimate on the amount of money they would need to spend on bribes, built into their business models and compliance systems.
  8. There is hope, though: The results of the Poverty Action Lab’s study outline successful methods for corruption reduction: prior audits of Brazilian municipalities reduce future corruption, local reporting on corruption reduces corrupt activities in surrounding areas and corruption can be limited by increasing the perceived legal costs. While Brazil has yet to implement them on a large scale, these findings could help curb the corruption problem plaguing Brazil from the municipal level to the country’s highest-ranking officials.
  9. Brazil has already implemented real anti-corruption measures in an attempt to halt further corruption: Transparency International implemented a package consisting of 70 anti-corruption measures for the 2018 election. Alongside these measures, the Clean Tab policy, originally created by Brazilian officials in 2010 (but increasingly relied on since Operation Car Wash’s findings) have categorized politicians according to whether or not they have been involved in corruption scandals. Brazil denied entry to hundreds of candidates in the 2018 election due to prior instances of corruption (although many of these candidates appealed the decision and ran despite their “Dirty Tab” status).
  10. Anti-corruption laws are making headway: An anti-corruption law passed in August 2013 now holds people who give out bribes equally responsible to those public officials on the receiving end. Although Brazil proposed the law in 2010 and passed it in 2013, the country did not enforce it until a wave of anti-corruption protests in 2015, evidence of the difficulties in changing an aspect of a political culture that is so institutionalized. Prior to the passage of this law, Brazil did not recognize a corporate liability for bribery. The law also punishes corporations rather than individuals, meaning firing one employee does not rid the company of responsibility. As a result, corporations are spending more on compliance than ever before. From 2014 to the end of 2017, 183 cases occurred against corporations under this law, resulting in millions of dollars worth of fines. Experts are calling this new age of transparency and regulation the age of compliance.

Above are 10 facts about corruption in Brazil, but the problem and potential solutions are much more vast. While these 10 facts about corruption in Brazil paint a picture of the extent of the problem, one cannot overstate corruption’s tangible impact on the lives of everyday Brazilians. With each new election comes renewed fears of corrupt activities; nevertheless, innovative preventative and corrective initiatives are flowing freely, and a corruption-free future for Brazil is more likely than ever.

– Erin Jenkins
Photo: Flickr

 

Corruption in GuatemalaThe United States has long been a sponsor and provider of aid to Guatemala, along with other non-governmental organizations backed by the U.N. Much of this aid has been to fight corruption—either the investigations of corrupt practices or the establishment of institutions to monitor and prevent corruption, impunity and organized crime.

The Background

As in many Latin American countries, particularly the Northern Triangle region (consisting of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras), corruption is ubiquitous from the local to national levels of government. Corrupt government leads to extractive institutions, which in turn leads to poverty, violence and mass emigration; at present, the majority of migrants at the U.S./Mexico border are from Guatemala.

In recognition of this, several political leaders and pundits of both parties have spoken out against proposed cuts to foreign aid, citing the need to stabilize the region by addressing the problem at its source. USAID and State Department programs focused on economic development have been widely successful, resulting in: increased access to nutrition for 230,000 children under the age of five, a 51 percent increase in rural agricultural sales, 20,000 new jobs in the agricultural sector, a 60 percent increase in American agricultural exports to Guatemala and many other improvements besides.

The long history of institutional corruption has not burdened agriculture, which allows for direct economic investment while the country focusses on anti-corruption efforts to dismantle impunity in other sectors—particularly in customs administration. The customs and tax administrations conducted the Linea bribery scandal of 2015, which resulted in the impeachment of President Otto Perez Molina and nearly 600 arrests. Since the Linea scandal, officials in multiple areas have been working with the UNODC (U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime) to combat the corruption that enables the use of Guatemala’s ports as drug trafficking avenues.

