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|This article is written like a personal reflection or opinion essay rather than an encyclopedic description of the subject. (May 2011)|
|Corruption by country|
Corruption in Colombia is a pervasive problem at all levels of government.
Different factors have contributed to political corruption in Colombia including drug trafficking, guerrilla and paramilitary conflict, weak surveillance and regulation from institutions, threats and harassment to whistle-blowers and a widespread apathy from society to address unethical behavior.
Between 1989 and 1999, corruption in Colombia is estimated to have cost the state 1% of its GDP annually. In addition to the economic cost of corruption, other aspects of Colombian society have been affected such as the loss of credibility in politicians and the Colombian government, as well as the discouragement and demoralization of society at large to participate in anything related to politics.
In 2005 a study published by Transparency for Colombia (Transparencia por Colombia) assessed the index of integrity of governments, assemblies and comptroller at the department level and concluded that none of those dependencies scored an appropriate level of integrity and that 51% were prone to high or very high levels of corruption.
Colombia's modern corruption takes place mostly at the level of business between politicians and officials with private contractors and companies. The lack of ethical behavior on both sides, private individuals or organizations and politicians have resulted in a culture known in Colombia as "serrucho" (jigsaw). In which it is almost the norm for individuals to bribe politicians in order to be granted contracts and where politicians add commissions and extra costs for their own benefit.Other sources of corruption come from the result of privatization of government owned institutions in which the profits are used by individuals for their own wealth.
According to Transparency for Colombia, the country ranks 70 in the Perception of Corruption index. However the problem of corruption is a priority to only 2.9% of the people interviewed versus violence which is a priority to 31.49% and unemployment with 20.7%
According to a study by the University of Externado, it was revealed that corruption is one of the main factors that renders doing business a difficult issue in Colombia. 91% of entrepreneurs considers that there are business owners that pay bribes. 16.92% considers that a businessperson will offer a bribe and out of 28.4% of entrepreneurs that were asked for money or favors by a government official, only 8.52% denounced it to the authorities in an effective way.
Current levels of corruption have increased steadily since 2009 and they continue getting worse as the General attorney and the comptroller discovers corruption at almost every level of government from local to national. In September 2009 48.000 government officials including 800 mayors and 30 governors were being investigated for corruption. The issue of corruption have not been isolated to one political party with accusations of corruption across the political spectrum from right-wing conservatives in the Party of National Unity, to the left-wing Democratic Pole.
The discouragement of the society to address the many cases of corruption in Colombia also stem from the well known immunity. Only a small percentage of officials investigated for corruption are likely to suffer legal consequences. In addition it is difficult for the judicial system to handle many investigations at lower levels. At the top, politicians avoid prosecution by political maneuvers and loopholes, sometimes under the protection of their own political party. Example of this is the attempt of the Party of the U to pass a bill that would protect its politicians involved in the parapolitics scandal.
Colombia's corruption is also the result of a long coexistence between the narco trafficking and a rush of society to achieve easy wealth, thus rendering every aspect of society vulnerable to corruption, from politics, to agriculture and sports.
The concept of bribery is embedded in Colombia's society and the culture of "bite" (mordida) or "saw" (serrucho) are part of a subculture with its own language and expressions that are so widespread to almost make it the norm.
Many institutions in Colombia have been the subject of administrative corruption. Large institutions that span across industries are example of major cases of corruption including: Ferrovias (National railroad administration), Caprecom (health care), Foncolpuertos (ports authority), Termorrio (energy), Dragacol (civil engineering), Chivor reservoir (water supply) and contracts with foreign companies such as Mexican ICA for the pavement of streets in Bogota are just some of them.
A study made by the UN revealed that globally the cost of corruption by official employees is ten times the cost of illegal acts by common felony.This can be proven in Colombia where the problem is so big and widespread that "nobody knows what to do about it". Recent studies of criminal behavior in the country indicates that while the rate of crime grew annually in about 39.7%, the criminal behavior by officials at the government local and national grew 164.1% and despite such increase there are few convictions. The levels of administrative corruption are so high that as of 2011 the media reports of such felonies overshadow the number of stories on terrorism or armed conflict.
Colombian corruption scandals are often related to the conflict that has affected Colombia for 50 years.