Transparency, anti-corruption & the Arms Trade Treaty: What is it good for?
Written by Katie Fish and Ivo Jongejan, Transparency International
Transparency: What is it good for?
Corruption has long been the arms trade’s dirty secret. Shadowy deals and little regulation made it easy for governments and manufacturers to hide wrongdoing. By 2005, one study found that 40% of all corruption in global trade occurred in the defence sector.
Now a new alleged scandal in Iraq shows exactly why we need more transparency in the arms business – and how the new Arms Trade Treaty can help.
In July 2015, Iraqi MP Haitham Al-Jubouri told Sumerian News that a 2014 Iraqi Ministry of Defence deal to buy 12 Czech-made L-159 jet aircraft contained staggering levels of corruption. According to Al-Jubouri, the aircraft were priced at $750,000 each on the manufacturer’s website – so the deal should have cost around $9 million. Instead, the 12 planes were reportedly priced at $166 million.
In March this year, the Czechs announced that Iraq would actually receive 15 planes for a more plausible $30 million. Al-Jubouri has referred the whole episode to Iraq’s Integrity Commission and the Supreme Judicial Council for full investigation, while the Czech Ambassador in Baghdad blamed the whole tale on “turbulent politics” in Iraq.
What’s clear above all is that these figures don’t add up. Even with support and training, how could this deal at one point have been worth more than 18 times what the planes are said to cost?
One possible explanation is corruption. Transparency International’s Defence and Security Programme ranks Iraq as having a ‘very high’ risk of corruption in its government defence establishment. Legislation for defence and security procurement, for example, is understood to be rarely implemented, while news reports suggest that the Iraqi military is ‘riven’ with corruption.
Having ratified the Arms Trade Treaty, the Czech Republic should know that the treaty makes it illegal to authorise exports when there is an overriding risk of corruption. Governments should be aware of red flags and must ask themselves whether the price is reasonable, the customer well known and the items appropriate for their intended use. Any commission paid to agents or intermediaries should be carefully considered.
Moreover, the ATT’s transparency measures in record keeping and reporting included can help make shady deals a thing of the past. If governments publish regular reports on their arms exports, it will become much more difficult to hide corrupt payments. For taxpayers everywhere, it will be much better if arms procurement is done in the open, with the full scrutiny of elected officials.
So well done to the Iraqi Parliament for picking this up. It’s high time that Iraq became a State party to the ATT, and for all governments to push for full transparency in the arms trade.
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