[EDITORIALS]Clean up procurement

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[EDITORIALS]Clean up procurement

An executive of IBM Korea has been found to have created a secret fund and paid billions of won in bribes to public officers to win computer procurement contracts amounting to 66 billion won ($55 million). Tens of people were detained or indicted in the affair.
Although the executive in question apparently acted on his own, it is shocking that an executive of such a respected multinational corporation would be involved in such an act. Fifteen other firms, including LG IBM, pretended to participate in the biddings, receiving billions of wons in return. This is a flagrant example of how deep the chains of corruption run in Korea’s procurement system.
All the more shocking is the fact that so many government and government-affiliated agencies received the bribes. Among them are the National Tax Service, the Ministry of Information and Communication, the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office, the Army Headquarters, the Navy Headquarters, the Korea Electric Power Corporation, Korea Telecom and the Korean Federation of Community Credit Cooperatives. This means that even these days, corruption and bribery run rampant among public officials when coming in contact with civilians.
Of course, those who give the bribes are more at fault. However, it is an open secret that it is hard to win a government contract without bribery. As can be seen in this case, one can’t only blame the bribe-givers, seeing that almost all the agencies are so corrupt. We must think hard about why foreign firms complain they can’t run a business in Korea without paying off public officials.
We are still a backward country when it comes to transparency. The corruption manifest in the public sector even affects competition among private firms. Something must be done about this, urgently. The government must change first. Limit the authority of the civil servants, and make the procurement process more transparent while reinforcing the supervisory system. If the government is clean, the affiliated agencies will follow, and this in turn will reinforce the transparency and competitiveness of our financial institutes and private businesses.
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