Corruption – an issue that Parliaments should be aware of

AGORA moderator's picture

On December 3, 2014, the NGO Transparency International published its 2014 edition of the Corruption Perceptions Index. The index measures the perception of public-sector corruption, estimated by national experts. The results are not pretty. The global average is 43 (on a scale from 1 to 100), with over two thirds of countries scoring below 50. None of the participants scored 100, the closest being Denmark (92) and New Zeeland (91). At the other end, authoritarian North Korea and war-struck Somalia both scored 8 and were placed on the bottom spot of this year’s report.

What does this show us? That corruption is still a big problem in most places in the world. Building of infrastructure, proper healthcare and education systems, rule of law and democracy are all affected by this global plague. While being located especially in the public sector, graft is not exclusively the civil servants “disease”. Companies in fields like energy, construction, real estate, technology have been facing increasing corruption charges in their home countries in the past few years.

This is where national Parliaments come in. Their participation in the fight against corruption is vital for the success of this endeavor. Member of Parliaments have an important role in ensuring the government is accountable to the citizens they represent, in the first place. However, MPs, given their access to political power and influence, are themselves vulnerable to corruption and must be held accountable to the general public. For this reason, UNDP has created an Anticorruption Self-assessment Tool that should help parliamentarians find out how vulnerable they are to graft and un-ethical practices.

Aside from guarding themselves, MPs need to act on curbing corruption in state institutions and private companies, by setting up the necessary framework, empowering judicial and governmental institutions that are addressing this problem, insuring that the press and civil society work in a free and unbiased manner, and many others.

Another thing that should be pointed out is that political will is essential in combatting graft. Recent cases, in places like Romania or Tanzania, show that Parliament can act swiftly when dealing with such issues and must not impede the work of prosecutors or of the justice system, in general. Change, transition to healthy governance methods, cannot take place if politicians and decision-makers oppose it. And there you have another reason why the main political institution in a state, Parliament, is essential in the transition to a corruption-free society.

AGORA provides a wide range of resources on corruption related issues. Some of them can be found here:

This is a blog post by Cosmin Octavian of the United Nations Development Programme.