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Anti-bribe Proposal Declared ´Ineffective´

Plans in the pipeline at the Ministry of Interior to deal with corrupt officials in-house have been described as ineffective and unlikely to succeed by Transparency International (TI) and some observers. The only effective way to tackle bribe-taking officials and to restore public confidence in the system, they say, is to set up an independent regulator to investigate allegations.

Meanwhile TI representatives say the future of a proposed amendment to the law on conflicts of interest—drafted in cooperation with Sen. Josef Zieleniec—looks uncertain because politicians have complained it is too strict. Politicians polled by PBJ said that if the legislation could prove effective, they would vote in favor of it.

Results of research carried out over the past few years have shown a growing number of Czechs admitting they pay bribes to officials. In a survey carried out by polling agency GfK in March, 37 percent of respondents said they pay bribes, up from a low of 21 percent in 1999 (GfK started surveys on the issue in 1998).

Apathy towards bribery is also on the increase, with just 11 percent of respondents saying in March that bribery was completely unnecessary, compared to 22 percent in 1998.

Thirty-seven percent said that state offices were the most corrupt institutions in the Czech Republic. Independent estimates have put the total bribes paid in the Czech Republic every year at some Kc 40 billion ($1.33 billion), or some 2 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The current coalition government promised on coming to power in June 2002 that it would fight corruption. Apart from an amendment to the law on public tenders that is currently in committee in the lower house, the government has been repeatedly criticized by the opposition and the media for not taking action against bribery. An original proposal from Minister of Interior Stanislav Gross to entrap bribe-taking officials was shelved earlier this year after the government deemed it unworkable.

(PBJ 01.ix.03)

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