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How undemocratic practices breed corruption

Lt. Col. Edith Nakalema, the head of the State House Anti-Corruption Unit chats with officials of Mbarara District Local Government on Feb.22. Her team arrested several district officials following a tip-off from a whistleblower regarding several pieces of land that have allegedly been grabbed by senior district officials

Transparency International’s CPI 2018 tracks link between corruption and lack of citizen engagement

Kampala, Uganda | RONALD MUSOKE | When Transparency International released its 2018 global corruption perceptions index on Jan.29, it found one damning indictment: corruption is flourishing more in countries where democratic foundations are weak.

While releasing the results in Kampala on Jan.29, Peter Wandera, the executive director of Transparency International Uganda said the annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) scores ranks countries based on how corrupt a country’s public sector is perceived to be by experts and business executives. But the 2018 report included a cross analysis of the CPI with different global democracy indices.

The CPI is based on perceptions because corruption generally comprises illegal activities, which are deliberately hidden and only come to light through scandals, investigations or prosecutions.

Using a scale where zero is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean; the CPI is based on surveys and assessments of corruption by bodies such as the World Bank, the African Development Bank, and the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Whereas full democracies scored an average of 75 on the index; flawed democracies scored an average of 49; hybrid regimes—which show elements of autocratic tendencies—scored 35; autocratic regimes performed worst, with an average score of 30 on the CPI.

More than two-thirds of countries surveyed scored below 50, meaning that corruption is a more than average problem across the globe.

Western Europe scored best among regions, with an average score of 66 while Sub-Saharan Africa performed the worst with an average score of 32. Only eight of 49 countries here scored more than 43. The global average score was 43; the same as in 2017.

Interestingly African leaders declared 2018 as the “African Year of Anti-Corruption.”

Denmark was named the least corrupt country worldwide with a score of 88, followed by New Zealand (87), while Finland, Singapore, Sweden and Switzerland tied at third place with a score of 85. On the other hand, Somalia, Syria, and South Sudan remained at the bottom of the rankings, scoring 10, 13, and 13, respectively. North Korea and Yemen were next, each with a score of 14.

Countries to watch

According to Transparency International, Angola, Nigeria, Botswana, South Africa and Kenya will be “important countries” to watch, this year, given some promising political developments. The agency says the real test will be whether these new administrations will follow through on their anti-corruption commitments moving forward.

In both Kenya and South Africa, citizen engagement in the fight against corruption is crucial. For example, social media has played a big role in driving public conversation around corruption. The rise of mobile technology means ordinary citizens in many countries now have instant access to information, and an ability to voice their opinions in a way that previous generations did not.

Government officials in Kenya and South Africa are also reaching to social media to engage with the public.

The Corruption Watch chapter in South Africa has seen a rise in the number of people reporting corruption on Facebook and WhatsApp. However, it remains to be seen whether social media and other new technologies will spur those in power into action.

Patricia Moreira, the Managing Director of Transparency International said that with many democracies under threat, often by leaders with authoritarian or populist tendencies, the world needs to do more to strengthen checks and balances and protect citizens’ rights.

“Corruption chips away at democracy to produce a vicious cycle where corruption undermines democratic institutions, and in turn, weak institutions are less able to control corruption.”

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