Taiwan has low risk of corruption in its defense sector, but there is room for improvement, a global survey released yesterday by Transparency International (TI) said.
In the government defense anti-corruption index (GDAI), Taiwan was listed among seven countries in the “B” band, which means they are at “low risk” of corruption, based on four main indices, but still have some shortcomings that leave them exposed.
“Despite the difficulties faced by the country due to its unique international status, there is evidence that Taiwan has strong controls in place to combat corruption risks in defence and security,” Transparency International UK said in its report.
The other “B” band countries listed were Austria, Norway, South Korea, Sweden, the UK and the US.
Only Australia and Germany were listed in the “A” band, which grouped defense establishments that are “accountable to their citizens ... are transparent about their spending and activities, and have strong controls in place to combat corruption that are actively enforced,” the report said.
Taiwan was assessed for the first time in the survey, which looked at 82 countries.
“Taiwan did very well, not only in terms of providing robust payment systems for military personnel, but also making military information available to the public,” Kevin Yeh (葉一璋), executive director of the organization’s Taiwan branch, said at a press briefing in Taipei on the survey results.
Assessors who visited several agencies last year were impressed by the nation’s active participation and cooperation during the assessment process, he added.
Mark Pyman, director of TI UK’s Defence and Security Programme, echoed Yeh’s views, saying that Taiwan has a strong legislature that is effective in public scrutiny of defense.
However, Pyman said, Taiwan can improve by lowering its secret spending of more than 8 percent of the total defense budget, which is “quite high” and “unusual” for a “B” band nation.
The GDAI evaluates countries’ defense risk based on five key risk areas — political, financial, personnel, operations and procurement — and scores them from A to F, with A being “very low” and F “critical.”
Fifty-seven of the 82 countries assessed, or 70 percent, have a high to critical risk of corruption, scoring in bands D, E or F, the report said.
“These countries leave themselves exposed to the danger and waste that corruption in this sector brings,” it said. “There is room for improvement everywhere: Not one country received a perfect score across all 77 questions.”
Singapore, which was named the fifth-least corrupt country on last year’s Corruption Perception Index, was surprisingly listed in the “D+” band due to a lack of information about its military spending, strategies and policies, the report said.
The report grouped China in the “D-” band, citing defense regulations and increasing transparency of the military commission.
The global cost of corruption in the defense sector is estimated to be a minimum of US$20 billion a year, the organization said, citing data from the World Bank and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
The countries assessed in the report as having poor controls over corruption in the defense sector included two-thirds of the largest arms importers and half of the biggest arms exporters in the world.
In response to the report, the Ministry of National Defense pledged yesterday to gradually reduce the secret portion of its budget to enhance transparency and prevent corruption in the military.
The ministry said the ratio of its classified spending had been lowered to about 5 percent from last year’s 8.25 percent, but it agreed that “there is still room for improvement and we are determined to lower the ratio steadily.”
While the report also said that the military promotions system has been criticized in the past for being influenced by political and personal preferences, Ministry of National Defense spokesman Major-General David Lo (羅紹和) said that the military has always followed a principle of openness, impartiality and fairness in recruitment and promotion.
On the report’s suggestions that civic groups be given a say in defense policy formulation, Lo said the ministry would invite TI and other watchdogs to attend its public hearings and symposiums to offer recommendations.