Institutionalized Corruption and [the lack of] Political Will
10 November 2010
This blog post has been shared with us by Aleksandr Shkolnikov, Director for Policy Reform programs at CIPE.
In his review of day one of the IACC, Wajahat S. Khan touches on a number of interesting questions, including the problem of institutionalized corruption in Pakistan and elsewhere.
This is precisely the issue that Elena Panfilova of TI-Russia addressed in great detail on her panel yesterday. One of the points she made is that when corruption penetrates every level of economic and political systems, participation in it is no longer voluntary. Corruption is not about getting ahead – it’s a matter of survival. If you think about doing business, its less about bribery and more about extortion. If you want to do business, you have to pay. If you don’t pay, you can’t do business.
The frustrating part of dealing with institutionalized corruption is that the traditional developed country approach of getting the facts right and prosecuting participants in the corruption transaction doesn’t work. Elena gave a compelling example of the Daimler case – the automaker that was implicated in bribery in Russia, among other countries.
Daimler settled its case with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the US Department of Justice paying nearly $185 million in fines and civil disgorgement. The Russian government was presented with all the facts, including details on when, how, and in which instances did Daimler engage in bribery of Russian officials. However, the Russian government quickly dismissed the facts, essentially saying that there is no evidence of inappropriate behavior. As Elena has put it: “We know that a bribe was given, but it was never received. It simply disappeared in the air.”
The problem of dealing with institutionalized corruption is really the problem of creating political will. Its not necessarily about facts, laws, regulations, or procedures. Improving the quality of regulations, strengthening judicial independence, empowering civil society, increasing transparency in decision-making are all important components of an anti-corruption program – but without political will, without real commitment at the top echelons of government, success will be limited and selective.
And that commitment is not defined by speeches, promises, and calls to action – there is no lack of that in Russia and other countries with institutionalized corruption.
To shine some light on Wajahat’s concern about lack of focus on corruption in Pakistan and the linkages between institutionalized corruption and political and economic collapse – it is indeed a real problem. As the head of Pakistan office Moin Fudda has pointed out corruption and bad governance have greatly undermined flood relief efforts. The costs are not abstract – they are about real lives.
The question for Pakistan, just as for Russia, remains – how to create real political will to tackle institutionalized corruption? And what role can the international community play in pushing for that political will?