The UNODC and IACAC’s Efforts to Fight Corruption

While not as specialized as other anti-corruption programs and NGOs operating within Guatemala, UNODC has been instrumental in Guatemala’s fight against organized crime, with which governmental corruption naturally dovetails. In 2010, the drug trade alone was worth double the country’s GDP. The violence it generated (Guatemala has the 15th-highest murder rate in the world, out of 230 countries) dissuaded tourists and investors, which in turn contributed to the poverty that engenders corruption and organized crime, to begin with. However, with the help of UNODC along with other domestic and international programs, Guatemala has made significant economic progress. Its current GDP is nearly double what it was before the major anti-crime and anti-corruption initiatives began in 2010 and 2011.

International efforts to fight corruption in Guatemala have a long history, which has resulted in significant governmental reforms. The earliest instance of this was the adoption of IACAC, or the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption, which Guatemala ratified in 2001. The country has made substantial institutional reforms to maintain its compliance with IACAC, most notably a commission that allows for the coordination between the executive and judicial bodies, and its independent Association of Journalists. IACAC has also spawned several bilateral agreements with other countries—including the United States—to share evidence and otherwise support anti-corruption legal proceedings.

The reforms prompted by IACAC compliance had few immediate effects—within the first two years after ratification, Guatemala’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) did not change enough to indicate a conclusive shift. However, the primary effect of IACAC has been to keep institutions updated and to keep corruption in Guatemala in the public eye. With the institutional reforms that IACAC prompted in the early 2000s, there was an existing framework for other anti-corruption initiatives to operate with much greater effectiveness.

The International Commission Against Impunity’s Success

The U.N.-backed International Commission against Impunity (referred to as CICIG by its Spanish initials) is the most successful NGO fighting corruption in Guatemala, which has prosecuted over 100 cases and obtained roughly 300 convictions since its establishment in 2003. Yet despite its impressive record, Guatemala’s current president, Jimmy Morales, attempted to end CICIG’s mandate before its natural expiration in November 2019. Guatemala’s Constitutional Court halted that decision and legal battles are still ongoing. Public support is heavily in favor of CICIG and the Court.

In the meantime, CICIG’s commissioner, Iván Velásquez, has taken the time to respond to the Morales administration’s accusations against CICIG in detail. Velásquez upholds CICIG’s record of convictions and dryly remarks that “[threats and smear campaigns are] foreseeable with respect to an entity whose purpose is to attack structures that co-opt the State to profit and refuse to lose privileges obtained illegally and illegitimately.” The country recently blocked Velásquez from re-entering, along with dozens of other CICIG staff, when Morales announced the premature termination of the commission. The country must continue to restore Guatemalan’s confidence in its elections.

– Robert Sprankle
Photo: Flickr

 

10 Facts about Corruption in IndiaIndia remains high on the list of countries across the globe with perceived government corruption. Yet with recent elections, changes in governance, emerging anti-corruption groups and legislative actions, hope for India’s government exists. There are many strides for progress as seen in these 10 facts about corruption in India.

