CITIZENS against corruption have a new ally: Transparency International. In the same way that Amnesty International exposes human rights abuses, TI is a newly formed, Berlin-based organization dedicated to exposing the misuse of public power for personal profit.
One of TI's missions is to ensure that international business deals are based on ``competitive bidding instead of competitive bribery,'' says Chairman Peter Eigen.
But as it begins to set up national chapters around the world, Transparency is discovering the adage that all politics is local applies to anticorruption campaigns, too.
``We've learned that to be effective, there has to be a mainstream domestic interest in corruption,'' says TI Vice Chairman Frank Vogl. ``We can't develop a sustainable program without working from the top and bottom at the same time.''
In Ecuador, TI has found the right conditions for such a program: an anticorruption campaign spearheaded by Ecuadoran Vice President Alberto Dahik. In mid-1983, Mr. Dahik committed his government to obtaining signed statements from all firms bidding on government contracts to abide by strict standards. Dahik recently sent an anticorruption bill to the Ecuadoran congress and serves on TI's advisory council.
With this foothold, Quito-based lawyer Valeria Merino is setting up a TI chapter in Ecuador. ``In Ecuador, as in a lot of third-world countries, everyone knows corruption exists. But if it's not confronted, nothing will change. To stop corruption, ultimately you need a strong judiciary,'' she says.
Ms. Merino is working with a group of about 20 people - academics, former government officials, and business people - to set up Ecuador's TI chapter. ``We are a pilot project. There are TI chapters in the US, England, and Germany already. But those are developed countries where the judiciary is functioning well,'' Merino says.
Transparency's global goals include establishing clear property rights, reviewing legal standards, and business practices to encourage accountability, promoting and supporting local chapters, and serving as a clearinghouse of information on corruption.
``New laws won't stop corruption,'' Mr. Vogl adds. ``The acid test is enforcement of regulations. But Ecuador is making the right first moves.''
The group is lobbying the Clinton administration to place corruption on the agenda for the presidential hemispheric summit set for December in Miami. TI has received inquiries from governments and private groups to set up chapters in Guatemala, Costa Rica, Brazil, Kenya, and elsewhere.