Corruption in land governance is the abuse of power for private gain while carrying out the functions of land administration and land management. When land governance systems are weak, corruption thrives.
Governance systems fail and corruption takes hold when citizens have to pay a bribe to access land administration services that should be free, when legal frameworks are manipulated to benefit powerful elites and not society at large, and when public agencies in charge of managing land abuse their power. This leads to the poor being excluded from land management and administration systems, tenure insecurity, conflict and diminished investment in land-based economic activities. The ultimate consequences are poverty, food insecurity and non-sustainable use of land.
Conversely, when good land governance exists, decision-making on the way land is managed is more transparent, accountable, and participatory. Decision-makers act with integrity, the rule of law is applied equally to all, and disputes are able to be resolved before they escalate into conflict. Effective land governance also improves tenure security and reduces social tensions.
Know your risks
The first step in reducing corruption is to know the risks in land governance processes that enable rot to take hold. Once these risks are known, lawmakers, civil society and the private sector can design better systems to counteract land corruption.
Transparency International, together with Germany’s Humboldt University’s Centre for Rural Development, have put together an easy-to-use handbook on how to do a risk mapping exercise. It can be used by anyone – from government officials to policy-makers, community-based organisations and academics.
The beauty of this tool is that it can be applied quickly and with minimal resources. It’s participatory approach (and the fact that it focusses on risks rather than offenders) stimulates open discussions about land governance processes, even in countries where corruption is still a taboo topic.