10 Facts About Corruption in India

  1. Corruption Index: According to the Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index (2018), India has remained at a score of 41 on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean) over past years, ranking 78 out of 180 countries in perceived corruption. The index ranks countries by their perceived level of public sector corruption according to experts and qualified business people. The corruption index, in accordance with these 10 facts about corruption in India, reveals that despite some progress, the continued failure of most countries to control corruption has only furthered the crisis in democracy around the world.
  2. Elections:  As India’s election polls closed May 23, 2019, candidates spent a total 600 billion rupees ($8.7 billion) on publicity, logistics and, in some cases, distribution of cash for votes. Yet, the Election Commission ordered that each candidate not exceed 7 million rupees. N Bhaskara Rao, chairman of Centre for Media Studies, says, “Mother of all corruption lies in the spiraling election expenditure.” Rao estimated that expenditures in the 2024 general election could exceed 1 trillion rupees.
  3. The Prevention of Corruption Act: The Prevention of Corruption Act, an attempted anti-corruption regulation, was originally passed by Parliament in 1988. The Act has been brought before the Supreme Court for amendment twice since 1997 for regulation failures, most recently in 2018. PCA 2018 brought about significant changes, including making bribery a specific offense inducing corporate criminal liability, a fixed two-year timeline for the conclusion of a trial and stricter punishments for bribery offenses. However, a new provision now requires government approval before any inquiry or investigation can be conducted by Central Bureau Investigation into the public officials in question. The single directive bars investigative protocols and extends previous legislation (Central Vigilance Act of 2003) to protect officials of all ranks from corruption investigations. The single directive provision has been challenged in the Supreme Court of India and awaits judgment.
  4. The Companies Act 2013: The Companies Act of 2013 provides provisions to prevent corruption and fraud in the corporate sector. This includes requiring statutory auditors to disclose any instances of fraud, corruption or bribery committed by company employees, increasing penalties for fraud offenses, vesting increased powers to arrest with the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO), establishing vigilance mechanisms and audit committees and increased responsibilities for independent directors. The Act was amended in 2017, modifying the existing penalty provisions for corporate fraud to tailor penalties to the seriousness and monetary value of the offense.
  5. The Lokpal and Lokayukta Act 2013: This Act accords powers to the nodal ombudsman, independent and impartial officials, to investigate corruption cases in the public sector in the central and state governments, Lokpal and Lokayukta respectively. The Act also applies to the whole of India by granting powers to the Lokpal, an anti-corruption ombudsman authority, to investigate and prosecute PCA offenses by a foreign company doing business in India. The Act was amended in 2016 to require public servants to report their liabilities and assets, as well as those of their spouses and dependents to relevant authorities.
  6. The Whistleblowers Protection Act 2011: This Act protects whistleblowers in regards to the disclosure of corruption acts, willful misuse of power or of the commission of a criminal offense by a public servant. However, although the Act has been passed it has not yet been brought into effect by the government, awaiting further amendment, according to the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions. One such amendment introduced was the 2015 Bill, aiming to prohibit reporting of corruption-related disclosures by a whistleblower unless it meets specific criteria denoted by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC).
  7. The Commonwealth Games Fraud: In 2010 allegations emerged against the Commonwealth Games. The Central Vigilance Commission cited a $1.8 billion misappropriation of funds, costing almost 18 times the Commonwealth Games’ budget. It was estimated that only half the allotted amount was spent on the Indian sportspersons the funds were dedicated to. Suresh Kalmadi, chairman of the Commonwealth Games’ organizing committee, and other officials were charged with criminal conspiracy, cheating, forgery for the purpose of cheating and were charged under sections of the PCA. The scam led to the resignation of multiple government officials.
  8. 2G Spectrum Telecom Scam: Later in 2010, a massive telecom scam implicating former Telecom minister Andimuthu Raja along with 14 others, ranked as the world’s second-largest abuse of executive power by the Time magazine. According to the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, the scam cost a loss of an estimated $39 billion to the Indian national exchequer. The scam was a combination of three cases, two registered by the CBI and one filed by Enforcement Directorate, in which 2G, second-generation licensure for mobile networks, was giving throwaway prices instead of carrying free and fair auctions. Raja denied all charges and was arrested on charges of cheating, forgery and conspiracy.
  9. “Coalgate” Scandal: The coal scam of 2012 followed a report made by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India which showed the inefficient and potentially illegal allocation of coal blocks between 2004 and 2009. The coal blocks were to be allocated via competitive bidding. However, the former UPA-2 regime did not abide and accusations ranged from malicious avenues in securing allocation, overstating net worth, nondisclosure of prior allocation and hoarding rather than the development of allocated resources. Former Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda, former secretary H.C. Gupta, former joint secretary in Coal Ministry K.S. Kropha and former director of Coal Ministry K.C. Samaria were found guilty. They were sentenced under the PCA and Indian Penal Code. A dozen companies were also cited in the CVC investigation. An estimated $34 billion was lost.
  10. CVC, SFIO and the Supreme Court: Recently, the CVC has taken action to advise all central government departments on quicker disposal of pending corruption cases. The authority has created an online complaint management system where individuals can file complaints in this regard. The SFIO has also taken proactive action in increasing the pace of its investigations, completing 87 investigations during 2016 and 2017, as compared to only 225 investigations completed in previous years since its formation in 2003. The Supreme Court has worked to expand the breadth of the definition of ‘public servant,’ defined in the PCA of 1988, to further include all officials of private banks, bringing them under the scope of anti-corruption laws.

