14 Feb 2011

Clash of Views on Integrity Today

Many arrests for corruption these days, but also a lot of confusion. Yesterday we were congratulating Croatia on sentencing a former minister for misuse of public money. Today, we are wondering whether there is something fundamentally wrong with integrity standards and the political costs attached to their breach. On Sunday, December 5, President Karzai was making a pledge to fight corruption in Afghanistan. His pledge to reduce corruption, as conditioned most recently by both the US President and the Canadian PM, ended with an attack on the capacity of the Afghan judicial system to deal with cases of corruption by casting doubts on the 4 years jail sentence given to the former Kabul mayor, Mr Abdul Ahad Sayebi. Mr Karzai was positive that no political cost would be incurred for his support towards a convicted criminal. No one can argue that it is easy to build states, much less to build them on solid institutions that have the proper accountability links. However, sabotaging what seems to be working makes sense only when you know that you own the monopoly on the integrity market you claim to be creating.

Today Russian prosecutors arrested a high rank official in the Ministry of Defense on charges of extortion and bribery. Mr Sergei Yemelin was caught receiving a 144,000 USD bribe in exchange for a construction permit. Why is the Ministry of Defense releasing construction permits? That is for the Russian administration to decide. Meanwhile, Mr Yemelin is pending a trial on corruption charges, and Mr Medvedev has not yet shown his support for Mr Yemelin’s innocence.

Also today, Mr Assange, the man behind the nowadays infamous wikileaks.org, was arrested in London. It is rather uncertain whether with Mr Assange judged and convicted we will ever know the truth about the alleged 10mil USD bribe offered by the former (possibly future as well) President of Moldova – Mr Vladimir Voronin – to one of the leaders of the opposition parties – Mr Marian Lupu – in exchange for the Parliament seats that would have assured his re-election in 2009. The cables from Moldova were released in the day immediately after the 2010 elections for the Moldovan Parliament. With or without the bribe, it might not even matter after all, since offering such a bribe means that Mr Voronin ownes the 10mil USD, which, of course, makes him a very powerful man. The kind any citizen of any democratic country would like to see holding public office, isn’t it? Bottom line, no political costs in this case either.

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*Disclaimer: This article presents the views of the author and it is not the official position of the institutions supporting this project.

**photo by Fabiano de Andrade Correa