ETHICS David Nussbaum – Tackling global corruption

What can Transparency International do which can’t be done – or done well – by national law enforcement agencies?
As matter of policy Transparency International does not investigate or expose individual cases of corruption. Once they have been exposed we may have things to say about them, but we don’t go around trying to find corruption; we try to prevent it in the first place. Obviously, it’s important for agencies to identify corruption and take appropriate action, but that’s not our role. That’s partly because we work with people who need to know that we’re collaborating with them, building coalitions with them, and not using this as way of investigating them.
We have role in advocacy, and internationally we can advocate for things to be changed where it might not be appropriate for governmental agency to do so in particular country. This builds on our independence from any single country or company. It gives us particular role in facilitating coalitions, be they coalitions of governments, private sector companies, professional associations or other NGOs, to work together on particular issue relating to corruption. This explicit focus on corruption means we have clear mandate for what we’re targeting.

What is Transparency International’s mission?
Our main mission is to create change toward world free of corruption, because corruption does such huge amount of damage to the lives of ordinary people around the world. It also distorts commercial life and jeopardises political life.
Our secondary missions are the actions we undertake toward world free of corruption. This is focused on number of priorities, the first being trying to reduce the degree of corruption in politics.
Secondly, tackling corruption in procurement which is typically where the public and private sectors interact, and you have very large contracts which we know are prone to corruption.
Thirdly, we look at tackling corruption in the private sector itself, particularly by improving the standards to which the sector operates.
Fourthly, we build coalitions to adopt international conventions against corruption, and these are important because they set the international framework within which legal institutions and practices develop.
Finally, we focus on better understanding how corruption causes poverty and hinders development. Here we look at things like health, education, and both humanitarian and development aid.

What’s changed over the past 10 years?
One of the huge changes is that corruption is now on the international agenda. You can see that in number of things we’ve been involved with. We have had United Nations conventions on human rights and many other topics, and it was only two years ago that the first UN convention on corruption was signed and will now shortly come into force.
You can also see the way the private sector is now more engaged in dealing with issues of corruption. There are lot of people out there grappling with this.
One practical contribution we have made is by providing tools which people can use to reduce the risks from corruption. For example, we’ve developed what we call the National Integrity System Study. It’s not original to TI, but we have taken methodology and adapted and applied it specifically to corruption. This enables an examination of the institutional dynamics of country and how these relate to where corruption is most likely to occur.
Another example is when corruption is widespread and you want to safeguard particular project like new hospital or road. We have tool called an Integrity Pact. This is an arrangement involving all construction contract bidders which requires them to make binding commitments not to engage in corruption on the project. It builds in both monitoring and incentives that there will be no bribes given or received. This has been successful not only in reducing corruption but also in freeing up money, which might have been wasted on bribery, for constructive use on yet more schools and hospitals.

How do you measure levels of corruption in given country?
Annually we publish Corruption Perceptions Index. This now includes about 150 countries where we give them each ranking between 0 to 10 as to how corrupt they are perceived to be and rank them according to their scores. This creates sort of league table which attracts considerable attention. We produce this through independent surveys of what people think about relative levels of corruption between different countries. So this is not based on our subjective assessment, but rather on the work of many survey and polling organisations. In essence we are the messenger capturing the views that are out there. Some may not like these perceptions, but the surveys reveal what people think.
In addition, quite few of our national chapters do assessments of their own country on how corruption is exhibiting itself. Chapters have done surveys to see how different government departments or agencies within society are viewed. For example, how do the police compare to doctors, customs officials, local government servants, etc, in terms of how corrupt people think they are.

Are there estimates of how much money corruption costs the global economy each year?
The World Bank did some work on this and came up with an estimated amount of $1 trillion annually. Even for the whole world that’s lot of money. It works out to $150 per annum in bribes being paid for every person on the planet. And let’s remember that over one billion of those people live on less than twice that amount annually.
But there’s another insidious aspect of corruption. If people think there’s an opportunity to enrich themselves through bribery they may decide that instead of doing something good for the people of the country, they’ll do something else because it’s more prone to bribery. For example, maybe they think that building huge new road will give them more access to bribery than building new hospital. So they create the argument as to why the road investment is better option than the hospital investment. The cost of that is not just the money, but the damage to people’s lives.

What assistance can country chapters offer companies in setting-up best practice anti-corruption programmes?
Together with several companies we have developed tool called “Business Principles for Countering Bribery”. This uses six-step approach and helps companies develop and implement anti-bribery programmes in manner that is very utilitarian and practical.
It is of little help simply issuing some edict from the global head office of company that is active in many countries with perhaps hundreds of operating sites. You need practical programme to make this reality. So we’ve developed these kinds of tools within self-evaluation model which enables companies to work at how they could improve their behaviour and integrity in order to assure they are operating in the way most would say they want to operate.

Because they are under more scrutiny, do public companies tend to have better anti-corruption track records than private companies?
Public companies quoted on stock markets are subject to intense scrutiny and pressure which on one hand may make them more aware of the risks of corruption. On the other hand the pressures to perform are great – to win that new contract – even at the risk of doing so illegally or unethically. So public company may feel under more pressure to stretch the boundaries of acceptable behaviour. Often, private firm can afford to take longer-term view because the owner knows they can withstand any bumps along the way by retaining commitment to integrity.

Do you find that certain sectors like the construction industry require more attention to potential corruption?
Absolutely. Several years ago we produced what we call “Bribe Payers Index”. We looked at the propensity of companies in different sectors

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