World Corruption Survey: Most Israelis Believe Government Agencies Influenced by Ulterior Motives

Some 73 percent of Israelis believe state agencies bow to outside pressure; 12 percent of Israelis have reportedly bribed a government agency in the past year, according to the survey.

Nearly three quarters of Israelis believe their government agencies are corrupt and bow to outside pressure, according to a survey conducted by the NGO Transparency International. The only government with a worse public perception in this regard is Greece, the survey shows.

Some 73 percent of Israelis believe that the country's government agencies are motivated either entirely or in large part by a small group of parties with ulterior motives. In the United States, that figure is 64 percent; in Mexico, it is 62 percent; in Finland, 28 percent; and in Norway, 5 percent. In Greece, 83 percent of respondents made such a claim.

Sixty-three percent of Israelis who participated in the poll claimed that the level of corruption in Israel has increased in the past two years. Thirty-eight percent claimed that corruption has remained at the same level – which is considered relatively high in the Western world.

Transparency International surveyed 1,004 Israelis using an online questionnaire from September 2012 to March 2013. The report was published in Israel by Transparency International Israel, the local branch of the NGO. The worldwide survey included 114,000 respondents from 107 countries.

According to the survey, more Israelis believe that personal contacts and "undue influence" are important for receiving public services than do citizens of any other Western state. Some 96 percent of respondents said they believe personal contacts are "important" for receiving public services. Of those, 89 percent claimed personal contacts are "very important," and seven percent said they are "moderately important."

The global average for this figure is only 47 percent.

Twelve percent of Israelis have reportedly bribed a government agency in the past year, according to the survey. Nine percent reportedly paid a bribe to push forward a real-estate deal.

Globally, about 27 percent of respondents in the countries that participated in the survey said they had paid a bribe over the past year. Although Israel ranked higher than the world average, it is nevertheless one of the worst offenders among developed countries, according to the report, on par with Jamaica, Rwanda, the Philippines, Argentina and El Salvador.

By contrast, in Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States, fewer than 9 percent of respondents reported paying a bribe. In Australia, Belgium, Canada and Finland, that figure was less than 5 percent.

“The report has disturbing findings about the public trust in the political and the public system. The public does not believe in its ability to receive appropriate service from the public sector without using personal contacts and bribery,” said the executive director of Transparency Israel, attorney Galia Sagy. “The best way to stop such things from happening is complete transparency of government agencies and public administration.”

The government institutions that Israelis perceived as the most corrupt were the political parties and the rabbinate. On average, respondents gave political parties a score of 4.2 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest level of corruption. Respondents gave government-based religious institutions a grade of 4.1.

The worldwide average for perceived corruption in government-based religious institutions is much lower, at 2.6, according to Transparency Israel officials. Political parties and the civil service are generally perceived as corrupt all over the world, they noted.

Behind political parties and the rabbinate, Israelis ranked public-service workers as the third most corrupt, at 3.7 on a scale of 1 to 5. Israelis scored the business sector, the media, the Knesset and the police each at 3.5. The justice system and the army were viewed as less corrupt by Israeli respondents — Israel’s justice system scored 2.9, and the army 2.6.

Respondents also showed a lack of trust in the government’s desire to fight corruption. Seventy-one percent of Israelis claimed that the government’s efforts to fight corruption were ineffective, compared with 54 percent of respondents worldwide. Only 11 percent of Israelis said they believed the government's efforts were effective, compared with 22 percent worldwide.

Sixty-seven percent of Israelis feel that the average citizen can help fight corruption, according to the survey, and 60 percent would reportedly agree to buy products at a higher price from corruption-free companies.

Transparency Israel proposes several ways to fight corruption, including requiring politicians to publicly report their capital and that of their family, as well as to disclose any potential conflict of interest and their parties’ and candidates’ funding sources. In Israel, Knesset members’ declarations of capital are not made public. 

Tali Mayer
Daniel Bar-On