Recently, many in the community concerned about international corruption have begun to discuss the need to hold individuals responsible criminally for their actions. While people have long discussed the failure to hold high-profile bribe recipients responsible, now the discussion has mutated to the bribe payer side. Lower-level targets are certainly more easily prosecuted than the rich and powerful. After all, corruption, like most crimes, is committed by people, not by companies, machines or cultures. Some countries, most notable the U.S., have brought an increasing number of cases against individuals directly involved in paying or authorizing bribes.
We have received a few comments to the blog we posted last week and we want to take this opportunity to thank our contributors. The examples provided and issues raised highlight both the on-going efforts that are happening at the country level and the need to learn from these efforts. The on-going discussion also raises some additional questions:
It is a fact that many of the countries which suffer the most from corruption are the countries which have the fewest resources to combat the problem. Poor countries may be faced with a dilemma of using resources to prosecute the corruption which degrades the quality and quantity of public goods that reach their citizens, or using resources to provide those basic goods, such as food aid and roads.
At the same time, larger bribes are not infrequently paid by outsiders, such as foreign corporations. Casual observation shows that funds must be coming from outside some of the poorest countries. In short, the bribe money is flowing from the developed world into the developing world.
I believe that timeliness is key in the sharing of information. If criminal information about suspects is not shared with those who need to know in a timely manner, this can result in crimes being committed that could have been prevented or once-in-a-lifetime investigative opportunities being lost.
In the field of fraud and corruption and in our context, the failure to share information in a timely manner can result in funds continuing to leak that could have been put to use to the benefit of society and overburdened countries and taxpayers picking up the bill for products and services that they have not received, are incomplete or are hugely overpriced.
The question I want to raise is whether and how we can share information at a sufficiently early stage.