Corruption fuels multiple global challenges

| 20/03/2014

(CNS): Corruption is a significant contributing factor to world crisis of all kinds from inequity to war, the chair of transparency international told the UCCI conference audience on Wednesday. Delivering the keynote address at the opening of the ethics conference, broadcast around the world on-line, chair Dr Huguette Labelle, said the event would provide a forum to take stock of the underlying reasons why no country is immune from corruption and why leaders, managers and those who deliver public service need to work on a strong set of ethical values to beat it. She said corruption takes a toll on all societies and is behind many challenges from extreme poverty to maintaining stability.

Labelle noted there was no difference for the victims of corruption from countries and corporations that lose billions of dollars to those who have to pay small bribes to get access to essential services. There was nothing petty she said, for someone earning $600 per annum in the developing world to pay 40% of that in bribes for basic services.

Even for wealthier countries corruption undermines business and more and more corporations are reporting their avoidance of, and departure from, countries where corruption is commonplace. Labelle also noted that corruption often fuels the illicit trade in drugs and guns that come back to bite the source countries in the form of violent crime.

Keenly, aware of her audience Labelle seemed to hesitate when she spoke about global tax evasion but she pointed to the trend in automatic exchange as a step in the right direction when she cited the tax justice network statistics that some $3trillion dollars has been lost in tax evasion and avoidance hidden offshore. With the development of technology she said it was easier and easier for people to move, hide and make money disappear. She also warned that the increasing sophistication of the corrupt and the wealth accumulated allows them to become more powerful than governments and infiltrate state institutions from the judiciary to parliaments.

However, Labelle said the future could be different if people fought back as she pointed to myriad ways to combat corruption. “We can have a different future,” the Transparency international boss said. “It is possible to deal with it as the people don't want their institutions being complicity in corruption people want open free safe just countries,” she said.

Not surprisingly given her role she said transparency was one the most important tools as she spoke about the need for freedom of information. Dr Labelle said the information held by public officials is not theirs alone but it belongs to the people they are merely custodians who should not make people beg on their knees for the information.

Leadership, too she said mattered a great deal both in the public and private arenas and it was important those at the top don’t look the other way. The rule of law is critical she said in combatting corruption which meant an independent well-resourced judiciary which treated all people treated in a fair and open way.

Moving to a topical issue for Cayman at present she noted the need for politicians to disclose all of their assets and interests as well as those of their immediate family members. Labelle also called for full transparency on political funding. Addressing some more innovative ideas about combatting political corruption and real transparency she spoke about the need to disclose those who have input in and who lobby for policy and legislative change.

In the public sector she said to have trust in those who deliver services and enforce regulations on a day to day basis, promotion in the civil service had to be on merit only. She said people lose faith when codes of ethics are just on paper they need to be seen to be guiding the work of the public sector, members of which should also be disclosing their assets.

And with 50% of most government budgets going on procurement this was where the focus had to be. She pointed to a system in In Brazil where now at midnight every day the government posts on line how much it collected in revenue and how much it spent. Although she said it sounds difficult once the system was established officials there say it has been easy to keep up offering a truly transparent view of public finances. She said e- procurement was a way for people to clearly see if there was something questionable about a tender or an award.

Noting that the private sector had a part to play too she said it takes two to tango but sometimes three to bribe. While some still think bribery is the way to do business more and more commercial entities are recognizing the folly and realize that it is getting harder to hide bribes.

Educating tomorrow’s leaders today she said was critical to the goal of a corruption free world in the future.  From primary to Phd she said students must be taught ethical and moral principles so they will become leaders who will turn their back on corruption.

For further information on the conference go to


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  1. Ask the experts? says:

    There are simple solutions. Technology can aid transparency. It is a matter of putting your ethics where your mouth is Cayman.  We all know our career politicians have feathered their nests.  When is enough enough? Start from today to go straight and honest – one day at a time and no more back room crony deals.  This is a mindset change for our country.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Corruption mostly is the source of the discontent among Ukrainians that bought down the previous administration. The corruption there was horrible and has been for years. It was also blatant. Eventually people got sick of it, this was not just about EU, but also a statement on that corruption. Eventually Putin's regime will crash for the same reason, his people will rise against him (soon I hope).

    It is not quite as bad here as it is there, however it seems to be heading that way. Maybe some people here could wake up and smell the coffee, see where it all leads. No-one is immune forever.