Friday, 13 June 2008

Who's in Charge of Corruption

Here's an article I found on The translation is mine.

Jurgis Jurgelis. Who Is in Charge of Corruption?

This spring, masked officers pried open the doors of several local governments. Not long after that, the doors of several jail cells slammed shut. Political attack, conspiracy, and clique were words that could be heard coming from the lips of those who were arrested. A hit below the belt was the response of the arrestees' friends who remained free. People said that it was the work of the STT [the Specialiųjų tyrimų tarnyba, the main anti-corruption body in Lithuania].

In general, corruption is not a law enforcement problem, but a management [could also be translated governing] problem. It arises because of the lack of order: lack of oversight, responsibility, proper personnel policies, transparent decision making, openness, etc. Law enforcement only picks the fruit of this "order". Without a change in the way things are managed, this fruit will always be in season.

On the other hand, the crime of corruption is a hard nut to crack even for the most efficient law enforcement agency because:

  • such crimes are committed by educated people;
  • both sides (the givers and the takers) are making an agreement and for that reason neither side complains;
  • well-organized corruption leaves no physical evidence;
  • the technology used by law enforcement becomes old very quickly—now everyone knows that you shouldn't say certain things on your mobile telephone;
  • the bigger the corruption, the higher up the chain of command.

Whoever controls the country also controls corruption

Corruption always appears in certain spheres: privatization, return of formerly held (later nationalized) property, bidding for government contracts, issue of various licences, distribution of European fund money, etc. Whoever is in charge of these spheres is in charge of the corruption in those spheres. There is no separate ministry of corruption (anticorruption) in the country—a sphere can be managed well and corruption can be controlled (limited). It is also possible to govern poorly and allow corruption to flourish.

In principle, only those institutions or those authorities in whose hands the control of the country rests are able to change the situation. It would be difficult for anyone else to do anything, except perhaps change the government.

Political will

This is the ability of the government to understand and to want and to be able to do something, in this case, limit corruption. When a national strategy to fight corruption was prepared, it received more or less this evaluation in the halls of government: "There are some interesting things there. I'll have to read through it". And that means that the strategy will never be put into practice, because what is needed is not to read through it but fight for it. In democratic countries political will is born and shaped in political parties. Political parties form the representative government, which forms policies and governs.

Our parties (some more than others) have certain problems with corruption. They are tormented by non-transparent sources of money. The parties admit that it is necessary to make it illegal for legal entities to provide financial support to parties. But they do not dare to make that illegal because they need the money.

The STT reveals another party-corruption handicap, the sale of people—members of parliamentary groups. A party wanting to get more power can buy members of other groups or at least temporarily rent his vote. There are other party-corruption problems. Political will is touched by corruption.

It is necessary to note that in the European countries in which corruption has been more or less eliminated, parties (not organizations like the STT) fight for clean politics in their own ranks, they control the members of parliament and ministers that represent them, etc. A corrupt government official could bring the party huge losses and hurt its authority. Here it does not harm parties at all.

Some propaganda

Two years ago the political groups in the parliament signed an agreement about unifying in the fight against corruption. There was talk and there were remarks to the effect that the agreement was of a propagandistic nature. With the passage of two years, it would be proper to discuss the result that have been achieved and let people know what has been done, what has not been done, and what will be done. But there will apparently be no compilation of the results, since there is not really anything to compile. The agreement will lose its spark and fade away silently, without anyone noticing. No one needs to discuss propaganda.

Who is leading the front line?

There is no one in that position. There is also no responsibility for the front.

Some time earlier an attempt was made to put the STT in that position. But the STT does not have the authority to give orders to governmental units, require that they take certain steps, or demand certain results from them. It can only desire, suggest, ask, ask again, and ask yet again.

At this time, several anti-corruption commissions operate in Lithuania. There is one in the parliament, one that is connected with the Interior Ministry, one that is run by the Interior Ministry, and one that is connected with the Cabinet of Ministers. They all do certain jobs. But not one of them has enough authority or the obligation to lead the country's fight against corruption. And for that reason, they do not have to answer for the situation in the country.

The position of leader of the front is open. It could be occupied the the Cabinet of Ministers. The leaders of the country could use their power and the power of governmental institutions they manage in this fight. No matter what, a leader who is willing to take responsibility is needed. Maybe after elections.

Not really so bad

A significant amount of money is spent (although of course more is needed) fighting corruption. We have a special organization to fight corruption, the STT. There are also other organizations fighting against corruption. There are no fewer than in other European countries.

According to level of corruption, the situation in Lithuania is not the worst in the European Union. It is true that we are starting to slip at little behind Slovenia and Estonia, which were earlier about level with us, but have now passed us up. We are floundering in the same place with our neighbors Latvia and Poland. We are in a better position than the new members of the EU, Romania and Bulgaria. If Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine join the EU some day, there will be even more countries in a worse situation. Not bad.

There are countries that are in incomparably worse shape, for example Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and even Russia. But the discussion is not about Africa or Russia or even about the index of corruption in various countries around the world. As one French writer said, it is not the poverty that a people live in that is terrible; what is terrible is when people get used to living in poverty.

No comments: