Skeptic baptizing progressive results in the fight against corruption

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Skeptic baptizing progressive results in the fight against corruption

Skeptic baptizing progressive results in the fight against corruption

 

By Bereket Gebru 09-26-14

Corruption has recently become one of the most prominent national issues in Ethiopia with public awareness and participation in efforts to curb it noticeably high. Although the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) led government has incessantly made high profile corruption charges of public officials and businessmen throughout its stay in power, those of the past couple of years seem to have struck the nerves of even the staunchest of skeptics.

With the rise in cost of living setting its feet in Ethiopia in the last four or five years, the public has been wary of public-private sector collusion and the extra stress it exerts on the whole economy. The collaboration of public servants and businessmen to fix artificially high prices for goods would be much more painful these days as they would exacerbate the problem with the high cost of living besides the act standing as a clear disregard for the whole public.

With the Federal Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (FEAC) established with the aim of creating a corruption intolerant society in 2002, the efforts to combat corruption were institutionalized. Regional anti-corruption bodies also followed in the years that followed increasing the reach of the anti-corruption institutional makeup. Through awareness raising trainings, redesigning of corruption prone work procedures and law enforcement measures that lay the corrupt on the altar of justice, these anti-corruption establishments played great roles to raise public awareness on the issue.

High profile corruption charges and trials by these anti-corruption bodies have also pushed public awareness and participation in combative measures. The May, 2013 arrest and the ensuing trial of Ethiopian Revenues and Customs Authority (ERCA) officials was one of the most notable cases in inciting popular participation in anti-corruption efforts. The arrest of the Director General, his Deputy and numerous other high ranking ERCA officials along with prominent businessmen demonstrated the government’s firm stand against corruption. The size of their loot confiscated by security forces was also staggering, in effect pushing the public towards blowing the whistle on others.

The then plea by Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to the public to come up with tips on corrupt public officials also received positive response. Such heightened activities to get the big corrupt fish to stand trial prompted a record number of tips to the Federal Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (FEAC) from the public.

The popular high sensitivity to corruption due to the works of anti-corruption bodies and the high cost of living has pushed the issue upwards on the ladder of topics for national dialogue. Equipped with better awareness and sensitivity to corruption, some people feel like the country has become more corrupt these days. Coupled with the gap in the capacity of anti-corruption establishments to have corrupt practices under control, some prove to be highly skeptical of the success registered in combating corruption.

The 2013 survey released by the world leading independent anti-corruption institution, Transparency International (TI), however, comes as a reassurance to Ethiopians that the country is winning its battles against corruption. According to a Kenyan news portal named “Star”, the survey result released this week ranks Ethiopia as the least corrupt nation in Africa.

The survey, the report states, which was carried out in 95 countries worldwide indicated that Ethiopia is the least corrupt country in Africa with corruption levels standing at 6 percent. The study shows that only six out of hundred people in Ethiopia paid bribes to public officers in public institutions last year. Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer gathered data from 95 countries on bribery. The margin of error for each country was three percent.

With countries of high development index associated with single digit corruption levels, Ethiopia’s figures are nearly mind boggling. Only 16 out of the 95 countries posted corruption levels of less than five per cent. Some of the countries that have registered better results than Ethiopia include: Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, Norway, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Malaysia and Uruguay. The countries that Ethiopia stands shoulder to shoulder with or even surpasses include: Bulgaria, Italy, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States and Slovenia.

Considering the level of development and the intricate system that accompanies it in such countries, it is such a big complement for the system Ethiopia has been putting up to come so close to the front runners in social development in the world. In addition to cultural factors, structural matters of various government offices and the presence of transparent work procedures determine the susceptibility of citizens to bribe and other forms of corruption. A level of just 6 percent of corruption in a country like Ethiopia is, therefore, a considerable complement to the culture of the people and work procedures put in place.

Compared with its African compatriots, Ethiopia’s result stands as a grand milestone to be looked up to and taken as a good practice. It can be considered as an encouragement for other African countries to emulate the success registered by merely one of their humble peers.

The second least corrupt country in Africa as indicated by the survey is Rwanda with 13 percent of its citizens paying bribes to public officers in public institutions last year. Another one of the best performers in Africa is Sudan with 17 percent corruption levels. In East Africa, Kenya is the most corrupt country with 70 percent of the people having said they bribed public officials to access services in 2013. Uganda is the second most corrupt with 61 percent rates while Tanzania is at 56 percent.

The survey further indicates that seven out of nine of the countries with the highest reported bribery rate are in sub-Saharan Africa. It showed that African nations have the highest number of people admitting to having paid a bribe in 2013. The survey indicated that Sierra Leone is the most corrupt country in the world with corruption levels standing at 84 percent. Liberia comes second at 75 percent, followed by Yemen, a Middle Eastern country, at 74 and Kenya completes the list of the top four most corrupt nations at 70 percent.

