Corruption – Gregory Pye

Reflecting on the course content carefully, the author has selected corruption as a topic for further discussion. Although included in course content, it is the view of the author that the subject does not have the degree of prominence necessary, to reflect the true reality and importance of corruptive practices, with which individuals working and living in post conflict situations, have to contend on a daily basis. Having lived and worked in Afghanistan for a number of years, the author is confronted by corruptive behaviours, at all levels of society, as an integral part of daily living and working experiences. Beyond the daily expectations of IED,s, Taliban attacks, suicide bombers and hashish fuelled hostility, the single foremost element which generates antagonism, frustration and personal conflict amongst international workers, is the endemic corruption, which prevails across the country. Corruption, by its very nature can be difficult to detect, as the serious Fraud Office indicates (Serious Fraud Office, 2015) the process involves two or more people entering into a secret agreement. Corruption watchdog of transparency International, indicate that corruption can involve abuse of power and resources at any level, within any sector, including businesses, public institutions and the government. (Transparency International global coalition against corruption, 2014). Corruption poses a fundamental threat by diverting public resources into private hands, away from those who should be benefiting directly in post conflict environments and continues to be a major obstacle to poverty alleviation, development and the building of security and justice. The range of activities can be considerable, encompassing as it does, accepting bribes, double dealing, under table transactions, diverting funds, manipulating officials and elections, money laundering and defrauding investors (Investopedia, 2015).

Achieving stability and security is a top priority for any intervention by the international community in an unstable post conflict country. Corruption is potentially fatal to long term stability and security and therefore countering it should be considered a pressing fundamental objective. It is difficult to read accounts about Afghanistan, without reference to multiple references to corruption. Afghanistan remains one of the worst performing countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, ranking in the bottom four in 2014, along with Sudan, North Korea and Somalia (Transparency International, 2014). Scandals range from the Kabul Bank misappropriation of 93 million dollars and the suspension of IMF support, (BBC, 2014) to articles concerning provincial and district police chiefs buying their positions for$100,000. Incredulous as these reports may seem, the author can recount numerous occasions where he has had to fight against corruption at great personal threat to his life. For example in March 2014 the Medium Tax office (MTO) , based in Kabul, received $165,000 in ‘consultants tax’, this money never reached the company tax compliance account, it was taken by an MTO employee, who paid off the National Security Directorate (NDS), who then arrested the author and warned him that this matter should be ‘left alone’! A further reality is the need to carry $1000 in a money belt in order to deal with daily confrontations by police and officials. The levels of corruption in the country are extreme. According to a recent Asia Foundation Study, in 2014, 62.4% of Afghans reported that corruption was a major problem (Asia Foundation, 2014)

In 2012, the Afghan population considered corruption, together with insecurity and unemployment, to be one of the principal challenges facing their country, ahead of even poverty, security, external influence and government inefficiency (UNODC, 2012). Afghanistan has national anti corruption plans, laws, executive decrees and Government instruments all devoted to the fight against corruption, particular the High Office of Oversight and Anti Corruption (HOO), is mandated to co-ordinate and implement the national strategy. Inspite of the continuing efforts of this body, together with the Police, courts, Attorney General’s Office and a plethora of other related organisations, corruption continues to escalate unabated.

The causes are variable and complex. In an attempt to determine and analyse underlying processes, an insight into the historical, economy, social structure, cultural and religious practices of the Afghan Nation is elemental. Poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, weak government, drug trafficking and fear, are all instrumental factors in perpetuating an apparently intractable situation. As Lockheart, 2014, suggested, ‘The nexus of security, conflict and international development is new and a comparatively understudied area of work’ (Lockheart, 2014).

The same level of limited academic scrutiny can also be said to exist in the field of corruption research. Solutions are multifaceted, lengthy to implement and many lessons are yet to emerge from work being conducted in combating corruption in a number of post conflict countries, which may be significant in addressing the problems in Afghanistan. However, a positive approach and concerted actions, must be maintained, coupled with the encouragement of greater transparency, surveillance, detection, prosecution and eradication of corrupt norms, at all levels. The work of anti-corruption bodies requires enhanced governmental support, manpower and financial underpinning. This must be married to important associate long term strategies, such as employment creation, increase in public employee wages, reduction in poverty, eradication of drug trafficking, development of robust judicial systems and most crucially the regeneration of trust amongst the populous.

Postscript

Corruption persists in highly corrupt countries because it is not only difficult to monitor and therefore, prosecute, but also, when it is systematically pervasive, people may lack the incentives or initiative, to instigate counter measures. When considering corruption as a deep seated problem, it is perhaps important to examine two sets of dynamics which may be at interplay amongst those contemplating corruptive behaviour. Decisions to indulge in corruption are based on personal choice, coercion or group dynamics and at the same time, surveillance, monitoring, transparency and systems of prosecution, are all variables which may influence an individual’s calculations of whether to engage in corruption.

Anti-corruption activities need to be tailored to context and a thorough understanding of the dynamics of contextual factors is required. For example, greater transparency could be resisted by those in power for fear of exposure of wider pervasive practices.

Individual character, honesty and trust are vitally important, when considering suitability for key appointments. Individuals who are prepared to work within acceptable norms within culture, society, business, legal systems and government Clean up campaigns are only successful when there is a moral consensus behind them.

Measures which will undoubtedly assist in reducing corruption, should be actively engendered. Such measures include inclusiveness, increased dialogue between all stakeholders and continuing review and amendment of anti-corruption plans. Scrutiny should address roles, responsibilities, resourcing and effectiveness. Intractable problems such as corruption cannot always be eliminated completely but with commitment, dedication and resilience, it should be possible over time to contain the problem within acceptable limits.

References

BBC . (2011). Afghan row over failed bank threatens salaries. Available: http//www.bbc.co.uk/newa/world-south-east-asia-13847292). Last accessed 14th February 2015.

Lockheart, C. (2014). Building Security and Justice in Post Conflict Environmen. : A Reader.Proceedings of 2014 Security, Conflict and International Development (SCID) Symposium.. 1 (14), 4-8.

Serious Fraud Office . (2015). Bribery Corruption. Available: http://www.sfo.gov.uk>bribery & corruption. Last accessed 22nd March 2015.

Transparency International. (2014). Transparency International global coalition against corruption. 2014).. Available: http://cpi.trancparency.org/cpi2013/results/). Last accessed 14th February 2015.

UNODC. (2012). Afghanistan: Recent Patterns and Trends. Available: http://anti-corruption.gov.af/en/page/1783/8477.2015). In. Last accessed 15th February 2015.

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