Thursday, December 09, 2010

Churches have Key Role in Combatting Corruption

On Global Anti-Corruption Day, Christian organisation Micah Challenge has published a report highlighting the widespread existence of corruption, its effect on maintaining extreme poverty, and its presence among western governments and businesses, not only among elites in donor-recipient societies.

Joel Edwards, the international director of Micah Challenge, commented: “Corruption is a like a tower block on a runway. It accounts for over a trillion dollars going missing, and is a massive barricade to the well being of the poorest people in the world." Edwards goes on to say that corruption is "difficult to define, complex in its treatment and entrenched in business and political systems. Simply put, corruption kills people.”

Micah urges Christians, churches and faith-based organisations to take a lead in identifying, reporting and resisting corruption at both individual, corporate, governmental and global levels.

Former Director of the UN Millennium Campaign, Salil Shetty, says in the foreword to the report: “The people in the front-end of the evangelical churches know that if public resources are managed in a transparent and accountable manner, there is nothing stopping the world from achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.”

Good Governance promo from Micah Challenge International on Vimeo.

An in-depth report in 2000 by The Corner House into the problem of global corruption and its contribution to the maintenance of extreme poverty identified a number of aspects of the problem that are often overlooked:

  • "Growing corruption throughout the world is largely the result of the rapid privatisation of public enterprises" due to the injection of profit-based motives for the delivery of public services and corresponding weak regulatory frameworks.
  • Bribes payed by western businesses to influence contracts are conservatively estimated to amount to $80 Billion per year, which is about twice the amount cited by the UN as needed to eradicate global poverty.
  • The US State Department estimated in 1999 that 294 American companies paid $148bn in bribes to win contracts.
  • Britain is cited as having a particular problem with corruption, fueled in large measure by large public sector contracts and partnerships. Compulsory contracting out of public services and the Private Finance Initiative brought in while John Major was Prime Minister and expanded under the Labour government, are cited as particular factors in sustaining this problem. Construction fraud alone has been put at an estimated £539 million per year. Weapons deals are also routinely subject to "commissions" to individuals representing the recipient country. The abandonment of a criminal investigation into the al-Yamamah arms deal with Saudi Arabia, in the dying months of the Blair government, are just one example of this high level corruption.
  • Private confidential banking - often used by global elites to hide ill-gotten funds - is believed to be worth as much as $17 trillion worldwide, and has been experiencing "phenomenal growth" in recent decades.

Following years of sustained pressure, The World Bank in 1998 established its own Sanctions Committee to investigate allegations of corruption by companies contracted by the World Bank.

The Bank’s current list of ineligible firms and individuals contains around thirty British companies that have been ‘debarred’ due to corrupt activities. The countries with the most banned companies are the UK and Indonesia.

These British-registered companies include Chase Berkeley Cavendish Ltd, Case Technology Ltd, Agricultural Development Services Ltd, Consultants for International Development PLC, Cybertek International Ltd, Drill Technologies and Co, Economic Consulting Group, Engineering Projects International, International Development Projects Services, and West End Associates.

"The people in the front-end of the evangelical churches know that if public resources are managed in a transparent and accountable manner, there is nothing stopping the world from achieving the MDGs by 2015. Some of the poorest countries in the world, like Rwanda, are well on their way to achieving specific MDGs simply because the leadership at the highest level has prioritized the fight against mismanagement of public funds and shown their zero tolerance to corruption by personal example." Salil Shetty

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