Falsely accused or truly guilty?

Transparency International (TI) is an international non-governmental organization that is based in Berlin, Germany. Founded in 1993, TI publishes the annual “Corruption Perceptions Index”, ranking countries “by their perceived levels of corruption, as determined by expert assessments and opinion surveys”.

Trying to understand a topic through “perceptions” is a tricky business. Do opinions actually and accurately reflect reality? Going by the 2016 Corruption Index, 85 percent of humans live under a corrupt government.

But then again, looking at the newspaper headlines, Israel’s Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu is facing multiple police investigations for corruption. South African president, Jacob Zuma, narrowly survived a motion of no confidence in parliament, after months of growing anger over allegations of corruption.

The list and the headlines go on and on. “Corruption Is Holding Back Democracy and Prosperity in Ethiopia”. “The federal corruption trial of US Sen. Bob Menendez will begin as scheduled next month”. Ethiopia Arrests State Minister for Finance on Suspicion of Corruption”. “Man Who Advised Michelle Obama on School Lunches Arrested For Defrauding Lunch Program”.

On a scale of zero to 100—with any score below 50 being “Mostly Corrupt”—the corruption index rates 176 countries. The global average score is a dismal 43, indicating rampant corruption in a country’s public sector.

In 2016, at the top, Denmark and New Zealand both scored 90. The US (74) and Japan (72) were scored “Less Corrupt” than most. Italy and Saudi Arabia were “average” at 47 and 46, respectively. Indonesia (37), the Philippines (36), Thailand (35) and Vietnam (33) are all considered generally corrupt. With the exception of Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, stay out of the Middle East and Africa if you are looking for anything resembling an honest government.

In case you were wondering, based on the report, corruption in the Philippines is virtually unchanged since 2011. This situation must be stopped.

US President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “When they call the roll in the Senate, the senators do not know whether to answer present or not guilty.” We cannot expect politicians to take the lead in exposing and ending government corruption. The political and government process itself requires “going along to get along”, even for the honest elected and appointed public servants.

The only way to stop corruption is the sunlight of transparency and that must begin before—not after—the elections and appointments to office. Public officials do not have the right to privacy when the public good is at stake.

When a man or woman decides to enter government service, bank-secrecy laws must be waived. Tax returns must be opened. A Statement of Assets and Liabilities must be verified. Of course, these are extreme measures—they are meant to be. The correlation between government corruption and unequal distribution of power in society, wealth and income inequality and bad government services is undeniable.

No longer can we, the people, rely on trusting government officials to do the right thing. We must take the initiative and take the power to bring good government back into our own hands. There should never be again a situation where traditional politics makes the decision if a man or woman is falsely accused or truly guilty. The facts must be exposed to speak for themselves.