These 10 facts about corruption in India are indicative of progress and further efforts needed for anti-corruption efforts in India. In a landslide victory, the 2019 general election reinstated incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who touts an anti-corruption platform focusing on good governance and economic growth. Since 2011, a number of anticorruption parties have emerged following the introduction of the India Against Corruption movement, including the Aam Aadmi Party led by activist Arvin Kejriwal. These efforts, in combination with the actions and guidance of anti-corruption entities, can help curb corrupt governance in India.

Julia Kemner
Photo: Flickr

Corruption in Indonesia
Corruption in Indonesia is present in all three branches of parliament and private business. According to a study conducted by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), less than half of the respondents trust the local government, police and private sector. Transparency International identified decentralized decision-making, ambiguous legislation and a weak judicial system as main sources of corruption in Indonesia. Here are 10 facts about corruption in Indonesia.

10 Facts About Corruption in Indonesia

  1. Forbes named the former President of Indonesia one of “the world’s all-time most corrupt leaders.” Mohamed Suharto was President for 31 years in the 20th century. Throughout his reign, others suspect that he embezzled between $15 and 35 billion.
  2. One out of seven citizens pays a bribe for utilities. Bureaucratic corruption increases the average cost of living, which disproportionally impacts the country’s poor. Bribery costs add an additional fee to fundamental health care, education and sanitation services, thus increasing the overall costs and access to these systems. Further, corruption in Indonesia distorts the distribution of government spending and therefore hinders the development of important public projects such as increasing access to clean water.
  3. Approximately thirty percent of firms have suffered extortion while conducting business in Indonesia. Further, several of these firms (13.6 percent) identify corruption in Indonesia as a major obstacle. For firms often have to pay bribes or give gifts to acquire licenses, permits or contracts in order to conduct business. Corruption in Indonesia is a business norm where companies include gifts in total costs.
  4. In the 2019 elections, Parliament member, Bowo Sidik Pangaroso, attempted to buy votes for reelection. Authorities found more than 400,000 envelopes filled with cash in his basement just weeks before the election. Both vote-buying and candidacy-buying are common forms of corruption in Indonesia. The Charta Politika agency surveyed three constituencies about money politics and found that on average, 49.3 percent of voters supported cash and gratuitous handouts.
  5. Eighty-nine percent of corruption in Indonesia occurs at the local level. After the election of President Suharto, the country started to shift from authoritarian rule towards democracy. Suharto’s first step to democratization was the decentralization of the Indonesian government. However, the lack of accountability for local governments created an environment that fostered corruption. For example, inadequate oversight in the forestry sector cost the government $4 billion per year from illegal logging.
  6. Corruption is expensive. Last year, corruption in Indonesia cost the government $401.45 million. This cost is $55.4 million less than in 2017.
  7. The Corruption Perception Index (CPI) ranks Indonesia 89. Using Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), Indonesia ranked number 89 out of 180 countries with a score of 38/100 in 2018. This is significantly better than its rank and score of 118/180 and 32/100, respectively, in 2012.
  8. Many attribute more recent success in reducing corruption to President Joko Widodo, more commonly known as Jokowi. Indonesia elected Jokowi in 2014 on an anti-corruption platform. He simplified regulations for businesses to attract foreign investment. For instance, Jokowi signed Presidential Decree No. 20/2018 to simplify and accelerate the process of acquiring a work permit for expatriate workers by 34 working days.
  9. Indonesia has an organization dedicated to eliminating government corruption called the Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi (KPK). This corruption eradication commission formed in 2002 as an independent organization in charge of investigating and prosecuting high-profile corruption cases. In 2016, it reported a 100 percent conviction rate and recovered approximately $35 million in state assets.
  10. The new generation has zero-tolerance for corruption in Indonesia. A group of students in Indonesia held their school accountable for corruption. The school was profiting from money that it received to go towards nonexistent construction projects. When student organizer Darmawan Bakrie and his friends realized the injustice, they established the Save our School campaign. Despite threats and warnings from the school, students and parents worked together and succeeded in holding the school accountable. The local mayor saw the campaign in the news over the course of three months and removed and transferred (but did not fire) the guilty officials from their positions and held them liable for the money they stole.

