One in three people in the Pacific Islands region have paid a bribe while using a utility in the past year, while a quarter of people have been offered a bribe for their vote in the past five years, according to a report by Transparency International.
The watch group’s findings are based on a survey of more than 6,000 people in 10 countries and territories, and constitute the most comprehensive analysis ever on corruption in the region.
Kiribati, Papua New Guinea and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) lead the list for both the percentage of people who paid a bribe and the percentage of people who received a bribe. de-vin for their vote. The report notes that 15% of those polled said they had also received threats of retaliation if they did not vote in a specific way.
“What we can now see is that corruption is worse in the Pacific region than in any other region in the world,” said Mariam Mathew, Pacific regional manager at Transparency International. “It is certainly very alarming.”
The most common public services for which people paid bribes were healthcare and education. Others include government offices issuing documents, water, sanitation or electricity service providers, police and courts.
The report also notes that over 40% of those polled believe that sexual extortion occurs at least occasionally, with 38% in the region stating that they or someone they know has experienced sexual extortion – the act of demanding sexual favors in return for official services – within the past five years.
While New Caledonia and French Polynesia, two French overseas territories, fared better in whether people paid a bribe or received a bribe for their vote, they did lower on other issues, particularly sexual extortion.
The highest rate of sexual extortion was recorded in French Polynesia, where 92% of respondents said they had experienced this form of corruption themselves or knew someone who had been the victim of it, followed by New Zealand. Caledonia (76%) and Papua New Guinea (51%).
French Polynesia also ranked worst in nepotism, with 84% of those polled believing that civil servants generally influence a hiring decision in their department to favor a friend or family member. More than half of those polled in New Caledonia say they have used personal relationships in the public service in the past 12 months.
Dr Henry Ivarature, a PNG corruption expert and Pacific lecturer at Australian National University, said the report’s findings are not surprising.
“Petty corruption, like paying public officials for services, is very common, if you want to avoid a fine or get, for example, a passport, police clearance or land titles processed quickly,” he said. he declares.
In Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, 97% and 96% respectively think corruption in government is a big problem.
The report notes that people see businesses as an important part of the problem, with government contracts seen as a hotspot for corruption. Almost half of those polled believe that there is little control over companies involved in the extraction of natural resources, many of which are owned by foreigners.
“We have seen many allegations of opaque deals being made. A lot of these companies are foreign mining companies so we asked the question in the survey as to whether companies have influence in government decision making and the response has been quite high, ”said Mathew.
“Solomon Islands has consistently been the worst performer on a number of these business-related issues, such as securing government contracts where over 90% of those surveyed said businesses at least occasionally relied on connections or offered money to get these contracts. “
The Pacific is one of the least studied regions in the world on corruption, said Mathew that this report offers an opportunity to improve anti-corruption safeguards, adding that people’s attitudes reflect a willingness to do so.
“People think governments are doing a good job of dealing with corruption, which may seem strange at first,” she said. “But then, when you look closely, it could be that governments have actually started to reform. There is a lot of potential to take advantage of this positive dynamic.
In 2020, the President of Kiribati, the Prime Ministers of Samoa and the Cook Islands, and anti-corruption ministers and officials from other Pacific countries attended the first Pacific Regional Anti-Corruption Conference, which took place is held in Kiribati, where they agreed on a vision to fight corruption. Corruption.