Corruption is a Disease

Corruption cripples an organization’s capability to function properly. Like a virus in the body it takes over and strips away equilibrium. Luckily, there are people attempting to end corruption in Ukraine. The head of the National Council for Anti-Corruption Policy, Mustafa Dzhemilev , recently stated, “We will persistently struggle to purify Ukraine from a terrible disease – corruption.”

In the past nine months I have met many Ukrainians who are changing their system for the better. But, these people feel discouraged, because history has told them, corruption is too rooted in Ukraine’s system. It is fair to say they are correct if you compare corruption figures from Ukraine to other countries. However, there are ways Ukrainians can monitor change and identify productive ways to fix a system which drastically favors corrupt practices.

Since 1993, Transparency International has worked around the world to stop corruption. They’ve fought to put in place binding global conventions against corruption. They’ve held governments and companies to account, exposing the corrupt and dodgy deals (saving more than $2 billion in the Czech Republic alone). They’ve helped hundreds of thousands of people take a stand.

They put corruption on the map with the first-ever Corruption Perceptions Index in 1995. The go-to reference point for decision-makers, companies and journalists, the index makes it impossible for leaders to ignore the problem.

The index ranks countries based on how corrupt a country’s public sector is perceived to be. It is a composite index, drawing on corruption-related data from expert and businesse surveys carried out by a variety of independent and reputable institutions. Scores range
from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). In 2015 Ukraine received a score of 27 out of 100 and ranked 130th out of 168 countries. Whereas, the United States received a score of 76 out of 100 and ranked 16th.

In a 2010 public opinion survey from Transparency International, 34 percent of Ukrainian citizens reported paying a bribe. In comparison, Americas reported, only 5 percent paid a bribe in the same year. In this survey Ukraine’s bribery rate was nearly 7 times higher than in the US. What is the core cause for this variance? And, where can we start to fix a broken system?

The first step is effective law enforcement. It is essential to ensure the corrupt are punished and break the cycle of impunity, or freedom from punishment or loss.  Successful enforcement approaches are supported by a strong legal framework, law enforcement branches and an independent and effective court system.

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Next, Ukraine needs reforms focusing on improving financial management and strengthening the role of auditing agencies. One such reform is the disclosure of budget information, which prevents waste and misappropriation of resources.

Countries successful at curbing corruption also have a long tradition of government openness, freedom of the press, transparency and access to information. Recent reforms have increased Ukrainian citizen’s confidence. Many youth I speak with are optimistic that overtime their country can adhere to the criterion above. After which; exploitation, fraud, and bribery will be a thing of the past.

Major overhaul of the institutional framework in the anti-corruption policy sphere was carried out in October 2014. Two new institutions were established – the National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption and the National Council for Anti-Corruption Policy as an advisory body under the President.

However, the National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption’s (NAPC) conception has been shrouded in dissonance. Many citizens believe that the appointment of Roman Hreba, the person who was authorized by the Government to form NAPC, became the reason why there is a lack of trust to the process of the Agency’s launch not only within the society, but even within members of the agency itself due to claims of corruption in the planning process.

In comparison, the aforementioned Mustafa Dzhemilev informed journalists on the tasks of the newly established National Council for Anti-Corruption Policy and details of the first session of the Council headed by the President of Ukraine. He underlined the importance of studying the best anti-corruption practices of international organizations and European countries and elaboration of recommendations for their implementation in Ukraine. Dzhemilev also emphasized:

l “Everything will be fair and open: if we face the resistance, no matter at which level, we will inform society on that. We intend to persistently struggle to purify Ukraine from this terrible disease. We cannot count on being in the EU in case we fail to eliminate corruption”.

It is impossible to know exactly where the future may lead. As of now, corruption is a daily activity businessmen and woman must endure. In astonishment, I have listened to their stories and wish there was more that could be done. But, there is an extent to which external sources can change an organism’s functionality. It is ultimately up to the internal forces to finalize positive transformation.

 

*These are the thoughts of Richard J. Roman and are in no way connected to the Peace Corps or its affiliates.

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