Elsewhere in the continent, South Africa is at 47, Nigeria 61, Libya 62, Senegal 57, Mozambique 62, Morocco 49, Zimbabwe 62, Ghana 54 and Madagascar 28 percent. Across the world, on average, 27 percent of people reported that they have paid a bribe in the past 12 months to one of the eight services asked about. In other words, in the last year, corruption has directly impacted on more than one in four people in the countries surveyed around the world.

The report further states that reported bribery rates to the judiciary have gone down by more than 20 percent in Ethiopia, Iraq, Palestine and South Sudan, where a decline in bribery rates to the police has also been seen.

Ethiopia’s scores in the CPI over the years

Further investigations into Transparency International’s ranking of Ethiopia over the years through the annual Corruption Perception Index (CPI) also corroborate decreasing corruption prevalence in the country. Launched in 1995 G.C, the CPI is considered as one of the most expressive international scales for ranking countries based on their levels of corruption.

The Corruption Perceptions Index ranks countries and territories based on how corrupt their public sector is perceived to be. A country or territory’s score indicates the perceived level of public sector corruption on a scale of 0 - 100, where 0 means that a country is perceived as highly corrupt and 100 means it is perceived as very clean. A country's rank indicates its position relative to the other countries and territories included in the index.

Accordingly, Ethiopia was ranked 60th out of 90 countries in the year 2000 G.C. Its score then was 3.2 in a scale of 0-10 while the number of surveys used to carry out the analysis was just three. A small number of surveys to analyze existing corruption perception levels obviously run short of covering wide ranging sections of the state apparatus. A large number of surveys, on the other hand, would help pinpoint corruption prevalence better.

In the following decade, the number of surveys used to determine corruption perception in Ethiopia more than doubled. Coupled with the increasing public awareness and sensitivity in the country during that time, the corruption perception scores (0-10) indicated by Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index rose up. That was yet again compounded by the incorporation of another batch of 90 countries into the CPI’s scrutiny.

As a result, Ethiopia was ranked 116th out of 178 countries in 2010 with a score of 2.7 while the figures for 2011 were almost similar with ranks of 120 out of 182 countries along with unchanged score. The surveys used during these couple of years grew to 7 from a mere 3 a decade ago.

If there were any doubters of the above explanation on the correlation between the increasing number of surveys employed and the declining score during that period, the results from the 2012 and 2013 CPI set things straight. Ethiopia was ranked 113th out of 174 countries with a score of 33 in 2012 while it attained 111th position out of 177 countries with a score of 33 out of 100 or 3.3 out of 10 in 2013. The surveys used to analyze perceptions of corruption in the country during those couple of years also rose to 8.

Countries with high social development scores take up the highest ranks in the CPI. These countries include: Denmark, New Zealand, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Singapore, Switzerland, Netherlands, Australia and Canada. Out of the countries stated above, more surveys than the figure for Ethiopia were used to determine corruption perception only in the case of Singapore – 9. Eight surveys were used in the case of Australia while the rest employed lower number of surveys.

What can be inferred from the above facts is that there are no problems of exploration of corruption perceptions because of limited scope of surveys used in determining Ethiopia’s score. The figures shown can, as a result, be considered as reflections of the reality on the ground.

The extensively studied scores of 33 from the 2012 and 2013 CPI are, therefore, a major improvement on the insufficiently studied 3.2 score of 2000 and a great leap on the extensively studied score of 2.7 for the years 2010 and 2011. A correct translation of the numerical facts we have been dealing with would state that corruption perception has finally rid itself of the problems associated with the extensiveness of surveys used to clearly show that it is finally decreasing.

Conclusion

The use of public office for private gain benefits a powerful few while imposing costs on large swathes of society. In developing countries, according to the United Nations Development Programme, funds lost to corruption are estimated at 10 times the amount of official development assistance (ODA). But corruption does not just steal money from where it is needed the most; it leads to weak governance, which in turn can fuel organized criminal networks and promote crimes such as human trafficking, arms and migrant smuggling, counterfeiting and trade in endangered species.

 

“When lucrative contracts are up for grabs, bribery, fraud and embezzlement can plague large-scale infrastructure projects. Corruption can lead to money being stolen and infrastructure not being built or it can result in half-built or sub-standard – and at times dangerous – infrastructure. Money can also be allocated to sectors where needs are not the greatest, but which offer the best prospects for personal enrichment.”

 

With numerous mega projects being built in our country aimed at realizing the country’s transformation to a middle income country in the next decade, ensuring an increasingly corruption free state apparatus is vital. Recently noted by a Ugandan writer for being an African country in which infrastructural projects are guaranteed to be completed, Ethiopia’s reputation at continental and international levels is a source of encouragement to achieve even further. The recent survey by Transparency International (TI) also serves to keep the morale up in the fight against corruption in Ethiopia.

 

 



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