I paid a bribe

February 5, 2015

Before going any further, the headline is in fact, entirely untrue – but it could have been true, and who would know?  How does the fact a bribe is requested – or not, paid – or not, incorporated into any corruption data other than by guesswork or the perception that at some point it will have happened – even if it didn’t?

Yesterday at a small meeting of erudite and motivated people, a discussion ensued regarding the war that is on-going across the entirety of Ukraine – rather than the conventional armed warfare occurring in eastern Ukraine.

The national war – that is allegedly being fought – with corruption is what is referred to.

Having referred to the real, tangible and positive steps made by Ukrainian civil society in yesterday’s entry, not to mention the enormous amounts of money spent by the Europeans supporting it over the past few years, it is now necessary to write a few lines relating to result driven/actionable financing.  In short, a wiser, project driven, benchmarked financing, where ever possible.

The Corruption Perception Index ranks nations upon the perceived corruption within – there is no other way, as corruption is a cancer that occurs by its very nature, out of the light.  It functions as a hidden, odious, nation destroying/retarding phenomenon within the shadows and behind closed doors.  Perhaps the only accurate statistic regarding corruption are the figures that relate to the so very few prosecutions.

Those prosecutions being so few in number, they shed very little light on the scale of the problem, or the clusters and patterns of corruption outside of the political/business elite in Ukraine.  In no way do they help identify more accurately the costs of corruption in monetary terms, or the scale of constituents directly effected by face to face corruption when dealing with State institutions.

Headlines naturally feature the prominent personalities or companies accused, and rightly they should be headline news, but rarely is the sheer scale of small sum, daily individual bribery mentioned – the bribery directly faced by the general public, rather than that from which they suffer considerably, indirectly that occurs amongst their feckless leaders.

Corruption is generally measured by perception and best guesses.  Perception as a method of measurement therefore has issues – even if based upon some very clever methodology.


In short there is little hard data, other than what is perceived – or not – to be the case.

Whilst the elite may have a very good idea about just how much they and their colleagues have nefariously removed from State budgets, does anybody have any idea about the real size of corruption at the lowest, directly society-facing, levels?

The much (and rightly) criticised traffic police are generally deemed the most corrupt of institutions (after the political class).  Perhaps they are.  They certainly have the most numerous face to face interactions with the general public.  But are they the most corrupt institution by percentage?  If one in two traffic officers extort bribes, but two in three extort bribes in the land registry, or Zhek, or the prosecutors office, or hospital managers etc., then the traffic police are not the most corrupt of institutions – even if they are responsible for far more bribe solicitations due to the number of employees they have engaging directly with the public.

What of regional variances?   The main source of corruption in Sumy, may not be that of Lviv, or Odessa, or Kherson.

How to tackle corruption effectively and get the best results for every Euro/US$/UAH spent, if in tackling it, action is based upon perceptions of what is the biggest problem that may not necessarily be accurate, or indeed the major problem in a specific locality but not others?

At yesterday’s gathering, this blog posed a very simple question.  Is there a Ukrainian equivalent of the Indian “I paid a bribe” website?

If not, why not?  (Nobody knew, despite being deeply ingrained within the civil society hierarchy, whether such a website existed in Ukraine – thus if it does, then it is obviously failing by way of societal awareness.)

It costs little money to create and run such a website.  The Indian “I paid a bribe” example monitors, in real time, corruption.  Users describe bribes paid, bribes refused, the number of honest civil servants encountered, where bribes were requested, and for what.  It is mapped, all the numbers/data recorded is consistently visible.

Considering the extremely vibrant social media in Ukraine, promoting such a website and getting societal buy-in would be assured.  Figures based on more than perception would be forthcoming – as would trends and peculiarities to specific locations.

Why not use the cheap but effective tools employed in other nations by civil society that, in short, would provide data surpassing that of “perception” and a few convictions for corruption?  To be fair, there have been arrests recently for corruption – a deputy prosecutor here, a regional veterinarian head there etc.  Notable as they are, these are not people who come into contact with the vast majority of the hoi polloi daily, soliciting bribes.  These arrests are not incidents that will dramatically change perceptions (or realities) as welcome as these arrests are.

Naturally any such Ukrainian equivalent “I paid a bribe” website would be far from 100% accurate, nor would it provide a truly accurate picture of corruption faced directly by the general public, but it would certainly be an improvement upon the data that exists now, and with little financial outlay.  There would be numbers from which to work based upon more than guesswork, generated by almost no financial outlay in the grand scheme of things.

Given enough time, a Ukrainian equivalent would supply corruption big data, regional data, identify which State administrative arms are the most corrupt, depending upon how any measurement methodology was applied, and in which regions/cities/towns they are more corrupt.

Ultimately it would certainly assist in identifying where corruption efforts (and time and money) are best spent in any location within the nation, based upon the reporting of the public solicited for bribes by the lower level officialdom.

Any democratic governance, be it national or local (despite its own shenanigans), benefits greatly from being seen to be responsive to its constituency.  To be effective in being responsive, refining general perceptions to something more specific, can only be a beneficial thing.

Before you all start asking why, if it is such a good idea, such a website is not created by this blog – unfortunately it is far beyond the IT programming capabilities to be found here.  Indeed it is no secret that the author is beyond “IT challenged”, and is indeed an “IT retard”.  Making sense of the data such a website could produce, would be a different matter however.

Perhaps some of the very clever and more IT capable readers that follow this blog will take on developing such a website – time will tell.


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