Public finds Parliament “most corrupt” institution: Transparency International

A new report published by Transparency International finds that 90 percent of surveyed Maldivians believe that “corruption has increased” or remained level in the last three years, while they dubbed the parliament as the “most corrupt” institution.

The “Daily Lives and Corruption: Public Opinion in Maldives” report surveyed 1001 people in the Maldives between April 23 and April 29 of 2011 to capture public perception of corruption in the country. The survey was conducted by Gallup Pakistan of Gallup International, a leading polling service.

The report revealed that over half of the people interviewed (56 percent) believe the level of corruption in Maldives has increased over the past three years, while another 34 percent believed it remained the same. Only ten percent said corruption levels declined.

When people were asked to rate the extent of corruption in nine different institutions on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “not at all corrupt” and 5 meaning “extremely corrupt”, 55.9 percent of responders claimed 77 seat People’s Majilis (Parliament) is “extremely corrupt” – suggesting that the public perceive the elected legislative body as among the most corrupt institutions in the country.

Meanwhile, 55.4 percent of respondents viewed political parties as “extremely corrupt”. The judiciary received a similar ranking from 39.4 percent of individuals polled.

Military and religious groups were considered the least corrupt institutions.

In addition to measuring public perception, the report also evaluated the prevalence of bribes in the civil sector. According to its findings, six percent of responders claimed to have paid a bribe to one of the nine service providers over the past 12 months. The most bribes were paid to Customs, while the fewest were paid to the Police.

Bribes were reportedly paid to either accelerate procedures or minimise conflicts at institutions which provide land services, registry and permit services, utilities, education, and medical services.

Transparency officials point out that although the government or executive was not classified as an individual institution at the time of polling, the services for which people paid bribes are government components.

Most bribes were paid by men (8 percent) with women paying fewer than half that amount (3 percent). All bribes were paid by people of low income, the report reveals.

Speaking at the report release ceremony held on Thursday at Traders, Senior Program Coordinator at Transparency International Rukshana Neenayakkara pointed out that it is significant that 90 percent of Maldivians believe that the presence of corruption has increased or remained unchanged over the past three years.

Referring to the high perception of corruption within the parliament and judiciary, Neenayakkara said the figures reflect a “dismal drastic situation” of grand corruption in Maldives, which can create a “worse situation” in the coming years. “So we need action now”, he asserted.

According to Neenayakkara petty corruption is uncommon in Maldives though it is endemic in other  South Asian countries which were similarly surveyed.

Project Coordinator for Transparency Maldives Aiman Rasheed explained that “grand corruption” which spread across the judiciary, parliament and members of the executive is “more dangerous” compared to the petty cash corruption, and stressed on the need to address the problem through systematic change.

Faced with such endemic and high-level corruption, it is “up to the people of the Maldives to demand better governance”, he insisted.

The Maldives rose slightly to rank 134 in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI), released in December 2011.

The country scored 2.5 on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 10 (very clean), placing it alongside Lebanon, Pakistan and Sierra Leone.

The score however is a mild improvement on 2010, when the Maldives was ranked 143th and below Zimbabwe. The Maldives still rated as having higher perceived corruption than many regional neighbours, including Sri Lanka (86), Bangladesh (120) and India (95).

Speaking with Minivan News in December, Rasheed said it was “up to the people of the Maldives to demand better governance”, and noted that the nation’s ability to address corruption would have political ramifications for the 2013 presidential election, particularly for young voters.

The “Daily Lives of Corruption” report concludes that 93 percent of Maldivians think that “ordinary people can make difference in the fight against corruption”.

Other countries surveyed were Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Pakistan.