Category: Non-fiction

Peter Eigen
Das Netz der Korruption. Wie eine weltweite Bewegung gegen Bestechung kämpft
[The web of corruption. How a global movement fights graft]

Review

According to Transparency International (TI), the largest non-governmental organization (NGO) in the world, “Corruption is the abuse of public office for private gain.” Founded ten years ago by former World Bank director Peter Eigen, TI today has chapters in over 100 countries. It is a global player in the war against corruption which in Eigen’s opinion represents the number one obstacle to economic and democratic development, primarily in the Third World.

Peter Eigen’s book presents a detailed account of TI’s origins and the work it does. The organization itself is closely interwoven with aspects of the author’s personal life so that the first chapters of the book in particular meld autobiographical material with copious factual data. The initial chapters describe what motivated this long-standing, senior World Bank executive to retire from professional life in 1993 and to devote himself exclusively to fighting corruption.

The book’s core and central message focuses on describing in concrete detail TI’s work, the ideas and concepts ideas and concepts which are its underpinnings, and the practical tools it has produced since its inception. The author discusses the reports on worldwide corruption published regularly by TI and enumerates the major successes it has achieved in collaboration with other international organizations. In principle, TI does not strive to pillory individual cases of corruption but rather to offer suggestions for resolving the current dilemma itself. The book discusses the theoretical basis of this approach and cites practical examples which demonstrate its effectiveness.

References to other organizations which have joined forces actively in the war on corruption and a look at TI’s plans for the future round out the picture. Extensive back matter provides the reader with topical materials: the “World Map of Corruption,” a report on the methods of corruption in use ordered by geographic region; the two most important indexes compiled by TI, namely the “Bribe Payers Index” and the “Corruption Perceptions Index”; information on economic sectors which are particularly plagued by corruption; and the results of relevant surveys.

The Origin of Transparency International

After a career as a World Bank director for Latin America which spanned decades and numerous postings in Africa, Peter Eigen had become sensitized to the destructive power of corruption. At first he tried to raise the issue internally at the institution. The popular view at the time held that corruption was part of “African culture” which behooved donor countries to accept it. This would prove to have dire consequences in the political environment of the East-West conflict. The idea was to bind the power elites of the developing world to Western industrialized states by offering generous payments with as few “strings attached” as possible.

The policy of noninterference in the internal affairs of receiver countries made any internal World Bank discussion of embezzlement or of promoting corruption taboo. Thus, it was the author’s sense of finding himself in a cul de sac within his own organization which led him to resign from the World Bank in 1993 and - drawing on likeminded friends and acquaintances from the senior management levels of businesses and developmental aid organizations - to forge ahead with founding Transparency International.

Ideas and Concepts

Based on the realization that the reason companies resort to bribery is the fear of competitive disadvantage, the founding members of Transparency International defined their role as that of a catalyst. The goal they set was to create an environment in which transparent cooperation became possible. TI's objective is not to expose the individual culprit but rather to create a global consciousness for the billions in long term damages to national and private economic interests caused by the obstruction of educational and infrastructure development in the Third World. At the same time TI strives to focus attention on the catastrophic environmental and developmental policies which also result from the practice of graft.

It is TI’s position that on both local and global levels civil society alone can serve as the monitoring agency in the war on corruption. Citizens can only fulfill their monitoring role, however, when an extremely high degree of transparency has been assured in dealing with public monies. The disclosure of information on the Internet is one method which is already being implemented in several countries. And although Peter Eigen makes no secret that a long road stretches ahead, he presents examples from a wide range of countries showing that major successes have been achieved on both national and local levels.

Practical Tools and Institutional Successes

TI’s work over the past ten years has produced a series of anti-corruption tools which its National Chapters develop further and fine-tune to local conditions. “Integrity” and “transparency” are the pivotal concepts around which everything revolves. The “Integrity Pact,” for example, is an agreement between the authority inviting tenders and the bidders or competitors for a contract. It is already announced in the invitation to tender. All participants pledge not to pay or accept bribes and to publicly disclose all information pertaining to the bidding process. Collusion among bidders as well as the passing of privileged information to individual bidders by the agency are equally forbidden. Any party that infringes the conditions is penalized with financial sanctions, blacklisted and barred from participating in future government invitations to tender.

The TI Source Book , which has already been translated into 20 languages, describes methods and tools and cites examples of analyzing corrupt systems, thereby providing starting points for implementing change. The “Corruption Fighter's Toolkit” contains examples of successful anti-corruption initiatives and concrete suggestions for working at the local level.

Successes

The OECD Convention signed in 1997 by 30 OECD member states and an additional five exporting countries represents a major milestone on the road to global success for TI and its allies. The Convention allows national authorities to prosecute their own citizens for paying bribes in foreign countries, a provision which is unfortunately relatively little known in German business circles.

ReportsIn 2001 TI published its first overview of global corruption, a status report on the world of corruption. Along with TI’s two regularly complied corruption rankings, i.e. the so-called “Corruption Perception Index” which names countries with the greatest inclination to accept bribes, and the “Bribe Payers Index,” a list of the countries whose companies are most inclined to pay bribes, the “Global Corruption Report” enjoys a reputation as a reliable indicator of corruption-related developments in individual countries.
Heike Friesel

By Heike Friesel, 27.01.2004

Translated by Philip Schmitz