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Transparency: One in four pays bribes

A new report by Transparency International shows people believe corruption has increased over the last three years, with the political arena seen as most corrupt. One in four respondents admitted paying a bribe.

100 euros being slipped into a pocket

One quarter of respondents paid a bribe in the last year

Corruption appears to be on the rise worldwide, according to the latest report released by Transparency International.

The increase was most evident in Europe, where 73 percent of people polled believed corruption had risen over the last three years. North America wasn't far behind - 67 percent of people there thought corruption was now more widespread.

The findings are outlined in Transparency International's (TI) 2010 Global Corruption Barometer, a public opinion survey released by the Berlin-based organization on Thursday to coincide with the United Nations' International Anti-Corruption Day.

Six out of 10 people surveyed around the world said corruption had increased in the last three years, with one in four people reporting that they had paid bribes in the last year.

EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmstroem, said in an interview with German daily Die Welt that Europe would increase its efforts to combat corruption.

"The measures taken so far by the EU have not yet led to any conclusive results," she said.

Political, public sectors viewed negatively

Two police officers shown from the back on the street

Police were named as the most common recipients of bribes

Globally, the political and public sectors were seen as most corrupt, with nearly 80 percent of respondents believing political parties were affected. Public officials came in second, at 62 percent.

However, the survey found that seven out of 10 people would report an incident of corruption if they saw one, though that number dropped to about half if they themselves were the victim.

"The fallout of the financial crises continues to affect people's opinions of corruption, particularly in Europe and North America," Huguette Labelle, chair of Transparency International, said in a press release.

"The message from the [report] is that corruption is insidious," said Labelle. "It makes people lose faith."

Bribes to police have almost doubled

The report showed that in the past year, 25 percent of those surveyed worldwide had paid a bribe to one of nine institutions and services, with the police named as the most common recipient of these bribes.

Bribes paid to the police have almost doubled since 2006, according to the survey. Other institutions high on the list of bribe takers included the health and education sectors, and tax authorities.

Bribery was most common in sub-Saharan Africa, where more than half of people surveyed said they had paid a bribe in the last year, followed by the Middle East and North Africa at 36 percent.

This compared to 32 percent in the former Soviet republics, 23 percent in South America, 19 percent in the Balkans and Turkey and 11 percent in the Asia-Pacific region

By contrast, that number stood at just 5 percent in the European Union and North America.

A young Chinese boy eats rice from a bowl

Corruption disproportionally affects the poor

Poor, young most affected

The report also noted that bribery and corruption continues to disproportionally affect the poor and the young, with lower income earners twice as likely to pay bribes for basic services like utilities, education and medical services.

"Better whistle-blower protection and greater access to information are crucial," said Labelle. "Public engagement in the fight against corruption will force those in authority to act, and will give people further courage to speak out and stand up for a cleaner, more transparent world."

The annual report, now in its seventh year, surveyed more than 91,000 people in 86 countries, including for the first time China, Bangladesh and the Palestinian territories. Polling, mostly by the Gallup Institute, was carried out between June 1 and September 30.

Author: Martin Kuebler
Editor: Rob Turner

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