Corruption and responsibility

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Corruption and responsibility

The abuse of public offices and the corruption of government employees is becoming more organized, specialized and bold. The Yeongdeungpo district police in Seoul recently discovered an entirely new sphere in public office crime. A middle-rank employee of the Ministry of Employment and Labor was running a private business selling individual and corporate information stolen or learned from government computer files.

He specialized in information on government funding for companies with incentives for employment and corporate activities. The government has a variety of benefits and incentive programs to encourage and assist hiring and labor activities. But many small businesses are ignorant of them or their procedural paperwork. The official ran a brokerage service by allocating the beneficiaries and collecting 30 percent in commission for providing the information.

He set up his company with family members, relatives and acquaintances. The business earned 5.8 billion ($5.3 million) won over five years. He had not directly stolen or embezzled government money or accepted or solicited bribes in exchange for official action or inaction, as is typical. But he nevertheless abused the public office and unabashedly stole taxpayers’ funds, which should have gone to the beneficiaries, to build his business to a scale in which he employed about 300 people.

This latest case, and other bribery and corruption scandals, underscores serious loopholes in the ethics and integrity of public servants. Their criminal activities indicate they consider government coffers as free piggy banks instead of as a result of the toil and sweat of taxpayers.

The squandering of government money is equally as bad. Government employees should be reminded that they are paid with money from taxpayers. The overseeing of government employees must also be reinforced.

The latest illegal brokerage service went unnoticed and uncensored for more than five years. That was possible because the government has not aggressively informed people of various benefit programs. Policies are effective only when they are delivered. What is the use of various benefit policies when they do not reach the beneficiaries?

New criminal activities and the abuse of public offices were able to go unnoticed because of these blind spots in policy actions. The Ministry of Employment and Labor should share part of the responsibility. As much as it attempts to draw up good policy, the government must finish the work by publicizing it and delivering it to the right people.

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