Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Ukrainians Shrug Off Corruption Despite Damaging Effects

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian households spent $700 million in bribes in the last 12 months and the judicial system is perceived as the most corrupt government branch, according to two recent surveys.

Juhani Grossman is Chief of Party of the ACTION Project.

Drivers and traffic police said they derive mutual benefit from corruption, a third survey said.

“Corruption in Ukraine is so widespread that many Ukrainians cannot imagine themselves without it,” said Juhani Grossman, Chief of Party of the ACTION project.

“This is not unlike an addiction – when the addict cannot even imagine living without his drug and talks up the positive aspects of it. While more than half the population thinks giving bribes is justified in some cases, like bribing the traffic police, the mid- and long-term consequences for society are alarming.”

While only 13 percent of households reported giving bribes to public officials in 2007, the survey reported the amount is enough to build six ultra-modern ‘Children’s Hospitals of the Future,’ or purchase 8,270 new, modern ambulances.

The Children’s Hospital for the Future is a fund­-raising initiative run by the Ukraine 3000 Fund which is chaired by First Lady of Ukraine Kateryna Yushchenko, envisioning a state-­of-­the-­art 250-­bed hospital.

The two nationwide surveys, “Cost of Corruption for Ukrainian Households,” and “Public Trust of the Judicial System,” each had a sample size of more than 2,000 Ukrainian adults and were conducted in late 2007.

They revealed a stark difference between perceived and actual corruption.

For example, about 5 percent of respondents reported giving bribes within the judicial branch, yet 85 percent surveyed are convinced the system is corrupt.

In contrast, bribes to traffic police are more common, yet the corruption perception is lower and 58 percent said they believe the amount of bribes remained unchanged.

People feel giving bribes is justified in many cases because of short-­term necessities such as visiting the hospital, speeding up registering a new car or obtaining a driver’s license.

But this only fuels the problem and results in hidden costs, Grossman said.

“Medicine is a striking example,” he said. “If a person will undergo surgery, he will bribe the surgeon, anesthesiologist, and nurse, but the scalpel will still be rusty, or the chemotherapy will be shoddy, and the money lines their pockets and doesn’t go into the system.”

Public trust in government also erodes, and cynicism increases.

“If people don’t trust the government, then the whole governing process is undermined, which in my opinion, is one of the reasons why we’ve had a protracted crisis for months,” Grossman said.

Simply raising salaries is only part of the solution. Grossman said stronger enforcement of the law is needed and more clearly defined legislation, especially regulations concerning land.

Currently, the Ukrainian government is working with US consultants under the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s Threshold Country Program to systematically introduce income declaration forms, resolve conflict of interest issues in government, initiate internal investigation units, and implement mandatory testing for higher education institution admissions.

As for the judicial system, “we need to ensure transparency throughout the whole legal process in the courts,” said Valentyn Voloshyn, head of Solidarity, a Poltava­-based organization that monitors 35 courts in the region.

“We need to monitor when the judges come to work, to have people present at court hearings instead of allowing closed doors, to make the process of doling out court cases to judges random so that people don’t know in advance who will try their case.”

The surveys are part of a bi-­monthly publication issued by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, commissioned by the ACTION Project implemented by Management Systems International and funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Millennium Challenge Corp.

The third survey, “Corruption in Traffic Patrol” was conducted by the Kharkiv Institute of Social Research and sampled 500 Ukrainian adults in the Kharkiv Oblast in December.

Source: Kyiv Post

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