Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Corruption: Bribery remains prevalent across Western Balkans

UN - One in six people living in the Western Balkans region has been exposed to some form of bribery with a public official in the past year, according to a new survey released by the United Nations anti-crime agency.

The survey of 28,000 people – issued by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and funded by the European Commission – found that corruption is the third-most pressing issue for residents of the region after jobs and poverty, well ahead of security or education.

Bribes remain common in many daily encounters, the report noted, with payments frequently given to doctors, police officers, nurses and municipal officers, and an average of four to 10 bribes paid out by a person each year.

Nearly half of participants said the public official either explicitly or implicitly requested the bribe, with cash the overwhelmingly most popular form of payment. More than a fifth reported that food or drink was given instead.

The most common reason for giving a bribe was, according to the survey respondents, to ensure that they “received better treatment,” while other reasons cited included the desire to speed up a procedure, avoid paying a fine or finalize a procedure.

Just 1.5 per cent of respondents reported the bribe incident to authorities, with most saying that no one would care or that the practice was so widespread that it would be pointless to report.

The average amount of money paid in a bribe ranged from €103 to €1,212, which in some countries or areas of the Western Balkans amounts to more than 140 per cent of average weekly salaries.

Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of UNODC, said the region’s countries deserved credit for at least signing up to the UN Convention against Corruption and for taking steps to try to combat the scourge.

“The areas highlighted in this report provide us with a realistic viewpoint of the on-the-ground situation which is so critical to authorities as we collectively work together in countering corrupt practices at all levels,” he said.