Corruption in Africa costing thousands of lives, say campaigners

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The Independent Online

Corruption is costing thousands of lives in poor countries and moves by the rich world to help alleviate the Aids pandemic must be accompanied by vigilance towards governments which steal from their own people, Transparency International (TI) said yesterday.

The Berlin-based group's sixth "corruption perceptions index'' finds the highest standards of business and administrative practice in Finland and Denmark, and the lowest in Uganda, Nigeria and Bangladesh. Britain ranks 13th from the top, after Switzerland but ahead of Hong Kong. The index shows African and former Eastern Bloc countries to be the most corrupt. The highest-ranking African country is Botswana, in 26th place. Namibia, in 30th position is only slightly more corrupt than Italy (29th).

The annual index – a poll drawing on information from 14 surveys – came as Peru (44th) recalled its ambassador to Japan (21st) yesterday as part of pressure to secure the extradition of the former president Alberto Fujimori to face corruption charges.

In the past year, Malawi (61st) has been in the news for allegedly using aid money to supply cabinet ministers with luxury cars. South Africa (38th) is currently in the spotlight for corruption surrounding a multimillion-pound international arms deal, under which several prominent people were offered Mercedes-Benz cars.

Launching the latest index in Paris yesterday, TI's chairman, Peter Eigen, highlighted the health impact of corruption. He said: "Aids is killing millions of Africans and in many of the countries where [it is] at its deadliest the problem is compounded by high corruption levels. While it is imperative that richer countries provide medical research to address this human tragedy, it is essential that corrupt governments do not steal from their own people. This is now an urgent priority if lives are to be saved.''

The group, which was once headed by the current Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, pointed to improvements in his country, which is still in 90th position, as well as Mexico (51st), Italy, Colombia (50th) and the Philippines (65th). It said Malawi, Bolivia (84th), Greece (42nd) and Norway (10th) were "noteworthy examples of a downward trend".

Aware of the criticism that corrupt countries are often recipients of bribes from rich nations, the group said it would publish a "bribe-payers' index'' next year.