What do corruption and prostitution have in common? Both are all about the transaction, in which each side gets something that it wants from the other, and in which it doesn't matter in what form the 'payment' is made. This rather simplistic analogy is an attempt to respond to the painful attempts of coalition politicians to excuse Economy Minister Janhátek's remarks advocating corruption by state firms, or to say that he was only describing how bribes could be 'transparently accounted for' as consulting service payments.
Minister Jahnátek, corruption cannot be made legal by recording it on a company's books and calling it a fee. It's still corruption, and it's still a crime. The OECD Convention Against the Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions, which Slovakia acceded to last century, says that "it is a crime to knowingly offer, promise or render money or other advantages, either directly or through a middleman, to a foreign public official in order that this official or a third party in the performance of their official duties acts or fails to act in order to ensure a business advantage or other undeserved advantage in international trade."
This means that if a Slovak firm finds a middleman overseas and signs a contract with them to bribe a foreign official, with the costs "transparently recorded" on the books of the Slovak company, it is still corruption. It is also corruption when this foreign firm, hired by a Slovak firm, pays for the schooling of the child of a foreign official as a reward for the official's decision to purchase Slovak weapons. Corruption is no longer just about fat envelopes full of money.
The OECD Convention also says that "it is a crime to aid or abet [corruption] including by encouraging, helping or recommending the bribery of a foreign official". This, Minister Jahnátek, is one of the standards of the modern world that many of us in Slovakia want to belong to. We all know that corruption occurs in arms deals, but this is something we should be trying to eliminate. In the rest of the world, arms companies are starting to include paragraphs in middleman contracts that specifically forbid corruption. From your words it appears that you recommend that state firms look for ways to formally legalize corruption. And that's bad news.
Sme, March 27
2. Apr 2007 at 0:00 | Emilia Sičáková-Beblavá