U.N.: 50.1 Percent of Afghans Bribed a Government Official in 2012

By Elizabeth Harrington | February 25, 2013 | 4:56pm EST

Afghan President Hamid Karzai addesses military officers in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Ahmad Jamshid)

(CNSNews.com) – Half of Afghan citizens paid a bribe to government officials in 2012, and the practice is becoming “an acceptable part of day-to-day life,” according to a United Nations report.

The study, “Corruption in Afghanistan: Recent Patterns and Trends,” released by the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on Feb. 7, shows that bribery is having a significant impact on the nation’s economy.

“In 2012, half of Afghan citizens paid a bribe while requesting a public service and the total cost of bribes paid to public officials amounted to US $3.9 billion,” the report states.  “This corresponds to an increase of 40 per cent in real terms between 2009 and 2012.”

The UN found that the prevalence of bribery in Afghanistan in 2012 was 50.1 percent, based on the number of Afghan citizens who gave money, a gift or a favor to a public official on at least one occasion over the course of the year.

“In most cases bribes are paid in order to obtain better or faster services, while in others bribes are offered to influence deliberations and actions such as police activities and judicial decisions, thereby eroding the rule of law and trust in institutions,” the report states. “For example, 24 per cent of cases in which bribes were offered to the police were related to the release of imprisoned suspects or to avoid imprisonment.”

The average cost of bribes in Afghanistan is US $214, and in 85 percent of the cases is solicited by the government official.

Yet the UN says some “tangible progress” has been made to reduce corruption in recent years, since 50 percent of Afghans paying bribes in 2012 is down from 59 percent in 2009. Also, the percentage of citizens paying bribes to police officers is down to 42 percent in 2012, as opposed to 52 percent in 2009.

“However, worrying trends have also emerged in the past three years: the frequency of bribery has increased from 4.7 bribes to 5.6 bribes per bribe-payer,” the report states. “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.”

Teachers even receive bribes for improving exam results of their students or providing information about the contents of exams.

The survey results also indicate a “growing tolerance of corruption in Afghanistan, which is quite alarming,” with two-thirds of the population considering the receipt of minor gifts by civil servants “acceptable.”

“While corruption is seen by Afghans as one of the most urgent challenges facing their country, it seems to be increasingly embedded in social practices, with patronage and bribery being an acceptable part of day-to-day life,” the report explains. “For example, 68 percent of citizens 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 percent of citizens 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),” the report said.

In addition to public workers, nearly 30 percent of Afghan citizens also paid bribes to non-government officials, totaling an estimated $600 million last year.

The UN based its findings on a general population survey, which interviewed 6,700 Afghan citizens over the age of 18.

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