Adulterers and Political Comebacks: The Cases of Spitzer, Weiner, and Sanford
Public Accounting Lobbying Efforts Kill Proposed Legislative Requirements for Mandatory Auditor Rotation

Global Corruption and Observations from the U.S.

Results from the Global Corruption Barometer 2013

On July 9, Transparency International issued its 2013 Global Corruption Barometer. The Barometer is the world’s largest public opinion survey on corruption. The 2013 edition surveyed 114,000 people in 107 countries and asked for people’s views on corruption in their country, and in which institutions the problem of corruption is most severe.

The survey’s global findings are red flags of problems ahead:

  • More than one in two people thinks corruption in their country has worsened in the last two years.
  • 54 per cent of people surveyed believe their governments’ efforts to fight corruption are ineffective.
  • 27 percent of respondents have paid a bribe when accessing public services and institutions in the last 12 months, revealing no improvement from previous surveys.
  • In 51 countries around the world, political parties are seen as the most corrupt institutions.
  • In 36 countries, people view the police most corrupt, in 20 countries they view the judiciary as most corrupt.
  • 54 percent of respondents think that the government in their country is run by special interests.

These results indicate a general lack of confidence in the institutions charged with fighting corruption.

The results for the U.S. are equally alarming:

  • 60 percent of people surveyed in the U.S. believe corruption has increased over the past 2 years.
  • 59 per cent of those surveyed think that the U.S. Government’s efforts to fight corruption are ineffective.
  • 76 percent of people surveyed view political parties as corrupt or extremely corrupt and 61percent share the same view of the legislature.
  • 64 percent of the people surveyed believe the U.S. Government is run by a few large interests that are acting in their own self-interest.

The Barometer shows both global and U.S. concerns regarding corruption and transparency in government institutions and political culture. The U.S. results may be attributable to the Congress’ low public approval rating, the lack of transparency in campaign financing, and a series of high-profile corruption cases in the news.

However there is some positive news. Globally and in the U.S., nearly 9 out of 10 people surveyed indicated a willingness to get involved in the fight against corruption. The high response rate reflects the fed up feeling we have in the U.S. with corruption. Recent disclosures about NSA surveillance and IRS targeting conservative groups has exacerbated the negative view of our government especially Congress and federal government agencies. More of us are willing to commit time and fight for improved responsiveness of our government to meet the needs of the public.

What does the government do to bring an ethical tone to its role as the representative of the people? The goal of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics [now there’s an oxymoron] is to foster high ethical standards for executive branch employees and strengthen the public’s confidence that the Government’s business is conducted with impartiality and integrity. How has that been working out for us???

What can we do as average citizens to stem the tide of rising corruption in the U.S.? We need a collective voice and I don’t see one emerging. To some extent The Tea Party served that purpose, but their agenda tilts to the right. We need a neutral voice of a group whose agenda is ethics in government. At one time I thought that voice could be Common Cause, an organization that works to improve ethics in Washington. However, it seems to have fallen off the grid. We rarely hear about it. Most important, it doesn’t speak out on issues of ethics in general focusing instead on targeted matters such as tough Congressional ethics standards and financial disclosure laws and establishing a ban that restricts Members from taking gifts, free vacation trips and expensive meals from special interests.” That’s all well and good but does little to establish an ethical tone in Washington.

The question of ethics and public confidence is not a new one. In 1952 Adlai Stevenson, governor of Illinois said, "Public confidence in the integrity of the government is indispensable to faith in democracy, and when we lose faith in the system, we lose faith in everything we fight and spend for."

Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on July 12, 2013