all do it: The rich and the poor
NEW YORK-- The US is clearly merciless when it assails most developing
nations of being perpetually corrupt accusing political leaders
of lining up their pockets when in power.
in most cases, the charge has been proved right judging by widespread
government-sanctioned bribery in some of the world's most corrupt
nations, including Nigeria, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Kenya, Brazil
state of corruption in these countries has been documented by several
watchdog groups, including the Berlin-based Transparency International.
Both the US and the 25-member European Union also have strict guidelines
on who should-- and who shouldn't-- receive development aid. If
a government is neither "transparent" nor "accountable",
it is invariably in the doghouse. Both are codewords for corruption-free
third world governments-- if ever there are such political animals.
the US and Western Europe are no bribery-free angels either. A report
by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) once singled out the corrupt
practices involved in doling out contracts in several Western nations,
Financial Times quotes former National Security Adviser Zbigniew
Brzezinski once describing Washington as "the most corrupt
capital in the world." "We have created a culture in which
there's no distinction between what is illegal and what is unethical."
week one of the biggest bribery scandals in the US came home to
roost in Washington DC. Jack Abramoff, a political lobbyist for
the ruling Republican Party, pleaded guilty facing at least 10 years
in prison for bribery, tax evasion and fraud.
last month, Republican Congressman Randy Cunningham, quit after
admitting he had taken over $2.4 million in bribes to help defence
contractors get lucrative government contracts.
the Abramoff story is described as one of the worst bribery scandals
to hit the US capital, threatening the Bush administration because
of his close political ties to the Republican Party, and with links
to the White House.
after Abramoff pleaded guilty, President Bush returned $6,000 in
campaign contributions linked to the corrupt lobbyist. According
to the last count, more than half a million dollars in campaign
contributions sourced to Abramoff have been dumped by some 24 Republican
and Democratic politicians. Only three of the 24 are from the opposition
Democratic Party. The monies are being diverted to charitable organisations.
average political lobbyist like Abramoff, who steers government
contracts to big US corporations, is bribed for his services, and
in turn doles out money as "campaign contributions" to
politicians who have favoured his contractors.
tactic is common to both developing and industrial nations. The
only difference is that bribery in developing nations is measured
in arithmetic proportions, but in rich countries it is measured
in geometric proportions.
kickbacks that Abramoff received from one Indian tribe amounted
to over $11 million and from another over $6 million. The monies
were given to help Indian tribes open highly-profitable casinos
in their reservations, which require federal approval and support
from politicians."These are staggering numbers even by Washington
standards," a defence lawyer Stanley Brand was quoted as saying.
"The big firms do very, very well, but they don't come close
to these kinds of numbers."
the first global instrument designed to assist member states fight
corruption in both public and private sectors-- the UN Convention
Against Corruption (UNCAC)-- came into force last month. Since the
UNCAC was open for signature in December 2003, 140 countries have
signed it. But only 30 have ratified the treaty so far.
Convention's promise is tinged with doubt," says Huguette Labelle,
chair of Transparency International. Labelle points out that three
out of every four countries that have signed the Convention have
yet to ratify it. "That means that 102 countries clearly recognise
the Convention's value, yet will not be bound by its terms as it
enters into force."
said the convention, because of its broad reach across continents,
has the potential to address an important channel of international
corruption: bribe payments by crooked companies, and extortion by
Group of Eight (G8) countries, committed at their Summit at Gleneagles
last July, to promptly ratify the Convention, yet only France has
Leaders of Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, Britain and the
US should follow France's example and complete the ratification
process, says Labelle.
But they are yet to do so-- even while they are preaching transparency,
accountability and good governance to leaders in the developing