$8 billion per year | Farrukh Saleem

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The government of Pakistan spends more than $55 billion a year on buying goods and services for mega public projects – power plants, roads, bridges, pipelines and dams. In 2011, the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) estimated that “Pakistan spends 25 percent of the total national output or $55 billion on public procurement and out of that $8 billion are lost either because of collusion or mis-procurement.”

According to Transparency International, “trillions of dollars are spent each year buying goods and services for public projects…Contracts to suppliers can be awarded without fair competition. This allows companies with political connections to triumph over their rivals. Or companies within the same industry can rig their bids, so each gets a piece of the pie. This increases the cost of services to the public. We’ve found that corruption can add as much as 50 percent to a project’s costs. But corruption in public procurement isn’t just about money. It also reduces the quality of work or services. And it can cost lives. People in many countries have paid a terrible personal price for collapsed buildings and counterfeit medicines. The end result? Our trust in our leaders is eroded.”

The IACC Council recently concluded its 17th International Anti-Corruption Conference in Panama City, Panama. Some 1,300 participants from 135 countries raised an interesting question: Why are people, especially young people, attracted by what seem to be cruel ideologies and unrealistic ideas? The answer: “Studies of the recruitment strategies of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, and the Al-Qaeda find that both personal experiences with injustice and perceptions of government corruption play central roles, far more than religious identities or narratives.”

Red alert. Young people join extremist organisations because of two reasons: personal experience with injustice and perceptions of government corruption. Red alert. The recruitment strategies of the Isil, Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab and Al-Qaeda suggest that their success is based on two things: discredited politicians and discredited governments. Red alert. Pakistan must be the ideal recruiting ground for extremist organisations owing to injustice, perceptions of government corruption, discredited politicians and discredited governments.

Pakistan has one of the largest anti-corruption infrastructures. At the federal level, there’s the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). At the provincial level, there are the Anti-Corruption Establishments. Then there’s the Wafaqi Mohtasib in Islamabad and the Mohtasib-e-Aala in Punjab, Balochistan and Sindh.

There’s a Banking Mohtasib, a Federal Insurance Ombudsman, a Federal Tax Ombudsman and a Federal Ombudsperson for Protection of Women Against Harassment at the Workplace. There’s the Pakistan Penal Code, Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947 and the NAB ordinance along with accountability courts and provincial special courts.

The only thing Pakistan lacks is political will. Here are the top four countries in the Global Terrorism Index: Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. Is it a mere coincidence that Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan are also the worst performers in the Corruption Perception Index? Yes, corruption and extremism are cousins.

Imagine; $8,000,000,000 is about the size of our annual defence budget.