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Institutional Corruption in South Asia

Updated: Nov 30, 2022

In the world today, terms like "bribery," "fraud," and "corruption" are frequently seen or heard whenever someone switches on the radio or television, or when reading a newspaper for the latest news. Despite being a constant, there is not enough discussion or attention paid to these terms. Corruption is one of the world's most pressing issues today. Institutional corruption is one of the many different ways that corruption may happen. In the most basic words possible, institutional corruption may be summed up as "wrongdoings in organizations”.

As stated by Lawrence Lessig, Institutional corruption occurs when a legal or ethical influence operates consistently and systematically to impair an institution's capacity to carry out its mission or to divert it from its intended purpose. He claims that it can also erode public confidence in the institution or the institution's credibility. Institutional corruption exists all around the world, not just in impoverished or developing nations. When analyzing institutional corruption, South Asia is an ideal destination to explore.

South Asia is a region largely plagued by institutional corruption. Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh which are all six countries in the region have demonstrated or continue to demonstrate the prevalence of institutional corruption. While all six nations have public authorities tasked with combating corruption, no country has yet been able to eliminate corruption in institutions. Therefore, investigating how corruption arises in these organizations and how such concerns can be handled is a modern requirement.

In the South Asian region, national institutions connected to government, sports, and services are predominantly corrupt. The Kathmandu Post stated in August 2022 that Nepal's ranking on the latest Corruption Perception Index remained steady at 117th out of 180 countries and territories from 2020, as public view of the prevalence of corruption remained high. According to Transparency International Nepal, the Forum conducted surveys on corruption perception in the areas of export and import, public service, tax payment, (public) contracts, and judicial decisions. In Sri Lanka, the Risk & Compliance Portal, which is a free resource published by GAN Integrity, states that institutions such as the judicial system, public services, land administration, and tax administration are corrupt. According to the portal, the public procurement processes in the country are fraught with corruption. Public procurement is famously prone to bribery, making it difficult for investors to compete for government contracts.

Many countries in the region face a significant risk of judicial corruption. In Bangladesh, for example, only 10% of corruption cases result in conviction. The National Corruption Perception Survey conducted by Transparency International Pakistan in 2021 has revealed the most corrupt institutions in the country. According to the survey, the police and the judiciary are the two most corrupt institutions in Pakistan. In Sri Lanka, the judiciary is corrupt and manipulated as a result of political appointments at all levels, as well as intimidation and transfer of judges. There is a greater risk that disputes become politicized. The trial for forced abduction of journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda in 2010 was repeatedly postponed, owing in part to Covid-19 limitations. Suspects in the 2005 killing of Tamil Minister of Parliament Joseph Pararajasingham were acquitted, including members of a government-aligned political party, and the Attorney General's Office expressed no interest in reopening the inquiry. According to Amnesty International, a journalist named Freddy Gamage has been threatened and beaten by followers of a local politician after reporting on the politician's suspected corruption and ties to organized crime.

Journalist, Prageeth Ekneligoda

Furthermore, employees who refuse to bend to political pressure are frequently fired or transferred to new roles. Therefore it is obvious that having political power grants corruption impunity. Aside from political interference in judiciary and other institutions, civil service salaries have become a reason for countries to have institutional corruption. In general, civil sector salaries in the region are rather modest. According to a 2005 Transparency International survey, more than 62 percent of Indians have paid a bribe to a public official at some point in their life. Another 2008 research revealed that around half of Indians have firsthand experience paying bribes or leveraging contacts to obtain government services. That is how the government employee underpayment has evolved into a motivating factor for institutional corruption. Many of the laws in the region are ineffective in controlling the problem. Whistleblowing, which is the act of telling those in power or the general public that a certain institution is doing something unlawful, is an excellent way to enhance fair procedures in institutions. However, there is no official or legal protection for whistleblowers in Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Pakistan. People who reveal abuses of power face retaliation because whistleblower laws are inadequate in India, and ineffective in Bangladesh, This is despite the fact that all six nations examined in the paper have joined the UN Convention against Corruption, which expressly states that they would explore establishing whistleblower protection legislation.

Governments must make it straightforward for whistleblowers to make their revelations while also protecting them from those who would harm them. Spreading education can help reduce this problem to a large extent. People who engage in corrupt practices like accepting and offering bribes, using shady tactics to grow their enterprises, collecting black money, and getting advantages to which they are not legally entitled, must be made to bear the consequences of their actions through law. To plan sting operations and expose dishonest individuals in diverse industries, the government and the media should work together. Such undercover operations deter others from engaging in corrupt behavior in addition to exposing corrupt individuals. Individuals must be encouraged to follow the proper procedures rather than accepting bribes to get things done or avoid penalties. Regardless of how pervasive, corruption may be successfully eliminated with political resolve and public awareness.

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