Peace & Stability Journal Volume 7, Issue 1 - Page 12

What is Corruption? Transparency International, a global civil society organization leading the fight against corruption, defines corruption as “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.” 1 However, ISAF de- fines corruption as the abuse or misuse of positions of power for personal gain, 2 while the World Bank’s definition is “the abuse of public office for private gain.” 3 These definitions cover a wide range of activity, so it is important to understand the specific actions that might fall under this umbrella. Corruption can be separated into three categories – grand, systemic and petty. In order to grasp the methodology behind mitigating corruption, it is imperative to have a firm understanding of corruption itself. Corruption that occurs at the government level is often termed as institutionalized or systemic corruption. Institutional cor- ruption is widespread or systemic practices that undermine the integrity of an institution or public trust in an institution. 4 In such an environment, government leaders and private citizens who are connected at high political levels can maintain con- trol over resources and levers of power through their abuse of entrusted authority. 5 Corrupt governments often have a history of unqualified ap- pointees, poor judicial processes, suspect policing practices, and inconsistent application of laws and taxation, all leading to ille- gitimacy of the government. 6 Corruption is the manipulation of policies, institutions and rules of procedure in the allocation of resources and financing by political decision makers in order to sustain personal power, status, and wealth. 7 Government of- ficials leverage their positions, regulations and connections for profit by diverting revenue, purchasing positions, colluding in narcotics trafficking, and taking kickbacks. These acts can have lasting effects on political structures and the system’s overall le- gitimacy, resulting in the manipulation of policies, institutions, rules of procedure and financial planning. Grand corruption occurs when senior public officials in the gov- ernment accrue massive personal wealth through unprincipled and illicit means. Grand corruption is committed at high levels of government, where leaders are able to distort policies for personal gain. It can take the form of bribe payments, kickbacks, embezzlement, and theft of state assets. Directing a lucrative government contract to a favored company is a form of grand corruption, often referred to as political corruption. 8 Grand corruption prevents the state from functioning with the pure intent of serving the public good, and it creates a distrust of government officials among the people. Petty corruption deals with corruption that occurs quite frequently between low and mid-level government officials. 10 Often seen as a bribe, petty corruption can be accepting a small payment for a service that should be free. 9 For example, paying a customs official to let you across the border, or paying off a local law enforcement officer to avoid prosecution for a minor offense. Petty corruption is not normally viewed as harmful, but can create an obstacle to receiving basic public goods and services. Efforts to Combat Corruption – Anti v. Counter In order to build a stable political system, it is imperative to both root out the weeds of corruption, and to ensure that the political system is not easily susceptible to future illicit compro- mises. The first step in the fight against corruption is to under- stand the cultural or regional perceived definition of an accept- able level of corruption, as opposed to those corrupt activities which are deemed prosecutorial. In Afghanistan for example, there is a widespread distrust of the central government, which is often blamed for systemic corruption. Afghan National Secu- rity Advisor Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta said “corruption is not just a problem for the system of governance in Afghanistan; it is the system of governance.” 10 The average Afghan, except when it involves government officials or those outside of the local area, sees petty corruption as pervasive, accepted, and arguably even encouraged. 11 This effort to understand how corruption is defined and the distinct political situation within a country can be seen as an- ti-corruption. Anti-corruption is a defensive action to develop leaders, organizations and institutions that operate to serve the people and resist corruption. It involves building trust and le- gitimacy among the people, creating an airtight political system that both makes it difficult for corruption to take place and es- tablishes a system of review and accountability to deter corrupt activities. The U.S. Department of State made anti-corruption a national security priority and works across the globe to prevent graft, promote accountability, and empower reformers. 12 On the other hand, counter-corruption can be seen as taking offensive action against corruption. It involves identifying those involved in corrupt activities, and attempting to change their behavior or remove them from positions of power. Corruption can be combatted and neutralized by ensuring the transparency of financial processes, following leads on potentially corrupt political fig \\[ݚY[H\Z[[ݙ\BY[ٙXX[Y[YH[\ܝ[X]X]]Y\ˈ]\H]X[\[H܈ܙ[^][ۈ[[X[ܜ\XX\][H[YKYXYXܘ[\\H[]]Y][\\^H[\[KX[X[]H[[\\ܝ[ˈ][]Hۙ\\[KXܜ\[ۈXX\[XK]]X\\[XHۜ[H]Y][[YHZ][