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Cabinet told manual on bribes is "a joke"

A government agency leading the Mikuláš Dzurinda cabinet's fight against corruption has distributed a four-page manual appealing to bureaucrats not to take bribes.
The manual, which was distributed to all key state bodies October 24, aims to increase public awareness of corrupt practices. State bodies are expected to make the manual accessible to the wider public by placing it on their information boards.
"You should join up as well! Don't give bribes! Don't accept bribes!" states the manual. "Tell your acquaintances that you've had it up to here with bribery, and raise your children in a healthy environment of antipathy towards corruption and clientelism."

A government agency leading the Mikuláš Dzurinda cabinet's fight against corruption has distributed a four-page manual appealing to bureaucrats not to take bribes.

The manual, which was distributed to all key state bodies October 24, aims to increase public awareness of corrupt practices. State bodies are expected to make the manual accessible to the wider public by placing it on their information boards.

"You should join up as well! Don't give bribes! Don't accept bribes!" states the manual. "Tell your acquaintances that you've had it up to here with bribery, and raise your children in a healthy environment of antipathy towards corruption and clientelism."

The document also provides a list of telephone numbers for people to call if they wish to complain about a decision taken by state bodies, and stresses that the battle against corruption can only be won if all people support it.

The effectiveness of the manual was questioned by anti-corruption experts, who said it represented a very modest result for almost three years of government efforts to combat corruption in the civil service.

Emília Sičáková, head of the anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International Slovakia, said that the first time her organisation had seen the manual "we thought it was a joke".

"The first two pages read like government propaganda, and have nothing in common with what such manuals should look like," Sičáková said.

"All you get are statistics and information about the current cabinet's achievements in its effort to eliminate corruption."

Tomáš Kamenec, a lawyer with the Bratislava-based Citizen and Democracy foundation, was also critical of the manual. He said: "This should have been created at the beginning of the cabinet's anti-corruption programme, not after three years of work. It offers very simple and rough lay guidelines which are not always applicable."

But Monika Smolová, a member of the government agency which produced the manual, disagreed with the criticism.

"The manual is meant for the wider public, but I wouldn't call it simplistic. It wasn't our goal to enumerate all the existing legal tools for fighting corruption, or all the possible situations where it could arise, but rather to improve awareness of the broader problem of corruption and give people basic advice what to do when they encounter it," she said.

Sičáková said that various anti-corruption organisations, including Transparency, had already produced similar manuals, adding she did not understand why the government agency had "duplicated work which other people have already done, and neglected its own tasks."

The Slovak government made fighting corruption one of its priorities when it took office in 1998, and launched a National Anti-Corruption Programme on February 27, 2000.

It has since been criticised for moving too slowly against corruption, which remains apparent in both the public and private sectors.

"When we meet with partners and potential investors abroad, they say the first thing they encounter on arriving to Slovakia is the outstretched palms of state bureaucrats," said Robert Fico, an independent Member of Parliament and head of the non-parliamentary party Smer.

"Until the system which forces people to give bribes changes, this manual won't help anything," added Sičáková.

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