What is Corruption?
Generally speaking as “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain”. Corruption can be classified as grand, petty and political, depending on the amounts of money lost and the sector where it occurs.
Grand corruption consists of acts committed at a high level of government that distort policies or the central functioning of the state, enabling leaders to benefit at the expense of the public good.
Petty corruption refers to everyday abuse of entrusted power by low- and mid-level public officials in their interactions with ordinary citizens, who often are trying to access basic goods or services in places like hospitals, schools, police departments and other agencies.
Political corruption is a manipulation of policies, institutions and rules of procedure in the allocation of resources and financing by political decision makers, who abuse their position to sustain their power, status and wealth.
It Is Therefore Corruption When:
- You can’t get a job or lose your job because of which party you support;
- You can’t get a contract or lose a contract because of which party you support and not because you can or cannot do the work;
- Money to fix the road, repair the gully or build the school ends up in the contractor’s pockets and the work has to be done over again;
- Someone who cannot drive pays a money, gets a drivers’ license and causes an accident;
- Someone whose vehicle should not be on the road gets a certificate of fitness and the vehicle causes an accident;
- A policeman destroys evidence in return for money and a murderer gets off;
- An investor has to pay extra money to get approval for a housing development; or a businessman doesn’t get an approval because he refused to bribe a political or civil servant
- When unqualified builders get a permit and the school he builds suffers unnecessary damage during a storm;
- When a policeman tips off a gang in return for money that the police is coming.
What Is Transparency?
Transparency is about shedding light on rules, plans, processes and actions. It is knowing why, how, what, and how much. Transparency ensures that public officials, civil servants, managers, board members and businessmen act visibly and understandably, and report on their activities. And it means that the general public can hold them to account. It is the surest way of guarding against corruption, and helps increase trust in the people and institutions on which our futures depend.
What Are The Costs Of Corruption?
Corruption impacts societies in a multitude of ways. In the worst cases, it costs lives. Short of this, it costs people their freedom, health, or money. The cost of corruption can be divided into four main categories: political, economic, social, and environmental.
On the political front, corruption is a major obstacle to democracy and the rule of law. In a democratic system, offices and institutions lose their legitimacy when they’re misused for private advantage. This is harmful in established democracies, but even more so in newly emerging ones. It is extremely challenging to develop accountable political leadership in a corrupt climate.
Economically, corruption depletes national wealth. Corrupt politicians invest scarce public resources in projects that will line their pockets rather than benefit communities, and prioritize high-profile projects such as dams, power plants, pipelines and refineries over less spectacular but more urgent infrastructure projects such as schools, hospitals and roads. Corruption also hinders the development of fair market structures and distorts competition, which in turn deters investment.
Corruption corrodes the social fabric of society. It undermines people’s trust in the political system, in its institutions and its leadership. A distrustful or apathetic public can then become yet another hurdle to challenging corruption.
Environmental degradation is another consequence of corrupt systems. The lack of, or non-enforcement of, environmental regulations and legislation means that precious natural resources are carelessly exploited, and entire ecological systems are ravaged. From mining, to logging, to carbon offsets, companies across the globe continue to pay bribes in return for unrestricted destruction
A look at the continued cost of corruption to Jamaica can be seen in NIA’s first Documentary; “The Cost of Corruption: Jamaica’s Barrier to Development” (see documentary)
How Can You Measure Corruption?
By its nature, corruption is secretive and complex. Given that bribes occur illicitly, however, a specific figure can only ever be approximate, and it excludes other corrupt transactions such as the embezzlement of public funds or theft of public assets, or non-monetary bribes such as favours, services and gifts. Analyses which focus on the movement of money also ignore the social costs of corruption, which are impossible to quantify. No one knows how much the loss of a talented entrepreneur or an acclaimed scientist costs a country. Who can say what social malaise, illiteracy, inadequate medical care or means in economic terms? Over time, however, research has shown us that people’s perceptions offer a reliable estimate of the nature and scope of corruption in a given country. The perceptions of country analysts, business people or the general public form the basis of our corruption indices, the Corruption Perceptions Index and the Global Corruption Barometer.
In 2013 Transparency International with the help of NIA included Jamaica for the first time in the Global Corruption Barometer. See the Report here.
For more information on corruption research reports visit the research page of Transparency International.
What Kind Of Environment Does Corruption Thrive In?
Corruption thrives where temptation to do wrong meets tolerance, leniency or the absence of proper law enforcement: where effective laws addressing corruption and other forms of criminality is either absent or weak, where civil society is dis-empowered and not allowed to function. It is therefore important to establish control mechanisms and systemic hurdles to prevent people from abusing their power. It is for this reason that NIA is committed to advocating for the passage and effective enforcement of laws targeting the deterrence of and in some instances the punishment of corrupt activities. Two such laws are laws governing the financing of political campaigns and the law to establish the Integrity Commission.
Can Corruption Be Seen As Normal Or Traditional In Some Societies?
While there are varying norms and traditions in terms of giving and accepting gifts around the world, clearly the abuse of power for personal gain -the siphoning off of public or common resources into private pockets- is unacceptable in all cultures and societies. This is confirmed by our Global Corruption Barometer survey, which analyses people’s views and experiences of corruption in more than 60 countries. The forms and causes of corruption vary across countries, however, meaning that the best ways to address it differ too. This is why our approach to fighting corruption is grounded in our system of national chapters, which are run by people who are anchored in their societies and are therefore in the best position to understand and tackle corruption in their respective countries.
Information taken in large part from the website of partner NGO Transparency International (www.transparency.org).
Definitions for some other commonly used anti-corruption terms can be found in Transparency International’s Plain Language Guide, read it here: Anti Corruption Plain Language Guide