Have you ever wondered, in light of the constant headlines about corruption, where our troubled nation stands?
A recent study by the US office of Transparency International reveals that America and the world are mostly stagnating.
Our overall corruption score steadily worsened until last year finally halted the decline, the group found.
I have lost track of the number of stories and commentaries I have written about corrupt practices in business and government. These range from the moral failings of school leaders, abuse in nursing homes, profiting from the misfortunes of others, corporate greed, campaign irregularities, clandestine trading, altering public records, from the secret conduct of public business, from the abuse of the clergy, from blatant favoritism, from the concealment of crimes. , the media protection of their favorite politicians and the corruption of elected legislators. These only scratch the surface.
The unfortunate human urge to look after oneself and enjoy a position of trust as a public servant becomes too tempting for many who rise to positions of honor and integrity expected only to disappoint society and their reputation.
Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) is said to be the most widely used corruption indicator in the world.
“Transparency International ranks 180 countries and territories based on the opinions of experts and business leaders. The scale runs from 0 to 100. The lower the score, the stronger the perception of corruption,” says a group statement.
With an unenviable score of 67 points, the United States has nevertheless taken steps to reverse the decline in scores of recent years, said the American director of Transparency International, Gary Kalman, tied for 27th least corrupt with Chili.
I wonder why we are not ranked among the best. Are we so greedy that protecting an ever-changing and corrupt political ideology at all costs still matters? Does our society care more about the difference between good and evil?
Once-cherished values such as honor, empathy and character have been severely eroded since the time when a person’s word and handshake forged the essence of their sacred bond. Such a bond once represented perceived trustworthiness and respect from others.
Citing context, Kalman explained that the violent attack on the Capitol in January 2021, attacks on free and fair elections at the state level, our opaque campaign finance system, growing distrust of the media independents and the remaining gaps in the US anti-corruption architecture, likely impeded progress.
The United States has opportunities to improve its position in the years to come. “On the first day of 2021, Congress passed sweeping new anti-money laundering legislation,” Kalman said. “In June, the President issued a memorandum recognizing anti-corruption as a fundamental national security interest, and U.S. agencies subsequently contributed to a National Anti-Corruption Strategy. Anti-corruption was also the one of three priority areas for the U.S.-led Democracy Summit in late 2021.”
Whoops ! A presidential memorandum in good faith! This should improve the issues with our deficient morals and ethics.
Twenty-five countries recorded statistically significant improvements in their CPI over the past decade, while 23 others recorded significant declines. While the US scores stagnated, other countries improved.
“Finland joined Denmark and New Zealand on the list perceived to have the least corrupt governments, while South Sudan, Syria and Venezuela were considered the most corrupt,” according to the press release. “Looking at different regions of the world, the Middle East/North Africa region was the only one that showed no statistically significant improvement.
“This year’s CPI also revealed that anti-corruption efforts and respect for human rights go hand in hand. For example, the report cites statistics showing that out of more than 300 human rights defenders of men murdered in 2020, 98% of these murders took place in countries with a CPI score below 45, indicating serious corruption problems.
The current US administration has also taken several important steps to elevate the fight against corruption, including designating corruption as a key national security concern.
To improve, the statement said, we must look internally and enact reforms to counter attacks on our electoral system while pursuing the goals of open, transparent and accountable government.
Scott Greytak, director of advocacy for Transparency International US, offered additional steps our nation should take. “The administration must finalize and implement tough new rules to require greater transparency and corporate transparency in the real estate and private investment industries. At the same time, Congress should pass bipartisan bills to expand our foreign bribery laws and establish anti-bribery rules for those professional service providers who facilitate access to our financial and political systems.”
Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, served as editor of three Arkansas daily newspapers, and directed the Ohio State University’s Masters of Journalism program. Email him at [email protected]