Middle East states ranked among world's most corrupt
Three of the bottom 10 countries on Transparency International's 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index are from the Middle East and North Africa.
Two of these three are mired in gruesome civil wars where lives are being lost daily. Iraq and Libya tell a story of a region in turmoil plagued with geopolitical insecurity, rampant corruption and governments unwilling or unable to seriously make a clean break with their cronyism, reads the report published on Wednesday.
The whole of the region is marked in the red and orange tonies assigned to low-ranking countries - with only the United Arab Emirates creeping into yellow, ranking 25th of the 175 countries surveyed.
Corruption is the main challenge in the region, according to Transparency International. Ruling elites have concentrated power with small groups blurring the distinction of the separation of powers.
|The empowered political classes in the region have systematically abused their authority.
- Transparency international
The empowered political classes in the region have systematically abused their authority and operate with often startling levels of impunity, the NGO reported.
The report highlights how rulers have safeguarded their personal interests through undue influence and networks of patronage.
Several countries have made positive steps towards reform, and some legislative progress has been made. However, the region lags behind - in terms of key robust laws that can have a significant impact on improving integrity, transparency and accountability.
The think tank points to Oman as an example where some steps have been taken to tackle corruption. A recent trial saw 20 high-ranking government officials and private executives on charges of offering or accepting bribes in exchange for large infrastructure contracts.
|A recent trial [in Oman] saw 20 government officials and private executives on charges of offering or accepting bribes.|
Still, in most Arab countries loopholes, lax regulations and disparate laws benefit those allied with their regimes.
To counter these endemic structural problems, Transparency International recommends that bold laws are tied to national anti-corruption plans, strategies must be legislated and anti-corruption commissions should be empowered to act as independent watchdogs of the public's purse strings.
The people's demands
The lack of oppporunity for the public to monitor how their money is spent is identified as one of the main reasons for the poor showing of the MENA region.
Only three countries have an "access to information" law and only four have protection for whistleblowers.
The continuing clampdown on civil society signals a dangerous moment where governments are not serious about being transparent, said the report.
A robust and independent civil society is championed in the report as an important partner in the fight against corruption.
Whistleblowers and journalists are key to the process of exposing corruption, which impacts on the lives of all citizens.