Widespread bribery for services in MENA: Transparency International report

Published May 3rd, 2016 - 08:38 GMT
A third of people overall said they feared retaliation if they reported corruption. (Shutterstock)
A third of people overall said they feared retaliation if they reported corruption. (Shutterstock)

A new report by an anti-corruption watchdog shows that on average, 30 per cent of people in nine countries surveyed in the Middle East have had to pay a bribe to access some kind of public service such as medical care and electricity, and most people say corruption is growing

Only a fifth of people who paid a bribe reported the incident, and twice as many said they suffered retaliation when they did report corruption, according to Transparency International.

Bribery is common in obtaining public services, in the court systems and among police in the region, research by the Berlin-based anti-corruption group found.

Transparency International  interviewed nearly 11,000 adults from September 2014 to November 2015, in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen. 

The watchdog found bribery is especially huge in Yemen, with 77 percent of respondents in the impoverished country saying they have had to pay a bribe to access public services.

Nearly one in three people said they had paid a bribe for public services in the 12 months prior to the survey - amounting to about 50 million people, it said.

Two-thirds of people perceive corruption to have risen in the 12 months prior to the survey, particularly among government officials, tax officials and judges, it said.

The study says:

"The extent of the bribery reported in our survey is a major cause for concern, as widespread corruption is linked to governmental institutions that are inefficient and distrusted. Corruption also leads to an unfair distribution of services and undermines law and order."

"Only if governments in the region are ready to make a fundamental shift in their mindset to allow for meaningful participation by citizens and civil society in public life, and stop using repression or intimidation against them, will the fight against corruption stand a chance".

Despite the findings, across the Middle East and North Africa, slightly more than half the people said they think ordinary citizens could make a difference by reporting corruption and refusing to pay bribes, the study said.

Residents of Tunisia were most optimistic and residents of Lebanon least so, it said.

Yet a third of people overall said they feared retaliation if they reported corruption.

All of the governments except Sudan were rated badly at fighting corruption by a majority of citizens, the research said. The question was not asked in Sudan due to recent elections, it said.

Transparency International called upon governments to prosecute corruption, allow for freedom of the press, establish independent anti-corruption commissions, make officials disclose holdings, enact codes of conduct and protect whistleblowers. 

Overall, Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia got the most positive ratings, while Algeria, Morocco, Sudan and Palestine fell in the middle, and Lebanon and Yemen got the worst ratings, it said.

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