The judiciary is considered one of the Maldives’ most corrupt institutions, according to a poll conducted for Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer, along with parliament and political parties.
Of those surveyed, 69 percent felt the judiciary was a corrupt institution, while two percent of families admitted paying bribes to judges.
The political sphere was considered extremely corrupt, particular parliament (78 percent), and political parties (75 percent).
The military (44 percent) was reckoned to be almost as corrupt as police (47 percent), the business community (42 percent) and the media (48 percent).
Unlike the majority of other countries surveyed, the Maldives was notable for the high levels of perceived corruption in almost every institution with 30 percent of those surveyed even considering religious institutions corrupt. NGOs were considered the least corrupt, but the figure still stood at 24 percent.
The survey also found a strong trend in the perception that corruption had increased in the past two years, with 19 percent of those polled stating that it had increased “a little”, and 38 percent “a lot”.
At the same time, 84 percent agreed ordinary people could make a difference fighting corruption.
‘Counter-level’ corruption in the Maldives is generally low relative to other countries in the region, however the Maldives has a complex and long-standing patronage system that in many cases may not be recognised as corruption – MPs, for example, justified salary increases to Swedish levels in 2011 on the grounds that constituents were demanding greater amounts of money and services such as scholarships and medical treatment from their representatives.
DRP MP Rozaina Adam in January 2011 observed to Minivan News that an MP’s salary “is also seen as a welfare fund by many people. If anything goes wrong, constituents go to their MPs. It has been like this for a long time now, and I feel we need to move out of it – these are things that are supposed to be done by the government, but it has been a tradition for a long time to ask MPs. When someone comes and says their nine year-old needs a kidney transplant, it is hard to say no. In the long term, this means that only rich people can be MPs.”
The patronage system is also evident in the culture of vote buying, recognised in Transparency Maldives’ pre-election assessment for the September elections as a key target for voter education ahead of the polls.
“A crisis of confidence in candidates’ sincerity to deliver on their electoral promises could be one of the main reasons why many people take offers. Almost all the participants in the discussions thought the candidates would not bother about them or their community post-elections, or after winning the elections. ‘They would not even answer their phones’ was a common retort,” Transparency noted in its report.
“There are particularly vulnerable groups of people who are targets of vote buying. Youth groups who are victims of drug addiction, for example, could be offered drugs, money to buy drugs, or drugs at discounted rates, in exchange of their votes. Similarly, the less disadvantaged people, people in need of medical treatment, or the more elderly, seem to be particularly vulnerable to vote buying,” the NGO added.
Large scale projects and training programmes promoting transparency and governance in the Maldives are also subject to subtle internal resistance, a senior government official responsible for such a project recently confided to Minivan News.
Senior authorities and civil servants were loathe to give up the discretionary power that came with their position in favour of an equitable system, the official explained, as this removed their influence as the ‘go to guy’ for particular services. While provision of such services was not often leveraged for money, it did often extend to ‘in-kind’ favours such as resort trips for family members, the official said.