Police, judiciary take most bribes: global watchdog
By Sylvia Westall
BERLIN (Reuters) - More than one in 10 people around the world paid a bribe in the past year, with police and the judiciary seen pocketing the most illegal money, an international corruption watchdog said on Thursday.
Figures from Berlin-based watchdog Transparency International (TI) showed that Kosovo, Cameroon and Albania were the worst offenders, with around three quarters of respondents surveyed saying they paid a bribe in the past 12 months.
"Citizens reported that contact with the police far and away involves the biggest bribery problem," TI said in its 2007 Global Corruption Barometer, which surveyed over 63,000 people in 60 countries.
While the police were seen as top bribe-takers in most regions, people in Europe said they most commonly paid bribes for medical services.
Nearly 5 percent of respondents in the European Union, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland - referred to as "EU+" - said they had paid a bribe for medical care in the past year, more than for anything else.
THE POOR PAY MORE
Rather than being mainly used by the wealthy to gain influence, bribes are often paid by the poor for basic services, the report said.
"Extortion hits low-income households with a regressive tax that saps scarce household resources," TI said, adding that the trend was the same in both rich and poor countries.
While Africa was seen as the region most affected by bribery, especially in dealings with police and the education system, Africans were also the most optimistic about the effectiveness of anti-corruption drives.
"On average, all regions except Africa are very skeptical about the effectiveness of their government's actions against corruption," the watchdog said. "In Africa, however, Ghana and Nigeria are very positive."
North Americans and "EU+" citizens, on the other hand, were pessimistic about government efforts to combat corruption, TI said, despite being unlikely to have to make bribes themselves.
"This suggests that citizens there may be concerned about problems of grand corruption," the report said, adding that because there are few explicit anti-corruption strategies or policies in those regions, those that exist may go unnoticed.
Worldwide, political parties were seen as "corrupt" or "extremely corrupt" by 70 percent of people, while expectations about corruption in the future are gloomy.
Over half expect corruption to get worse, while in 2003, the last time the survey was carried out, 43 percent said they thought it would increase.
(Editing by Stephen Weeks)