| The Guardian | Extracts
SYDNEY - One in three people across Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands region paid a bribe when using a public service in the last year, according to a report by Transparency International.
And one in four people have been offered a bribe for their vote in the last five years.
The findings - based on a survey of more than 6,000 people in 10 countries and territories - are the most comprehensive look at corruption ever carried out in the region.
Kiribati, Papua New Guinea and the Federates States of Micronesia top the list for both percentage of people who have paid a bribe and percentage of people who have been offered a bribe for their vote.
The report notes that 15% of people surveyed said they had also received threats of retaliation if they did not vote a specific way.
“What we can now see is that bribery is worse in the Pacific region than any other region in the world,” said Mariam Mathew, Pacific regional lead at Transparency International. “It’s certainly very alarming.”
The most common public services people paid bribes for were health care and education.
Others include government offices issuing documents, providers of water, sanitation or electric services, the police and the courts.
The report notes that 38% of respondents said they or someone they know had experienced sexual extortion – the act of demanding sexual favours in exchange for official services - in the last five years.
The highest rate of sexual extortion was reported in French Polynesia, where 92% of respondents said they have experienced this form of corruption or know someone who has, followed by New Caledonia (76%) and Papua New Guinea (51%).
French Polynesia also ranked worst on nepotism, with 84% of respondents believing that public servants commonly influence a hiring decision in their departments to favour a friend or family member.
Dr Henry Ivarature, a corruption expert from PNG and a Pacific lecturer at the Australian National University, said the report’s findings are not surprising.
“Petty corruption like paying for public officials for services is very common, if you want to escape a fine or get say passport, police clearance or land titles processed quickly,” he said.
In Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, 97% and 96% respectively believe that corruption in the government is a big problem.
The report notes that people view businesses as a major part of the problem, with government contracts considered a hotspot for corruption.
Almost half of those surveyed believe there is little control over companies involved in extracting natural resources, many of which are foreign owned.