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Peter Allwright
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Corruption has become an integral part of our normal lives

20 January 2014, 08:56

Ordinary people are experiencing increasing incidents of corruption in their normal lives. Acts of corruption have become so common that people have become complacent about paying bribes in the normal course of their lives.

The findings of the Global Corruption Barometer 2013 provide a startling insight into the seriousness of the situation across the globe and in South Africa. The Barometer is the world’s largest public opinion survey on corruption and surveyed 114,000 people in 107 countries. The survey asked people’s direct experience with bribery and sought their views on where the problem of corruption was most severe. A key measure of the survey is the willingness and readiness to act to stop corruption.


The key findings of the survey confirm that corruption have become endemic. On a global perspective, one in four people have paid a bribe in the last 12 months when dealing with public officials. Where people could not afford to pay a bribe they were deprived of basic services provided by public institutions. The most worrying concern is that corruption around the world is depriving ordinary people of their fundamental rights. Citizens need to make critical trade-offs between paying a bribe to survive or risk losing out on basic services.

The two public institutions that are entrusted to protect people are the most susceptible to bribes. Out of the eight public institutions surveyed, people were forced to pay bribes in 31% of the cases to the police and 24% of the cases to the judiciary services.

The majority of people believe that governments aren’t doing enough to stem the growth of corruption. There is a strong consensus that governments are being ineffective and that corruption is becoming widespread because there are no real consequences to corrupt activities. The high susceptibility to bribery at the police and judiciary services may be exacerbating the situation because they form part of the complex problem.

People view political parties as being the most corrupt because they operate under veils of secrecy and don’t voluntarily disclose their funders or donations to finance party political activities. The perception is worsened by the absence of suitable codes of conduct for members of parliament on the avoiding conflicts of interest and disclosing assets, interests and income. The establishment of a mandatory register for lobbyists would overcome the perception that members of parliament are swayed by lobbyists that offer unethical benefits and incentives to sway support.

Two out of three people believe that citizens with personal connections and relationships with public officials exert pressure and influence on government to achieve their own objectives. This results in public funds being diverted to meet the needs and objectives of the influential and connected people at the expense of ordinary citizens.

A staggering statistic is that 54% of people believe that governments are run largely or entirely by groups of people that are fostering their own objectives and special interests rather than for the benefit of citizens.

The good news is that nine out of ten people are willing to act against corruption. The majority of people said that they would be willing to report incidents of corruption so that action could be taken against the perpetrators. Two-thirds of people stated that they had refused to pay a bribe when asked and were willing to take a stand to stop corruption.

South Africa

The results of the survey for South Africa are deeply worrying.

54% of people surveyed in the country believe corruption has increased a lot over the past 2 years whilst 18% believe that it has increased a little and 16% believe it has stayed the same. The statistics mirror the findings of the survey for 2010/2011 where 62% of people believed that corruption has increased a lot. The statistics confirm several independent studies that corruption is rampant and increasing by the day. One of these studies was conduct by the Public Service Commission have found that Financial misconduct grew from R100 million in 2008/2009 by 346% to R346 million in 2009/2010 and then soared another 269% to R932 million in 2010/2011!

Two-thirds of people believe that there is a serious problem with corruption in the public sector, with 16% believing there is a problem and a further 15% believing there is a slight problem. Only 4% of people believe there is no problem with the public sector! The results of the survey mirror the findings of the report titled “the real state of the nation” which exposed the extent of financial misconduct in the public sector. The report found that financial misconduct in the public sector had mushroomed because there were no real consequences to transgressions by public officials.

A startling statistic is that 87% of people believe that the government is run by a few big entities acting in their own best interests! A further 11% believe that the few big entities have limited influence whilst only 2% of people believe that the government acts for the benefit of citizens! The frightening statistic is most probably driven out of the concern that government officials are too closely aligned to people that have benefitted from personal contact and relationships. One such personal contact and relationship is the perceived conflict of interest with the President and the Gupta family.

Two-thirds of people believe that the government’s actions to fight corruption are ineffective. Only 18% of people believe that efforts to curb corruption are effective. The biggest concern amongst people is that the institutions established to fight corruption are largely ineffective and a new approach is required to actively stop corruption. The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, the Special Investigating Unit, the Asset Forfeiture Unit, the Multi-Agency Working Group and the Public Service Anti-Corruption Unit are fighting a losing battle to stop corruption. The Code of Conduct, Financial Disclosures Framework and anti-corruption strategies, forums, databases specifically developed for the public service have had minimal impact on slowing the growth of corruption. The establishment of anti-corruption hotlines to report corruption have largely been unsuccessful.

The assessment of the eight institutions found that the majority of people believed that these institutions were significantly affected by corruption. The findings are extremely worrying:

•   83% of people thought that the police were affected by corruption;

•   77% of people thought that political parties were affected by corruption;

•   74% of people thought that public officials and civil servants were affected by corruption;

•   70% of people thought that parliament/legislature were affected by corruption;

•   55% of people thought that medical and health services were affected by corruption;

•   54% of people thought that business was affected by corruption; and

•   50% of people thought that the judiciary was affected by corruption.

The survey confirms the common view that most people are experiencing increasing incidents of corruption in their normal lives.

Thirty-nine percent of people admitted to paying bribes to registry and permit services whilst 36% paid bribes to the police and 30% paid bribes to the judiciary. The high prevalence of bribes being paid to the two public institutions that are entrusted to protect people is extremely concerning. The police and judiciary have made themselves part of the problem and is most probably a contributing factor to the unabated growth of corruption in South Africa!

The good news is that 68% of people believe that ordinary people can make a difference in the fight against corruption whilst 32% believe that it’s a wasted cause.


The Barometer has confirmed that corruption is a global epidemic and that without strong action by governments and ordinary people around the world the foundation and ethics of society will be eroded. Governments need to take a stronger approach to combat corruption and citizens need to be more active and vocal in the fight against bribery and corruption. Ordinary citizens need to take a collective stand to fight and overcome corruption. The time for action is now, otherwise it will be too late!

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