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Construction is most corrupt sector says report

PUBLIC WORKS and construction are the sectors in which public officials are most likely to accept or demand bribes, according to a Gallup International Association survey commissioned by Transparency Inter- national and published last week.

The Berlin based anti-corruption lobby carried out the study last year to find which exporting countries bribe most to win contracts in emerging economies.

But the 1999 TI bribe payers' index shows the UK as seventh least likely to pay bribes in the league of 19 exporting countries. Sweden was least likely and China most likely.

The emerging economies where Gallup questioned business leaders are India, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Poland, Russia, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa. However, the poll left out the Middle East and particularly Saudi Arabia - countries with substantial arms imports and a reputation for inflated commissions. This may have skewed the results away from the defence sector and inflated the charges against construction.

TI has published its annual corruption perception index since 1995 and now covers 99 countries. Last year the UK was placed 13th least corrupt, just behind Denmark but way ahead of bottom nation Cameroon.

But while the CPI index shows a clear link between high levels of corruption and low levels of economic development, TI points out that corruption of public officials and politicians can only exist if firms from richer exporting countries feed the system. Its new bribe payers' index will be compiled annually alongside the corruption perception index as a comparison.

Gallup also investigated other business practices which are used to secure contracts and 69% believe some governments gain an unfair advantage for their home firms. The US government was cited by 60% as most likely to exert unfair pressure, followed by France and Japan on 33%, and UK eighth with 22%.

Awareness of the law was also found wanting with only 6% of those questioned familiar with the Anti Bribery Convention signed last year by 34 OECD countries, making it a criminal offence to bribe foreign officials. While 18 countries have now ratified this convention the Gallup survey revealed 38% had not heard of it.

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