Corruption in Indonesia holds deep roots in its democracy, but the future looks bright with the Save Our School campaign as just one example. Many participants (58.5 percent) of the CSIS study believe that the Indonesian government is honest in its desire to eliminate corruption.

The central government and anti-corruption organizations work on a day-to-day basis to hold individuals accountable for their actions, but they still have a long way to go. If successful, anti-corruption practices can decrease inequalities, create foreign business opportunities and decrease national poverty levels.

– Haley Myers
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Corruption in AfghanistanWar has plagued the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, a South Asian nation of approximately 35 million people, for 40 years. The near-constant state of conflict produced immense corruption, which persists during the extended NATO mission there today. Listed below are 10 facts about corruption in Afghanistan.

 10 Facts About Corruption in Afghanistan

  1. Afghanistan is one of the 10 most corrupt nations in the world. According to Transparency International, it ranks 172 out of 180 total countries and accompanies Sudan and North Korea near the bottom of the list. There are some signs of gradual improvement, but Afghanistan has a long way to go to ascend the list.
  2. Afghan government corruption reduces the effectiveness of American reconstruction aid. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) reported to the U.S. Congress in April 2019 that corruption was the foremost issue dooming restoration efforts. Unfortunately, through the government’s anti-corruption campaigns, the SIGAR also discovered that certain international standards are not always met, such as cooperation between agencies.
  3. Corruption significantly impacts business development in Afghanistan. The World Bank interviewed 410 firms in 2014 and 16.2 percent stated that corruption was the largest impediment to business. It ranked only below political instability in the survey, a telling indicator of its prevalence. Gifts became fundamental for businesses wanting to grow. Acquiring a government contract necessitated bribes 46.9 percent of the time, and 79.3 percent of plumbing requests required bribes.
  4. The 2010 Kabul Bank Theft. Bank executives stole millions of dollars of Afghans’ money and crippled Afghanistan’s already shaky financial system. Kabul Bank’s CEO, Khalilullah Ferozi, and its founder, Sherkhan Farnood, led the fraudulent money laundering operation until the bank’s near collapse. The SIGAR states that this extensive corruption scandal cost the Afghan government an $825 million bailout, an expense which consumed five to six percent of the nation’s GDP. Although the country imprisoned both Ferozi and Farnood, their scam’s repercussions continue. Afghanistan’s government is still repaying debts after the bailout to save the systemically vital institution.
  5. Public services routinely fall prey to gifts as well. Transparency International reported that 50 percent of Afghans requesting aid from government agencies in 2012 paid a bribe to have their needs met. Bribery demands handicapped the distribution of benefits to all Afghan citizens. According to a U.N. study on the issue, for every five Afghans who paid a bribe, one Afghan could not pay due to lack of funds. As a result, impoverished households received less assistance than wealthier families who could afford bribes.
  6. Afghanistan’s universities are not immune to the corruption prevalent in the government and banks. Colleges rely on paper records and lack digital verification systems essential to preventing deceit. As a result, the U.N. found that there are approximately 20,000 “ghost students,” or registered students who do not actually exist, in the university system. The Afghan government, believing the students are real, grants loans for education, which university staff steals. U.N. statistics display that university-related scams cost the government 40 percent of potential tax revenue.
  7. By virtue of their position, Afghanistan’s police force is especially prone to corruption. The U.N. found that 22 percent of bribes that people paid in 2012 were to police, and disturbingly, 24 percent of the bribes people offered to police were to prevent arrest. Falsifying evidence and ignoring drug offenses had similar negative effects on police integrity. The police have personnel verification issues as well. Reuters recently reported that there are 800 “ghost officers” in Zabul province whose salaries disappear into unknown hands.
  8. Community Based Monitoring (CBM). A civil society organization named Integrity Watch Afghanistan operates several CBM programs to maintain governmental accountability. One of these programs, CBM-Trials, aims to combat corruption by encouraging citizen involvement in public trials and monitoring adherence to procedural rules. Implementation of CBM-Trials included electing monitors who would attend public cases and educating local populations on court procedures with mock trials. From a humble start in two provinces, CBM-Trials expanded to seven provinces by 2014 and managed to monitor 5,019 trials and 775 cases. These numbers exceeded the 1,000 trial a year goal set by the program in 2011. The program continued into 2018 after 50 successful Theater of the Oppressed performances, in which audience members participated in theatrical critiques of court corruption.
  9. Anti-Corruption Justice Center (ACJC). On May 2016 President Ashraf Ghani’s established the ACJC, which signaled renewed devotion to combating corruption. The ACJC is a special court system that prosecutes corruption cases in the government and military. Most recently, it found success in prosecuting Colonel Abdul Hamid for an $80,000 scam. It is a significant step towards rule of law, even if, according to the SIGAR, ACJC officials still fear the act of prosecuting the most powerful political figures.
  10. The Afghan government also promotes grassroots efforts to reduce corruption. A February 2019 Hack4Integrity event in Kabul, run by the U.N. Development Programme and Blockchain Learning Group, challenged tech-savvy Afghan youth to develop programs that would fight graft. Over 100 youth participated in the 19 team competition. Officials awarded $30,000 in prize money to the five winners and hope youthful energy will help end a nationwide problem.

