Perception or not, corruption isn’t limited to Third World

corruption index

Transparency International, a German-based organization, recently released its world Corruption Perceptions Index for 2015.

Not surprisingly, North Korea, Somalia, Afghanistan and Sudan ranked near the bottom of the index, which measures widespread corruption in the public sphere, and also factors in instances of abuses of power, secret dealings, bribery, child labor, human trafficking, environmental destruction and terrorism, among other things.

Transparency International found that corruption was rife in 68 percent of the world’s countries: It would be interesting to see a similar index for US states.

If the actual machinations that go on with misuse of tax dollars, corporate incentives and lawmaker ethics, among many other things, weren’t both so well cloaked by those in power and so often overlooked by US citizens, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a number of states ranked somewhere around the nations of Eastern Europe in terms of corruption.

The difference between the US and other parts of the world isn’t a lack of corruption, it’s that our elected officials are better at hiding it, aren’t quite so ostentatious in showing off their ill-gotten booty and generally don’t kill those who threaten to expose them.

I’d imagine the same is the case in other so-called “first-world” nations such as Canada, the UK and France. Even highly ranked countries such as Denmark (No. 1), Finland (No. 2) and Sweden (No. 3), have problems.

They just have fewer issues than lower-ranked countries and their corruption occurs in a more “white collar” manner – say spanking new roads and public buildings in friends’ areas in exchange for laundered kickbacks along with incredibly generous government pensions, as opposed to naked looting of the government coffers and outright execution of opponents.

Like most things in life, it’s all in how you play the game.

(Top: Transparency International’s 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index. The darker the country the more corrupt the public sector; the lighter the less corrupt. Greenland, Antarctica and Western Sahara seem pretty safe.)

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Haley backers continue to suspend disbelief

Most political scientists agree a few things are necessary for a democratic form of government to thrive, including honest elected officials, an informed and engaged citizenry, and a vigorous, aggressive and scrupulous media.

Lately, the latter has been coming to life in South Carolina, but it’s clear from a reading of that media that the former two are in short supply.

One need go no further for an example than Sunday’s story in The State newspaper that detailed an office policy under Gov. Nikki Haley in which “only emails between the governor and the public are being saved and archived permanently.”

Other emails that Haley sends or receives — including exchanges with her staff members — are deleted.

At least two of South Carolina best-known media law attorneys say the policy violates the state’s open-records law, meant to ensure the public has access to government records. Because emails are being deleted, they are not available for the public to review.

Haley was elected governor in 2010 in part on a platform of conducting an open administration, its workings transparent to the public.

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Bill would give needed boost to SC FOIA law

The S.C. General Assembly isn’t generally known for being a fan of genuine transparency, particularly the type that makes their actions more accessible to the media and public.

But a pair of Aiken County representatives deserve plaudits for introducing a bill that would both strengthen and streamline the state’s Freedom of Information Act law.

H. 3235, co-sponsored by Reps. Bill Taylor and Tom Young, would amend S.C.’s Freedom of Information Act to require immediate compliance regarding information requests if the information is designated “public,” and would require all requests be fulfilled within 30 days of the date of the request.

It would also amend the law to limit financial charges for copies of public documents “to current fair market rates or the lowest possible rates, if not free,” according to a recent article on the investigative news website The Nerve, for whom I work.

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