Corruption continues to plague Afghanistan, according to a new report from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Half of Afghan citizens paid a bribe last year while requesting a public service and the total cost of bribes paid to public officials amounted to US$ 3.9 billion - an increase of 40 per cent in real terms between 2009 and 2012, while the ratio of bribery cost to GDP remained relatively constant (23 per cent in 2009; 20 per cent in 2012).
Corruption is also seen by most Afghans as one of the most urgent challenges facing their country and yet seems to be increasingly embedded in social practices, with patronage and bribery being an acceptable part of day-to-day life. Thus 68 per cent of those interviewed in 2012 considered it acceptable for a civil servant to top up a low salary by accepting small bribes from service users (as opposed to 42 per cent in 2009). Similarly, 67 per cent considered it sometimes acceptable for a civil servant to be recruited on the basis of family ties and friendship networks (up from 42 per cent in 2009).
Afghanistan has made a little progress in reducing the level of corruption within the public sector. While 59 per cent of the adult population had to pay at least one bribe to a public official in 2009, 50 per cent had to do so in 2012, and whereas 52 per cent of the population paid a bribe to a police officer in 2009, 42 per cent did so in 2012.
But worrying trends have also emerged: the frequency of bribery has increased from 4.7 bribes to 5.6 bribes per bribe-payer with the average cost of a bribe rising from US$158 to US$214. Education has emerged as one of the sectors most vulnerable to corruption, with the percentage of those paying a bribe to a teacher jumping from 16 per cent in 2009 to 51 per cent in 2012. In general, there has been no major change in the level of corruption observed in the judiciary, customs service and local authorities, which remained high in 2012, as in 2009.
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