The global cost of corruption tops a trillion dollars a year in bribery alone. Corruption drains treasuries, delays development and is even linked to high rates of infant mortality. All of which makes fighting corruption a top priority around the globe. Paul Miller narrates and reports on what nations and individuals are doing to get corruption under control.
General Suharto of Indonesia... Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines... and Mobutu Sese Seko of the former Zaire… they represent some of the most corrupt leaders in recent history.
Global governance expert Daniel Kaufmann of the World Bank calls them 'kleptocrats' who ravaged their nations. But he says the face of corruption is changing. "There are many countries nowadays where, thanks to a move towards democracy, the leader has integrity, and the problem of corruption is still absolutely enormous."
For example, in Nigeria, democratically elected president Olesegun Obasanjo and his cabinet face political constraints in an environment where corruption is deeply ingrained. And using traditional methods to attack the problem just don't work.
Mr. Kaufman says that is a waste of money. "You have a big corruption problem in a country, (so) throw another institution (at it) and start an anti-corruption commission, anti-corruption agency; a lot of funds have gone to that. We do not see major positive fruits out of that."
At the World Bank one new idea is to 'name and shame' companies that don't play by the rules. "It is no secret that we have made mistakes in the past and some World Bank funded projects have been tainted,” said Mr Kaufman. “There is a much tougher approach now."
The World Bank sponsors an anonymous phone line to take tips. Then it bans companies found guilty of wrongdoing and posts their names on the Web.
The Internet and technology can also help nations create transparency. Mr. Kaufman provided an example. "In Chile, 80 percent of individuals are filing their tax returns on line -- probably the highest in the world nowadays."
That means the government picks up more money to spend on development. But fighting corruption is not just the government's job.
Mary Boyle, of the U.S. grassroots group Common Cause, wants each citizen to keep an eye on public officials and hold them accountable at the polls: "We ask people to write letters to the editor of their local paper, we ask people to make phone calls to companies -- we basically ask them to do a whole range of things to reach the people in power and sway public opinion."
Win or lose, experts say citizen watchdogs play a critical role in keeping corruption under control.
And the latest data shows that in poor countries, even modest improvements in controlling corruption can quadruple the per capita income.
That result alone, says Daniel Kaufmann, should convince people to act. "My personal view: countries should be more impatient. We (in the U.S.) are patient but countries and their citizens, particularly in those that are staying behind, they are missing the train of globalization and good governance. For them this should be the era of impatience."
Mr. Kaufmann adds that fighting corruption is not just a job for governments or the World Bank. It's up to every exporter, business owner, judge, and citizen to build a world of integrity.