Sunday, February 15, 2015

Everybody Has A Job To Do

Reacting to the Nigerian government’s decision to delay national elections, the anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International released a graphic via Twitter the other day, depicting it as the country with the most corrupt political parties in the world.
Predictably, the Nigerian media went nuts. Nepal’s reputation, too, was sullied. We’re listed as the country with the third most corrupt parties, a record we share with Greece.
While we’re worse than, alliteratively, Italy, Indonesia and India, we are better than Mexico and Cyprus.
TI’s graphic came under the headline ‘Where most people think political parties are corrupt’, which, it turns out, was part of its 2013 Global Corruption Barometer. So everything’s a bit dated.
The Barometer is a public opinion survey that offers views of the general public on corruption and its impact on their lives, including personal experience with bribes, according to the watchdog website. The more widely known Corruption Perceptions Index and the Bribe Payers Index both rely on the views of experts.
Some 1,000 people from each of 107 countries were surveyed between September 2012 and March 2013 for the Barometer. In other words, it’s the people of each country whose saying how deep in graft their political parties are.
“Political corruption can feel daunting and remote. So can we really do anything about it?” TI pointedly asks. “If we speak out about how we’re governed, we can.”
Fine and dandy. So how do we go about it? Call on politicians and public officials to be accountable for their actions, TI advises.  Demand that they put in place regulations that would force them to act openly. And hold them to account once elected.
Civil society – from grassroots groups to big organizations – has a crucial role to play, the watchdog reminds us. They can monitor electoral campaigns and parties’ activities and report if state resources are abused.
If regulations to prevent corruption aren’t in place, people must demand them.  “By speaking out, we can show that everyone gains from honest elections and open decision-making. Even politicians.” Sounds good so far, right?
Now let’s dig a little deeper. To clean up the parties, Parliament must pass proper laws. But, according to the same survey, 79 percent of Nepalis view their legislature as corrupt. Accountability by other institutions? The judiciary is perceived as crooked by 77 percent of us.
That much vaunted civil society? Tough luck: 46 percent of that fraternity is considered tainted. What’s more, a third of the media, or 33 percent, is viewed as debased.
How about civil service and public institutions such as the Election Commission? Well a whopping 85 percent of Nepalis surveyed believe they are corrupt, just a little less bad than the political parties. Eighty percent of the law-enforcement apparatus, too, is rotten.
No, the people won’t shut up. They’ll keep exercising their democratic rights to yell, no matter how zealously everybody else protects their right not to listen.
The moral of the story? Everybody has a job to do – even Transparency International.