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

Poverty and Corruption in Afghanistan

Afghanistan is currently one of the poorest countries in the world with nearly 40 percent of the Afghan population living in poverty. Afghanistan is also one of the most politically corrupt countries in the world. In 2018, The anti-corruption organization Transparency International ranked Afghanistan an index score of 16/100 for its high levels of corruption. Over the past several decades, political corruption in Afghanistan has destabilized the country and contributed to its poverty problem.

USAID has always believed that political corruption and poverty are an interlinked problem because political corruption has a tendency to aggravate the symptoms of poverty in countries with struggling economic growth and political transition. Conversely, the social and economic inequalities that are found in impoverished countries are known to create systemic corruption.

The Scope of Contemporary Corruption in Afghanistan

The destabilizing effects of political corruption on Afghanistan cannot be underestimated. According to Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a U.S. government agency tasked with the reconstruction of Afghanistan, corruption has been a major obstacle in the political, economic and cultural reconstruction of Afghanistan. The Asia Foundation has identified more than 70 forms of corruption currently within Afghanistan that cross a wide range of institutions, including international aid and public administration.

Two of the most common forms of corruption in Afghanistan are nepotism and bribery. Many of the basic public services provided by the government are only obtainable through the payment of bribes, which has caused severe distress to Afghan citizens. Afghanistan’s economic growth has been severely damaged by the reliance on bribes to pay for public services. Nepotism and patronage have made it difficult for honest people without connections to rise within the political system and have given impunity to corrupt officials.

Afghan Awareness and Perceptions of Corruption

Unfortunately, many Afghans believe certain forms of corruption are inevitable and, in certain cases, a legitimate form of political life. When surveyed in 2012, at least 30 percent believed that most forms of bribery were acceptable. This type of attitude towards political corruption can make efforts to reduce or eradicate corruption more difficult.

Nevertheless, the Afghan people have not been completely culturally ingrained with political corruption, and there are many who still criticize corruption in Afghanistan. Most Afghans have consistently stated in several polls that corruption is a serious problem that their country is facing. A study from the Asia Foundation has shown that most Afghans believe that political corruption was more severe during and after Karzai then it had been under several past regimes.

Anti-Corruption Efforts

In 2014, President Ashraf Ghani was elected into executive office in Afghanistan. He has shown a remarkable commitment to developing and implementing strategies to decrease corruption and stabilize the country. Following his election in 2014, his first course of action was to not only dismiss several corrupt heads and directors of certain departments but also charge them with corruption, marking a major change from his predecessor Karzai.

In 2017, Afghanistan’s National Strategy for Combating Corruption (Anti-Corruption Strategy) was adopted by Afghanistan’s High Council and was developed under the supervision of President Ghani. The Strategy consists of 6 pillars outlining the course of action to be taken against corruption. This strategy was based on a comprehensive analysis of the causes and drivers of corruption and provides realistic goals that make it relatively easy to implement. Some of the pillars are designed to address nepotism (pillar 3) and money tracking (pillar 5).

The Ghani administration introduced new legislation in 2017 and 2018 to reduce and prevent corruption. The laws have been limited to a certain extent due to extenuating circumstances; however, they have had a certain level of success. The most notable success in the prosecution of corruption with this new legislation has been the adoption of a new Penal Code. This new Penal Code was the first to incorporate financial and corruption laws into its criminal provisions, making it a major achievement for the Afghanistan legal system.

Corruption Is Declining

While corruption is still pervasive in Afghanistan, these efforts have demonstrated some progress. Within the Transparency International Index, Afghanistan’s CPI score has steadily grown from 11 in 2015 to 16 in 2018, which is one of the largest increases any country has experienced in this amount of time. The introduction of new legislation and the adoption of the Anti-Corruption Strategy can provide a solid foundation to stabilize Afghanistan and reform its political system from corruption.

The government, under Ghani, has already taken the first steps in decreasing the significant level of corruption in Afghanistan throughout the country by implementing these strategies and laws. While progress may be slow, it appears that under President Ghani, Afghanistan may be on its way to political stabilization, allowing it to provide better public services and alleviate poverty within the country.

Randall Costa
Photo: Flickr

South Africa corruption
South African corruption is widespread, affecting educational sectors and police, and non-enforcement of anti-corruption laws. Corruption disadvantages citizens and hurts the poor in particular. Some efforts are being made to fight corruption as a few perpetrators are currently being prosecuted and a new government is vowing to fight corruption. In the text below, 10 facts about corruption in this country are presented.

10 Facts about South African Corruption

  1. The inspiration for the fight against corruption comes from the past and past policies in particular. The policies of Nelson Mandela can serve as great examples, as he instituted corruption investigation programs, starting from sports such as rugby all the way up to the government. Additionally, in 2001 Mandela warned of the growing corruption in the post-apartheid government and urged South Africa’s African National Congress to watch for racism and corruption in its own ranks.
  2. Citizens care about stopping corruption. In South Africa, the proportion of people who think that tackling corruption should be a national priority almost doubled between 2006 and 2011, from 14 percent to 26 percent, respectively. This indicates that the South African people want reform and changes within their government.
  3. Bribes are not the main problem but diverting public funds to the private sector is. While bribery between individuals is not as common as in other countries, the major sort of South African corruption occurs with the usage of funds and tax dollars in the private sector. This means that while corruption is often harder to identify, the source of the problem can be found and divergence of funds stopped by using already existing anti-corruption forces.
  4. Former President Jacob Zuma is currently being investigated. Although Zuma is not yet being persecuted for bribery and corruption, in August 2018, a public investigation of the top tier of the president’s government started. According to the State of Capture report released by South Africa’s anti-graft body, the Gupta business family may have used their money to influence Zuma’s choice of minister.
  5. The Gupta family is suspected of offering millions for certain appointments. In 2015, Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas was offered about $41 million by businessman Ajay Gupta as an incentive to become finance minister.
  6. The Gupta family has had their assets seized. The Guptas consist of three Indian brothers who built a business empire using their ties to President Jacob Zuma and his allies. Recently, they had over $21 million at their Johannesburg residence seized after an investigation into corruption in a dairy farming operation. This money was intended as an aid for poor dairy farmers, but instead, the money went to one of the Gupta brothers and some of their associates. This is the first big result of the investigation in corruption and shows that it is possible to expect real charges and consequences for the actions of criminal offenders.
  7. Corruption stems from post-apartheid conditions. After dismantling the racially segregated apartheid system in the 1990s, hopes were alive that opportunity would increase and corruption decrease. The ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), has instead been accused in many cases of corruption.
  8. Many watchdog organizations are taking action in South African corruption. For people living in South Africa, several organizations provide protection. The Public Protector allows anyone to report corruption and carries out the investigation into constitutional violations. Additionally, the Open Democracy Advice Centre advocates for legislation that would increase government transparency.
  9. Education programs can be implemented. In addition to the organizations fighting corruption, current leaders are looking towards the future. In the past, black Africans have been disadvantaged in schooling and corruption has begun at the lowest level, but as new generations emerge, the focus must be on creating a new culture of responsibility for the people.
  10. The new president has vowed to clean up corruption. In his State of the Union of February 2018, the newly elected President Cyril Ramaphosa promised to “turn the tide of corruption” within South Africa. While he has kept some previous appointees from Zuma’s government, his term indicates steps towards improving the corruption in South Africa.

While the struggles against corruption in South Africa are far from finished, the future promises changes. With citizens who care about ending corruption and holding officials responsible for their actions, South Africans have a great opportunity to improve the quality of life in their country.

– Grace Gay
Photo: Flickr