Corruption is on the increase in most countries and poor people are often the hardest hit, according to a global survey released on Friday.
The poll, published on United Nations Anti-Corruption Day, found a majority of people in 48 out of 69 countries surveyed thought the problem had got worse over the past three years.
“Today’s survey shows that people believe corruption is deeply embedded in their countries,” said Huguette Labelle, chairwoman of anti-graft group Transparency International, which commissioned the Global Corruption Barometer research.
“When a poor young mother believes that her government places its own interests above her child’s, or that securing services like that child’s basic health requires a hand under the table, her hope for the future is dampened.”
Overall, people rated political parties as the most corrupt institutions. But customs officials were seen as the most corrupt in many Central and Eastern European states while the police and legal systems often came top of the poll in Africa.
The survey also showed paying bribes was not confined to specific regions but was particularly prevalent in Central and Eastern Europe, Africa and Latin America.
More than 30 percent of households in Cameroon, Paraguay, Cambodia and Mexico had paid a bribe in the past year.
Between 11 and 30 percent of households had done the same in a further 22 countries, many of them developing nations but also including European states such as Greece and the Czech Republic.
Africans thought to be most victimized
People in Africa — the poorest continent — appeared to pay the highest proportion of their income in bribes, the campaigning group said.
Top of that list were Cameroon, Ghana and Nigeria, where households paid more than 20 percent of national per capita income in bribes.
Transparency International, a non-governmental group based in Berlin with branches in more than 90 countries, said leaders could combat corruption if they made a determined effort.
A U.N. Convention against Corruption, signed by 137 nations, will go into effect on Dec. 14 and the group said systems must be put in place to ensure governments stick to their commitments.
“Signing the document and taking part in the photo opportunity is not enough,” said chief executive David Nussbaum.
Nearly 55,000 people in 69 countries were surveyed for the Corruption Barometer as part of a Gallup poll conducted between May and October 2005, the group said. It said the survey would be posted on its web site, www.transparency.org.