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Tuesday
May272014

In South Asia, graft and weak pols create downward spiral

A report just released by Transparency International says corruption is on the rise in South Asia and failing to tackle it will threaten the region's economic progress by deepening poverty and scaring off investors.

"Fighting Corruption in South Asia: Building Accountability" draws on research about anti-corruption efforts in Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

The report highlights some of the challenges these nations share and offers a set of priorities that they must address so recent anti-corruption rhetoric can be channeled into action.

Key findings include:

  • Citizens find themselves unable to access key information on how their governments are performing so they can hold them accountable.
  • The lack of meaningful protection for whistleblowers means that the chances of detecting wrongdoing by those in positions of power are slim.
  • Widespread political interference in the critical work of anti-corruption agencies and the judiciary makes them ineffective in keeping a check on government.

The research showed that even when these nations' anti-corruption laws were compatible with international standards, they were often not effectively or consistently enforced, leading to crimes not being impartially investigated or punished.

In addition, there's almost no legal protection for whistleblowers in the region and abuse by those in power goes unreported.

Even the most vital watchdogs -- the judiciary and anti-corruption agencies -- are unable to keep a check on government abuse in South Asia. Evidence of political interference, such as the government controlling appointments, removals and transfers, compromise the integrity of the oversight bodies.

TI said a strong government push to enact change will be essential. But those outside government need to push hard.

"It is critical that non-state actors, including civil society, the media and political parties, play an active role in building a strong culture of accountability throughout society," the report said.

The report can be downloaded in pdf here.

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Julie DiMauro is the executive editor of FCPA Blog and can be reached here.