Ending local corruption

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Ending local corruption

The Board of Audit and Inspection’s latest revelations clearly show how far corruption has gone among officials in local governments. The head of the Central District Office of Daejeon was found to have ordered his subordinates to change a friend’s job performance scores to enable him to get a higher position. A former mayor of Asan in South Chungcheong allegedly provided favors to a businessman by arbitrarily changing the agricultural zoning of his land to allow the construction of a golf course.

And an official in Yeongyang County in North Gyeongsang bought a plot of land for a cultural complex at a higher price to benefit the owner of the land. An official in charge of accounting for a local health care center was even caught squandering 14 million won ($13,220) of its budget to pay for his living expenses via a corporate credit card. Those are clear violations of the rules and they demoralize honest people in officialdom and make worst the financial condition of local governments.

The BAI has been monitoring malpractices to root out corruption in local governments. Thanks to its efforts, explicit corruption associated with civil engineering projects has decreased. However, the methods of the corrupt have become shadier and more cunning, the government agency revealed. If the problem is left unattended, the malaise of corruption will further penetrate our local administration systems.

Local corruption will likely take a more extreme form this year as the shady connections between politicians and civil servants intensified alarmingly in the course of the April legislative elections and the December presidential election. Through the two major political events, politicians on the national level received lots of support from local people, which can lead to a massive provision of special favors to local governments in return for their assistance. Local figures with tainted careers reportedly stampeded to the campaigns of legislative and presidential hopefuls to offer help - in return for compensation later.

The new administration must be careful not to allow local corruption get into full swing at the initial stage of the government. Expansion of welfare services has already aggravated the fiscal health of local governments. The incoming administration must make local administrations more transparent by ending the vicious cycle of corruption. The new government should also strengthen punishment for corruption. A slap on the wrist - like a verbal warning - cannot sever the black ties. It must demonstrate a stern will to eradicate this plague.
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