• UN: Corruption cost rises to $3.9 billion

UN: Corruption cost rises to $3.9 billion

11 February 2013

The United Nations says that fewer people reported paying bribes in Afghanistan in 2012, but the total cost of corruption has increased significantly.

The latest survey from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said that in 2012, 50% of Afghan citizens paid a bribe to a public official, down from 59 per cent in 2009.

However, the report adds that both the frequency and average cost of bribes have increased.  The total cost of corruption, it said, had risen by 40 per cent over the past three years to reach $3.9 billion. 

According to the UNODC Regional Representative, Jean Luc Lemahieu, “The bribes that Afghan citizens paid in 2012 equals double Afghanistan’s domestic revenue".

Nearly 30 per cent of Afghans paid a bribe for a private sector service in 2012.

The UN adds; "While corruption is seen by most Afghans as one of the most urgent challenges facing their country, it seems to be increasingly embedded in social practices, with patronage and bribery being an acceptable part of day-to-day life."

The survey found that 68 per cent of interviewees considered it acceptable for a civil servant to top up a low salary by accepting small bribes for services, compared to 42 per cent who found it acceptable in 2009. 

In most cases, the report says, bribes are paid  "to obtain better or faster services".  In others, they are offered "to influence deliberations and actions such as police activities and judicial decisions, thereby eroding the rule of law and trust in institutions".

The survey highlights the education sector as being particularly prone to corruption. The percentage of those paying a bribe to a teacher rose from 16 per cent in 2009 to 51 per cent in 2012.

According to Mr Lemahieu, “Afghans know that corruption is eating at the fabric of their society.  The solution is not only to be found within the Government but also within the wider community”.

The UN survey was produced jointly with Afghanistan’s High Office for Oversight and Anti-corruption (HOO).

Sources: UN Office on Drugs and Crime, and UN News Centre websites