Busting bribery

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Busting bribery

The Seoul city government has drawn up punitive measures to eradicate corruption. The measures are aimed at enhancing transparency and ensuring integrity in city affairs. Under the measures, if a civil servant is involved in corruption, even just once, he or she will be fired, regardless of the size of the bribe or his post.

The measures come after officials at several district offices reportedly embezzled money from employees. Although the measures have been instituted belatedly, they are part of a drive that, we hope, will banish corruption from our capital.

Until now, bribery and embezzlement at the district level have been punished lightly, and those involved have often been protected by their agencies. Some bosses have closed their eyes to corruption going on around them, fearing they might be punished as well because they are responsible for their employees.

In fact, only 41.7 percent of reported embezzlement cases are prosecuted and lead to criminal charges.

The problem is civil servants can be tempted into bribery if the punishment handed out is so weak. The city of Seoul’s new measures are expected to be an effective way to make civil servants stay honest.

But stringent anti-corruption measures alone are not enough. We also need to see in place a system to detect and prevent corruption at the source. That’s why we are pleased to see that the financial reward for reporting civil servant corruption has been raised from 50 million ($37,000) to 2 billion won.

This move seems to have proved effective: The number of corruption cases reported by people who were encouraged by the award increased from three in 2006 and six in 2007 to 12 last year when the reward was raised.

Another interesting option would be to reward an insider who reports a case of corruption with a promotion or extra points for performance. The city of Seoul can use the Seoul Call Center, “Dasan 120,” for civil servants to call in and report if they have been approached with a bribe. We also need a much stricter monitoring agency. Efforts should be made to more thoroughly inspect and audit areas related to accounting and finance, such as for example, departments for disbursement of budgets, levying taxes and managing funds.

The Seoul city government last year was ranked the top in the Anti-corruption and Civil Rights Commission’s evaluation. But the city hasn’t shed its negative image entirely. Not yet. An image of transparency will be complete only when the new measures are implemented strictly.
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