NO MATTER what the final result of the squabbling between the Labour Ministry and social security provider Sociálna poistovňa (SP) over its decision to purchase the most expensive computer system in a tender without ministry approval, questions remain about large purchases by state companies.
Part of the problem is the unwieldy tender process that allows disgruntled losers to delay purchases for months or even years by appealing against the decisions of the tender committees, as was the case with the state treasury IT system. However, most of the problems lie in the lack of transparency that has allowed a culture of corruption to continue from Slovakia's communist past.
This corruption can be seen at every level of public administration in Slovakia, from courts demanding fees to complete their services on time, to allegations of companies receiving contracts from state companies in return for political contributions.
It is not fair to only place the blame for corruption at the feet of officials. Part of the blame should also be given to those on the other side of the deal, including the international companies that pay the 'introduction' charges, 'consultation' fees, or bribes.
Watchdog Transparency International (TI) has been calling for countries to focus not only on the recipients of bribes but also on those who pay. An example was the Lesotho dam project in South Africa, where TI called for the World Bank to bar companies that were implicated when the chief executive of the project was convicted of accepting bribes.
After court proceedings in September last year, one of the companies involved, Canadian Acres International, became the first international company ever to be convicted of bribery in a foreign country.
The sooner similar processes happen in Slovakia the better. Once it can be shown that companies cannot get away with paying bribes, and politicians and state officials cannot get away with receiving them, the problem may begin to be resolved at other levels of society.
21. Apr 2003 at 0:00