The above 10 facts about corruption in Afghanistan portray a long, fraught road toward halting persistent abuses of power. However, they also provide hope for Afghanistan’s future. Progress is slow, but Afghanistan’s civil society, President Ghani’s ACJC and youth programs have opportunities to stamp out corruption. The new commander of Afghanistan’s police force, General Khoshal Sadat, has energetically devoted himself to legitimizing police activities as well. Corruption abounds, but Afghans understand that it does not have to.

– Sean Galli
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

10 Facts About Corruption in Hungary

After several subsequent electoral successes, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz party have been accused of corrupt activity by the European Union and opposition parties in Hungary. Today, Hungary is ranked as 64 out of 180 countries in terms of corruption, ranking it “among the most corrupt Member States” in the EU. In the text below are 10 facts about corruption in Hungary.

10 Facts About Corruption in Hungary

  1. Orbán, along with the Christian Democratic People’s Party, holds a super-majority of 66 percent in Parliament, which allows them to amend the country’s constitution. To date, several amendments have passed that cement the power of Fidesz. Most notably, changes made to the electoral process reduce the chances of opposition parties winning seats. A new amendment modified the process so that 93 of the 199 seats are awarded proportionally based on the percentage of votes a party receives in the national election. The remaining 106 seats are won by receiving a plurality of votes in a local election, meaning that Fidesz can get 40 percent of the vote and still win the seat. Because opposition parties are divided, it is difficult for them to win these local elections.
  2. In March, the European People’s Party discussed suspending the Fidesz party from its bloc in the European Parliament amidst corruption allegations. This is not the first time that Orbán has been threatened with expulsion. However, no actions were taken at that time.
  3. Hungary regularly engages in unannounced “negotiated procedures,” which allow the government to strike a deal without going through an open competition. This has led some to accuse the government of mishandling EU funds. The 2014-2020 EU budget allocates €28 billion to Hungary, but critics worry that much of it will end up in the hands of Orbán’s family, friends and party loyalists. Adding to their concern, the prime minister’s office has sole authority in determining disbursement of funds. Elios Innovatív, owned by Orbán’s son-in-law István Tiborcz, had won a €40 million contract with the government in 2015. Lőrinc Mészáros, a longtime political ally of Orbán’s, has seen his wealth triple since Orbán’s election. He has become the second richest man in Hungary, owning 203 companies and receiving 83 percent of his companies’ profits from EU funds.
  4. From 2013 to 2019, Hungary’s ranking in the World Press Freedom Index dropped from 56 to 87 in the world. The dramatic shift occurred when 476 private media companies simultaneously transferred ownership, without compensation, to the Central European Press and Media Foundation. Allies of the Prime Minister head the company, including István Varga, a former Fidesz member of Parliament, and István Bajkai, Orbán’s personal lawyer.
