Bribery and corruption do not only affect business and industry, they affect the greater society.
Funds are misappropriated instead of being channelled into much needed public resources, development is hindered, and human rights violated.
A recent statement by Transparency International explores the issue of “grand corruption”.
What is grand corruption?
Transparency International defines grand corruption as:
The commission of any of the offences in UNCAC Articles 15 – 25 as part of a scheme that:
- Involves a high level public official, and
- Results in or is intended to result in a gross misappropriation of public funds or resources, or gross violations of the human rights of a substantial part of the population or of a vulnerable group.
The applicable offences include bribery of national and foreign public officials, embezzlement, trading in influence, private sector bribery, money laundering and obstruction of justice, amongst others.
A “scheme” exists when these offences are committed as part of a systematic plan of action.
“Gross violations of human rights” include genocide, slavery, torture and murder.
The impact of grand corruption on sustainable development
Large-scale misappropriation of public funds significantly reduces the budget available for improving education, infrastructure and standards of living, sacrificing the public interest in the pursuit of private gain.
There is specific concern “about cases of corruption that involve vast quantities of assets (VQAs), which may constitute a substantial proportion of the resources of States, and that threaten the political stability and sustainable development of those States…”
The key challenges identified include:
- Difficulties in bringing high-level officials and their associates to justice.
- Dangers for investigators, judges, prosecutors and whistleblowers.
- The involvement of professional enablers such as international banks and law firms who help to launder corruption proceeds.
- The poor track record of the international community in returning funds lost to corruption to the victims of these schemes.
Countries are urged to explicitly recognise grand corruption and prioritise its prevention as part of its anti-corruption efforts, which at present typically target smaller-scale corruption.
Specific recommendations, which seek to address the main challenges, include:
- Increasing sanctions for those implicated in grand corruption.
- Providing enhanced protections for whistleblowers, investigators, judges and prosecutors of corruption cases.
- Targeting intermediaries by strengthening the supervision of banks.
- Improving international cooperation, including around the return of assets.
Most anti-corruption measures currently target “petty corruption”. While this activity is not insignificant, a greater focus needs to be shifted to grand corruption which has the most devastating impact on sustainable development and human rights.