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World's most corrupt nations? Afghanistan at No. 2

In Transparency International's latest rankings, Afghanistan is the second most corrupt country, only beat by Somalia. Afghanistan's anticorruption czar says not carrying through with punishment for corrupt officials is the problem.

By Staff Writer / November 17, 2009

Mohammad Yusin Osmani, the Afghan government's anti-corruption czar, stands Nov. 10, 2009 in his Kabul office with his hand on one of his new complaints boxes that he plans to install in public service areas.

Ben Arnoldy/The Christian Science Monitor

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It turns out Afghanistan is not the most corrupt country on earth. That distinction goes to government-free Somalia, according to a new ranking of 180 nations released Tuesday by Transparency International.

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But there's unlikely to be cheers in the palace of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who is under heavy international pressure to clean up his government. Afghanistan came in second worst, slipping down two ranks from last year:

Most corrupt countries:

 
1. Somalia
 
2. Afghanistan
3. Burma (Myanmar)
4. Sudan
5. Iraq

Close behind are Chad, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, and Haiti.

The least corrupt are all highly developed nations, and most of the top 10 are liberal democracies, save authoritarian-bent Singapore.

The least corrupt:

 
1. New Zealand
 
2. Denmark
3. Singapore and Sweden (tie)
5. Switzerland

The US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, expressed doubts to President Barack Obama about sending additional troops to the Afghan war given the problems of corruption and legitimacy surrounding Mr. Karzai's regime. In response, Karzai's government has announced a number of new anticorruption efforts this week, including a special court to try senior officials and a new anticorruption taskforce.

The Monitor spoke with Afghanistan's anticorruption czar about why the problem has proven so difficult to lick:

 
Nearly a year into his job, [Mohammad Yusin] Osmani and his Office of Oversight for Anti-Corruption has installed public hotlines and complaints boxes, drafted anticorruption plans with various ministries, and instigated one high-profile takedown of customs agents at the airport. But so far his group has only sent 15 cases to law enforcement agencies, resulting in just a handful of arrests.
 
The absence of punishment for corrupt officials raises questions about whether the new office will have real teeth either. The problem with the current effort, says Osmani, is that his office lacks the staff and mandate to investigate and prosecute cases. Instead, he must forward what his group finds to the attorney general's office, which is taking months on some cases.

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