Ramallah – The Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (AMAN) announced the release of results of the Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) – Middle East and North Africa. Covering six Arab countries, including Palestine, the GCB survey results showed the views of respondents who used personal connections, or what is known in Arabic as “wasta”, to access public services.
According to the GCB results, in the previous 12 months, 17 percent of public service users paid a bribe in order to get a public service. While 39 percent of the respondents used wasta for public services, 12 percent were offered bribes in exchange for votes.
For the first time, the GCB asked citizens in Palestine about their experience with sexual extortion, or “sextortion”. This is a form of corruption, in which sex is the currency of the bribe. The result was shocking: 21 percent of the people surveyed experienced sextortion or knew someone who had when accessing a government service. This percentage requires urgent and thorough attention.
In other words, one in five citizens experienced sextortion when accessing public services, including health care, education, identity documents, the police, the courts, or utilities.
Released by Transparency International, the GCB results are largely consistent with AMAN’s Citizens Annual Opinion Poll on the Reality of Corruption and Anti-Corruption Efforts in Palestine. The opinion poll monitors public perceptions and awareness of the current context of, and fight against, corruption. A representative sample comprised 1,025 respondents in the West Bank, Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip. According to the poll results, 62 percent of the respondents believed that corruption increased in the previous 12 months. 51 percent of the surveyed citizens said that government performance in combating corruption was inadequate. While 45 percent of the citizens thought that the government anti-corruption performance was good, a marginal 5 percent said they didn’t know.
Of all the surveyed Arab countries, Palestine maintains the lowest rate of using personal connections, or wasta: 39 per cent of the respondents who accessed public services used wasta to receive the services they needed. By contrast, the wasta rate was as high as 54 percent Lebanon, followed by 25 percent in Jordan.
In Palestine, the bribery rate was 17 percent, as reflected by citizens who paid a bribe in exchange for public services, such as education and health care. The bribery rates registered 41 percent in Lebanon, 31 percent in Morocco, 24 percent in Sudan, 18 percent in Tunisia, and 4 percent in Jordan.
According to GCB results, the surveyed citizens expressed dissatisfaction with the level of democracy in their countries. 55 percent of the respondents across the Arab region were of the view that presidents and prime ministers were involved in corruption. Respondents also said that persons involved in corruption included members parliament (36 percent), government officials (47 percent), the police (36 percent), judges and magistrates (31 percent), NGOs (31 percent), and business executives (41 percent).
In spite of this bleak picture, the GCB survey refers to increased awareness among citizens of their capability of influence. Cries of alarm have been stepped up, calling for combatting corruption. 51 percent of the surveyed citizens believe that ordinary people can have a bearing on the fight against corruption. This percentage gives reason for hope to invest more in the anti-corruption effort. More channels will be used to promote electoral integrity and ensure fair and democratic elections. Personal connections, or wasta, will be eliminated and deterred. Judicial independence and separation of powers will be promoted. Gendered forms of corruption, like sextortion, will be criminalised. Transparency and the right of access to information will be consolidated. Civil society and the media, as a fourth estate, will play a more effective role in detecting and bringing corruption to an end.
The 2019 GCB – Middle East and North Africa, published by Transparency International, presents a comprehensive set of public opinion data on citizens’ views on corruption. It is based on fieldwork conducted between August 2018 and October 2019 in six Arab countries. More than 6,600 citizens were surveyed in Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Sudan, and Tunisia.