UN: Cost of bribes paid by Afghans spiked in 2012

Updated 08 February 2013
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UN: Cost of bribes paid by Afghans spiked in 2012

KABUL: The cost of corruption in Afghanistan rose sharply last year to $3.9 billion, and half of all Afghans bribed public officials for services, the UN said yesterday. The findings came despite repeated promises by President Hamid Karzai to clean up his government.
The international community has long expressed concern about the problem of corruption in Afghanistan because it reduces confidence in the Western-backed government.
Donor nations also fear aid money could be diverted by corrupt officials or mismanaged. Karzai ordered his ministries, prosecutors and judiciary to fight bribery, nepotism and cronyism with a series of measures in July.
But a survey by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and Afghanistan’s anti-corruption unit showed slight improvement in curbing the common practice of paying bribes for public services in the country.
“Corruption means you don’t get the best in the public sector, you get the best connected or those with the higher income,” UN envoy Jean-Luc Lemahieu said at a news conference.
Fifty percent of the adult population had to pay at least one bribe to a public official in 2012, a 9 percent drop from 2009, according to the findings, which were based on interviews last year with 6,700 Afghan adults from across the country.
Meanwhile, the total cost of bribes paid to public officials increased 40 percent to $3.9 billion.
That amount was double the revenue collected by the government to provide services, said Lemahieu, head of the UNODC. He also noted that many poor people are unable to pay bribes, leaving them without access to public services or the ability to get government jobs.
The Afghan High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption pledged to continue its efforts in fighting the problem, saying the report was an important step toward locating priority areas.
One particularly troubling trend singled out by the UN was the emergency of education as one of the most vulnerable sectors. The number of Afghans bribing a teacher jumped from 16 percent in 2009 to 51 percent in 2012, according to the survey.
Offers were often received for improving exam results and providing information about the contents of the tests in exchange for bribes, raising concerns about the role of the practice in shaping the behavior and expectations of Afghanistan’s youths, the agency said.
The survey also found that more of the public finds bribery acceptable. Of the adults interviewed last year, 68 percent said it was OK for a civil servant to supplement a low salary by accepting small bribes, compared with 42 percent in 2009. A roughly equivalent number said it was sometimes acceptable for a civil servant to be recruited on the basis of family ties and acquaintances.
After decades of war, Afghanistan has long been plagued by corruption. The country also was ranked at the bottom of Transparency International’s corruption index in 2012, along with North Korea and Somalia. The index scores countries based on perceived levels of public sector corruption.


86 people killed in central Nigeria violence: police

Updated 40 min 2 sec ago
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86 people killed in central Nigeria violence: police

  • Analysts believe it could become Nigeria’s biggest security concern, eclipsing Boko Haram’s Islamist insurgency that has left at least 20,000 dead since 2009
  • The violence — fueled by ethnic, religious and political allegiances — has killed thousands over several decades

JOS, Nigeria: Eighty-six people have been killed in an attack by suspected nomadic herders against farming communities in restive central Nigeria, police said on Sunday.
The discovery in the Barikin Ladi area of Plateau state came after days of violence apparently sparked by an attack by ethnic Berom farmers on Fulani herders on Thursday.
State police commissioner Undie Adie said a search of Berom villages in the area following clashes on Saturday found “86 persons altogether were killed.”
Adie told reporters six people were also injured and 50 houses razed. Bodies of those who died have been released to their families, he added.
The deaths are the latest in a long-running battle for land and resources that is putting President Muhammadu Buhari under pressure as elections approach next year.
The violence — fueled by ethnic, religious and political allegiances — has killed thousands over several decades.
Analysts believe it could become Nigeria’s biggest security concern, eclipsing Boko Haram’s Islamist insurgency that has left at least 20,000 dead since 2009.
The Plateau state government said it had imposed restrictions on movements in the Riyom, Barikin Ladi and Jos South areas “to avert a breakdown of law and order.”
“The curfew takes effect immediately... and movement is restricted from 6:00 p.m. (1700 GMT) to 6:00 am, except (for) those on essential duties,” said spokesman Rufus Bature.
On Sunday, ethnic Berom youths set up barricades on the Jos-Abuja highway and attacked motorists who looked “Fulani and Muslim,” according to those who escaped the violence.
Plateau state police spokesman Tyopev Terna and Major Adam Umar, from the military taskforce in the state capital, Jos, confirmed the blockade and vandalism to several cars.
There were no official reports of deaths but Baba Bala, who escaped the violence on the road, said at least six people were killed.
“I was lucky the convoy of the (Plateau) state government was passing through the scene of the attack shortly after I ran into the attackers,” he said.
“I escaped with smashed windscreens and dents on my car. I saw six dead bodies and several damaged cars.”