Corruption health check essential

COMMENT: Corruption in ports and at borders generally manifests itself in terms of collusive forms of corruption to evade tariffs and taxes and coercive bribery where port or customs officials extract bribes from companies or individuals for performing routine processes, writes Mike Mundy.

There is no doubt that this sort of crime – and it does involve criminal acts - has a negative impact on the cost of import and export activity, trade and general revenue collection. This is the case whether it is the consequence of ‘one-off’ actions or as a result of organised crime.


U4, the Anti-Corruption Resource Centre (, a web-based resource centre for development practitioners who wish to effectively address corruption challenges in their work, has looked at the issue of corruption in ports and offers very constructive advice to those parties that wish to address corruption.


U4 highlights the route to stamping out corruption, including systemic measures that address the underlying causes of corruption as well as organisational and institutional development to address both the reduction of opportunities for corruption and of structures that create a supportive environment for corruption.


A useful starting point for any port authority or terminal operator seeking to put a stop to corruption activity is to read U4’s paper, ‘A Literature review on corruption at ports and border points in Southern Africa.’ This basically provides a snapshot of the type and forms of corruption that can take place in the modern environment but then it goes on to look at aspects such as “Examples of anti-corruption tools and initiatives” and “Tools for raising ethical standards”.


The emphasis here is on how to eliminate corruption from day-to-day port activities but there are of course also other forms of corruption that intrude on port activity including those related to contract awards and to cyber-crime.


Ports and terminals as key interfaces between different transport modes, and usually with a large and diverse customer base, are arguably more susceptible to corruption. Equally, they place substantial orders for civil works and equipment plant as well as offer opportunities to investors – all aspects which can attract corruption activity.


Modern day ports must step up their activities to eliminate actual or potential corruption or ultimately pay the price, both in a direct monetary sense or in lost revenue through diverted trade. A regular ‘health check’ on anti-corruption is measures is no longer optional but absolutely essential.


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