  5. The Fidesz Party declined to sign an agreement that would allow Central European University (CEU) to remain in Budapest. The university will now be forced to move its campus to Austria. CEU has several anti-corruption research arms, including the Anti-Corruption Research Group and the Center for Integrity in Business and Government. At multiple points, their reports were critical of the Fidesz government and accused it of corrupt activity. For example, one CEU research report wrote that the party engaged in “a constitutional coup d’état against an established democracy.”
  6. Through gerrymandering, Fidesz effectively limits opposition party participation. Gerrymandering ensures victory in what would otherwise be competitive districts. One study found that an opposition party needs to receive around 300,000 more votes than the Fidesz party needs in order to win a majority in the parliament.
  7. A 2016 poll reported that two-thirds of Hungarians regard their government as corrupt with 60 percent believing that corruption in Hungary goes to the top levels of government, including Orbán. This reflects a strong need for change, but the power accumulated through corruption has allowed Fidesz to continue to govern.
  8. Amid growing corruption concerns, an opposition politician named Akos Hadhazy gathered 680,000 signatures demanding that Hungary join the EU’s new anti-corruption arm, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office. Hadhazy specifies many of these 10 facts about corruption in Hungary, but he is especially concerned about the use of EU funds. Thus far, Fidesz refuses to join, citing concerns about overreach from Brussels. Hadhazy said, “Now it’s up to EU institutions to increase pressure on the Hungarian government unless they want European taxpayers to finance a regime that openly works against the EU.”
  9. Transparency International Hungary (TIH), an anti-corruption NGO, considers young people to be essential to combating corruption. According to TIH, 90 percent of Hungarians ages 15-29 believe that corruption is present in their politics. However, they also find that only 25 percent of young people believe that reporting government corruption will be taken seriously. TIH hopes to mobilize the youth in their fight against corruption.
  10. The Hungarian Helsinki Committee provides free legal assistance to detainees, victims of police brutality and jailed protestors or activists. The group helped more than 1,400 people in 2018. From 2008 to 2018, it trained more than 4,000 lawyers, judges and states officers. The NGO describes itself as “one of the few remaining voices that publicly oppose attacks on civil society and the further democratic backsliding of Hungary.” Hungarian tax laws allow its citizens to donate 1 percent of their income tax to a nonprofit of their choosing. NGOs, including the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, encourage donations in order to continue their work. Through this, Hungarians may express their support for organizations working to combat corruption in their country.

According to the World Bank, Hungary has a poverty rate of about 15 percent, meaning almost 1.5 million Hungarians live in poverty. These 10 facts about corruption in Hungary threaten academia, the media, NGOs and several democratic institutions. This, in turn, threatens the well-being of Hungarian civil society, which is trying its best to create a more equitable and just Hungary.

– Kyle Linder
Photo: Flickr