17 June 2011

Britain is much more corrupt than generally recognised, and the agencies intended to counter this trend are being weakened by the government. That is the view of Transparency International published yesterday.  TI claims that there is a complacency about this threat of corruption.  Problems in prisons, parliament, political parties and sport are made worse by a culture of impunity. The prison service has a “significant problem” with staff smuggling contraband for inmates. Unethical conduct by politicians is illustrated by scandals about MP expenses and lobbying at a “worrying” level.  “Some of (Britain’s) most trusted institutions are vulnerable, and there are inadequate procedures to detect and prevent corruption”.

In marked contrast, the World Justice Project survey also published this week reports that UK is among the European leaders.  It finds corruption is minimal, rates the openness of its government as 4th best in the world, considers the UK to be the 5th most effective in regulatory enforcement, and assesses government accountability as 7th best.  So has something gone wrong with TI’s methodology?

TI has always rated New Zealand in the top 5 places on the Corruption Perceptions Index.  But its 2010 interviews with nearly 1300 New Zealanders had some surprising findings. It found that 3.6% of New Zealanders reported that they, or a member of their household, had paid a bribe in the previous 12 months.  This seems far off the mark.  Is this also the case in the British assessment?