Rumour has it that anyone who can afford to pay 15.000-20.000 metical to the right offices can get a lucrative job as a traffic police officer in Mozambique.

South African exporters avoid shipping any goods through Maputo port. Corrupt customs officers overprice the cost of using their port. In a new study, researchers estimate that a mind-boggling USD 4.9 billion disappear every year. This is a massive loss of revenue for a state that faces bleak economic prospects and budget cuts in education and health.

-The majority of Mozambicans want a corruption free society, but they are tied hand and foot by a system that a few, very influential, individuals benefit from, says Jan Isaksen, senior researcher at the Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI).

Corruption costs equivalent to 60 % of budget
The customs sector is the most corruption-ridden sector in Mozambique. By extracting bribes from about half of the shipments he or she clears each month, a customs official working in Maputo port can get a 60 % ‘pay raise’. The cost of bribes in the customs sector, estimates show, amounts to USD 108 million a year. This massive loss is only a small part of the total corruption costs in Mozambique.

-The average Mozambican is fed-up with corruption, but it is extremely challenging to end something that is so integrated in everyday practices, says Isaksen.

The report The costs of corruption to the Mozambican economy from the Centro de Integridade Pública (CIP), CMI and the U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre measures and documents the far-reaching scope, the devastating effects of corruption on the Mozambican economy and the burden it represents for the average citizen.  Their study is based on a wide range of interviews, analysis of research publications and newspaper articles, and a sampling of relevant cases. It portrays a country crippled by corruption.

Não há dinheiro – there is no money
The corrupt practices in the traffic police and the customs sector is a vivid example of how widespread corruption has detrimental effects on the economy. Corruption increases costs, hinders growth and frightens foreign investors from engaging in business in the country. Mozambique has a poor international reputation. It is a well-known hub for money laundering and is number 119 of 175 countries on the most recent global Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI 2014). The long-term damage to social development are hard to grasp.

When the report from the CIP/CMI/U4 team was launched in Maputo, Mozambican activists and journalists eagerly discussed the findings on Twitter, pointing to the costs for future generations.

-Corruption is definitely part of the public agenda in Mozambique, but there is little political will to deal with the problem. Many politicians claim that they want to fight it, but so far without any kind of credibility, says Isaksen.

The government is under pressure to act. Mozambique’s total public debt is increasing, oil and gas prices are falling threatening future revenue from natural resource extraction, the collection of taxes is slow, and there are strong signals that tourism, agriculture, real estate and the manufacturing industry is struggling. Não há dinheiro – there is no money – is gradually becoming the country’s new slogan. Dealing with the corruption is the only way to get the economy going again. It would make it possible for the government to collect more taxes, and it might attract investments.

Even though they are far and few between, some important anti-corruption steps have been taken. Mozambique has signed and ratified most of the international anti-corruption instruments. Domestic legislation on the issue has improved immensely since 2012. Reforms are under way in the customs sector. The introduction of a new electronic system that makes it harder to hide money flows, has already proved successful.

The team behind the report recommends that the Mozambican government initiates more and tougher legislation and audits to curb corruption in state-owned as well as private companies, and to create more awareness through targeted campaigns.