Bribery: A Quarter of the World's Population Is Participating

No Need to Adjust Your Glasses - 1.6 Billion People Pay Bribes to Survive

It's a tough world out there folks. Need to see a doctor for fractured wrist? Pay a bribe. Want to send your kids to school? Pay a bribe. Need to sort out a speeding ticket? Pay a bribe.

Sound crazy? Well of course it does. But this is the way of life, the essence of survival, for nearly one quarter of the world's population. That's a staggering 1.6 Billion people bribing their way through everyday living.

You ask yourself, how could these people participate in this activity, they can stop can't they? Well, no they can't. It's the culture they are born into. They are, by nature of where they live, forced to participate. It's the culture of their governments, and organizations. To not pay a bribe could mean disaster for a family needing healthcare, or a parent desperate to have their child educated.

A survey was conducted of more than 250,000 people in 119 countries in Africa, Asia, the European Union, former Communist European nation, Latin America, and the Anglo-American world. This survey identified important differences in the extent of bribery between countries, public services, and individuals. illustration pie chart graphic top bribery

Dr. Caryn Peiffer, one of the doctors who conducted the survey, said: 'Within each continent there is a wide range of bribery rates. The range is largest in Africa, with 63% of people from Sierra Leone reporting paying a bribe and only 4% in Botswana doing so. That 4% is significant, as 5% of the British public has paid a bribe in the last year. Within Europe the range begins at less than 1% bribery in a few Scandinavian countries and 29% bribery in Lithuania.'

From a global perspective, Europe has exceptionally low rates of bribery, with only 4% on average making such payments. By contrast, the average is 22% in Latin America and 29% in the 30 African countries surveyed.

These numbers are not that surprising. Bribery and corruption go hand in hand. According to the ACFEs Report to the Nations, in all industries, corruption/bribery was the front runner by far. And by specific industry, Oil/Gas and Manufacturing themselves won the race!

The contribution by Europe to global corruption is in the bribes that multi-national corporations pay to political elites to obtain ‘big bucks’ contracts for such things as building dams or supplying military aircraft.

Most of us are lucky enough to receive the health care to which we are entitled. However in some countries the number of people using health services is so large, an estimated 10% of the global population pays a bribe for health care each year.

Many public officials would like to blame citizens for being ready and willing to pay bribes because they assume everybody sees services as corrupt and therefore takes payment of a bribe as a part of everyday life.

But the survey data showed this is not the case. The great majority of people in every country think that bribery is wrong. They pay bribes because the alternative is doing without health care or a better education for their children.

Have a look at the below interactive map from Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index 2013. Chances are you are already doing, or about to do, business in many of these countries.

For businesses in North America, here's where the fun begins. Just because that company you are about to do business with participates in corporate bribery and corruption 'because it's the way we do things here; it's our culture' doesn't mean that's the way you need to do business with them. If you don't do your due diligence on a foreign entity in an attempt to remove corruption and bribes from your business dealings, you will end up facing the long arm of the SEC law.

It's important that every employee, from your North American operations, to your foreign operations, knows exactly how the organization expects them to conduct themselves and represent the business. This means translating your Code of Conduct and Code of Ethics into whatever language you need to, depending on your business locations. Every employee needs to understand it. It's also important to ensure that all employees are trained regularly on appropriate ethics and conduct expected of them.

Businesses can also take the initiative to stay up to date on any corrupt activities that their foreign partners may participate in.

WhitePaper: The Role of Due Diligence in Anti-Corruption Compliance