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Corrupt behaviour still prevalent

ONE in five Slovaks have offered a bribe and half of those have done so because they have heard that others do it, according to a report prepared by Transparency International Slovensko (TIS) entitled Anti-Corruption Minimum 2012. Even though the report indicates that the number of Slovaks offering or accepting bribes has been falling, Slovakia remains among those countries whose citizens feel there is a high level of corruption in everyday dealings as well as in the public sector.

ONE in five Slovaks have offered a bribe and half of those have done so because they have heard that others do it, according to a report prepared by Transparency International Slovensko (TIS) entitled Anti-Corruption Minimum 2012. Even though the report indicates that the number of Slovaks offering or accepting bribes has been falling, Slovakia remains among those countries whose citizens feel there is a high level of corruption in everyday dealings as well as in the public sector.

“This [perception of corruption] is the same in every country [of the region] but here it is worse because the public can see the impunity of politicians,” Gabriel Šípoš, director of TIS, told The Slovak Spectator, adding that the situation is made worse because no high-level politician in Slovakia has ever been punished for corrupt behaviour.

“From the group of post-communist countries we can see that prime ministers or former prime ministers [in other countries] have been punished for their deeds so it is time for Slovakia to support the hope of its people that the law is applied the same for everyone,” Šípoš added.

TIS defines corruption as “the misuse of entrusted power for personal gain” and its report, prepared each year since 1999, looks at several aspects of corruption, evaluates measures undertaken by the sitting government to reduce corruption in Slovakia, and makes its own recommendations.

The TIS report distinguishes two types of corruption, writing that small-scale corruption involves citizens' everyday lives in which bribes can be asked for, offered or accepted and larger-scale corruption that is not directly related to everyday life and is often associated with officials in various levels of government and individual employees in the public sector.

Small-scale bribery drops

Respondents in the TIS survey, conducted by the Focus polling agency, reported that they perceive corruption as common in five sectors. About 61 percent of those surveyed said corruption is common in health care, followed by the judiciary (52 percent), government ministries (51 percent), police (43 percent) and private-sector businesses (37 percent).

A significant number of the respondents also stated that bribery occurs at regional and local levels of government and at custom offices.

The survey found a perceived drop in corruption in the education sector as the 2006 survey reported 27 percent of those surveyed perceive corruption in education while only 24 percent said so in 2011.
The report noted that 73 percent of those surveyed had not given a bribe to any employee in public services during the last three years. Though 21 percent of those surveyed said they had given a bribe to a public employee during the past three years, the percentage was considerably lower than in 1999, when 40 percent of respondents said they had offered such a bribe.

According to the report an individual’s primary reason for offering a bribe was their own personal experience or the experience of their relatives. About 52 percent of respondents stated that they had offered a bribe “because it is done like that [in Slovakia]”, 46 percent stated that they needed to offer a bribe to resolve “an important matter” and 39 percent stated that a friend had advised them to offer a bribe.

Šípoš admitted that some of the respondents may not have been honest in answering the questions prepared by the Focus agency but he thinks their number is lower than ten years ago. He believes the factors that have contributed to less corruption are simpler and clearer rules in transacting business as well as more straightforward rules connected with paying taxes.

“A lower level of bureaucracy is connected with fewer crimes of corruption,” Šípoš told The Slovak Spectator.

The number of people charged, prosecuted or found guilty of corrupt behaviour is an indicator of the level of corruption in the country. The report states that Slovak police handled 148 alleged crimes of corrupt behaviour in 2011 and 95 of these cases were successfully investigated and prosecuted.

Though data assembled by TIS indicate that the number of detected crimes of corruption has stabilised in Slovakia, the percentage of people who are willing to report corrupt activities to the police has actually decreased. The TIS survey for 2006 reported that 25 percent of respondents said they would probably report corrupt behaviour to the police while the percentage fell to only 21 percent in 2011. Only 5 percent of those surveyed in 2011 said that they would definitely report corruption to the police. And 64 percent of the respondents in 2011 said they would certainly not report an incident of corruption to the police.

Šípoš believes the state can do more to motivate citizens to report corrupt behaviour to the proper authorities.

“We are missing legislation that guarantees legal protection to citizens [for reporting corrupt behaviour] and also offers of a reward if it [revealing corruption] saves money for the state budget,” Šípoš told The Slovak Spectator.

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