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Colección: INTERAMER
Número: 69
Año: 2000
Autor: Ramón López and Juan Carlos Jordán, Editors
Título: Sustainable Development in Latin America: Financing and Policies Working in Synergy

Box 5

Corruption

In some countries corruption inhibits efforts to enforce environmental regulations. Low staff salaries and little external oversight of regulatory activities create an environment in which bribing officials to look the other way may turn out to be cheaper than making the required investments to prevent environmental harm. Both the citizen suit and oversight roles for private enforcement make even more of a difference in the degree of compliance where the enforcement regime is corrupt than where it is not. Allowing private enforcement oversight of public decisions provides a direct check on corruption, while allowing private enforcers to bring actions against private entities that are inflicting environmental harm provides an (sometimes quite powerful) indirect check.

Bribing officials is an effective strategy only when the officials have sufficient control over the enforcement process that they can grant the bribing firm immunity from enforcement actions. As long as enforcement is the exclusive domain of the public sector, bribes are valuable because of the immunity public enforcers can provide. However, when private enforcers enter the scene, public enforcers can no longer assure immunity. Bribery becomes a less certain, and hence less attractive, strategy.

On the other hand, careful consideration needs to be given to the design of a complaint procedure and any necessary protection of anonymity. In societies where police may take the law into their own hands, it can be counterproductive to require that complainants give their names and other personal information, potentially exposing themselves to whoever gets access to those data. It has been reported that in Paraguay introducing this requirement has resulted in fewer complaints than before (Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, 1998).