When asked about corruption in the country most South Africans would say they believe it is on the increase. That it is more than just a perception has been confirmed by Transparency International’s (TI) Global Corruption Barometer 2013. But it is a problem shared by most countries around the globe with serious implications for social stability.
While in many countries it is perceived that corruption and bribery are getting worse, the trust in governments is falling worldwide, the survey found. And globally, political parties are seen to be the most corrupt institutions.
There is a huge danger for social stability in the fact that more and more societies are losing faith in the very institutions which are supposed to facilitate the orderly functioning of society. To this can be added the role of trade unions, as we report in another article. However, corruption is not a problem restricted to the public sector. According to t he South African NGO Corruption Watch, the complaints they receive involve both the public and private sectors.
TI interviewed 114 000 people in 107 countries and found that more than half believe corruption and bribery have worsened in the last two years.
The organisation’s report paints a bleak picture. One in every four people paid a bribe in the last 12 months when accessing public institutions and services, it reports
In a Voice of America report Robert Barrington, executive director of TI, is quoted as saying that “In terms of bribe paying, there are a couple of countries where three in four people say they have had to pay bribes in the past year. That’s Sierra Leone and Liberia.
“Ultimately our target has to be policymakers because leadership from the top is critical in this. And when you look at the countries that have improved, perhaps Georgia and Rwanda. Compared to past surveys, it’s generally been politically-driven governments that want to do something about corruption that have made the change," he said.
All too often a leader's drive to tackle corruption fades, said Bertrand de Speville who heads an anti-corruption consulting firm that has advised more than 50 governments.
“It suddenly dawns on him that that might affect colleagues, friends, political allies, family, maybe even himself. And time and again I’ve seen the light of that political will die while you’re talking to him," said De Speville.
But, laments De Speville, advice on tackling corruption by institutions such as the World have had little effect.
“Given the amount of resources that have been devoted to the problem, in my view, it is little short of scandalous. I don’t believe it is that difficult. And indeed, places like Hong Kong and Singapore have demonstrated that it’s not that difficult," he said.
In South Africa, David Lewis, executive director of Corruption Watch, said in a statement thatthe findings of Transparency International's 2013 Global Corruption Barometer that almost 50% of South Africans have reported paying a bribe in the last year to secure essential services, are reflected in the complaints Corruption Watch has received from the public over the same period.
"The TI data supports what we are also hearing from the public. Sadly, our work, now supported by the TI barometer, confirms that the increase in corruption is not mere perception; it is factually supported. We solicit public experiences of corruption and we are getting a significant number of reports of bribery and other acts of corruption, especially from poor communities," he said.
Corruption Watch has received over 4 200 complaints about corruption and related matters since its launch in January 2012. Half of these focus on the abuse of public power and resources, by both the private and public sectors.
According to Corruption Watch's 2012 data, local government and police services were reported to be the most corrupt. Bribery was flagged as one of the top three types of corruption reported to the organisation in the first quarter of 2013.
The TI barometer highlights that education is among the top six bribe-prone sectors worldwide, with police being the worst and utilities the least affected.
With Corruption Watch's 2012 data echoing that the education sector is indeed a corruption hotspot, the organisation has launched a campaign to fight corruption in schools.
"The best way for the public is to take action by reporting corruption and working with organisations like Corruption Watch to hold leaders in both the private and public sectors accountable for abusing public resources," Lewis said.