Corruption can kill

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Corruption can kill

Authorities learned that a number of untested and questionable protective suits have been distributed to fire stations across the nation, but aren’t sure since when and how many. The Ministry of Public Safety and Security had to tell firefighters to junk some 19,300 suits that were recently distributed. Some of the suits, which were supplied by two manufacturers, had not been tested by the Korea Fire Institute. The outfits were purchased by the Public Procurement Service on the order of local governments.

Fire suits protect the lives of firefighters. In 2010, the government supplied new fire-resistant clothing, and each suit cost 700,000 won ($636). Fire suits must undergo 20 safety tests including resistance against heat of 400 degrees Fahrenheit. But according to an insider tip-off, a large number of suits given to firefighters are left untested.

Safety was also neglected in the Air Force. Investigators of defense procurement irregularities arrested six retired Air Force officers for embezzling 24.3 billion won worth of funds for maintenance on F-16 fighters. They cooked up bills and import documents to make it look as if costly imported parts were used in the maintenance of the aircraft. In fact, counterfeit or used parts were provided by the companies. Maintenance of jet fighters can decide the lives of pilots.

Corruption in the nuclear power industry, railways and defense procurement, which are directly related to public safety, continues to plague Korea. Individual greed could cause losses of billions of dollars to the nation - and many lives as well.

Public procurement systems must be overhauled. Supplies for government offices are purchased by the Public Procurement Service and military supplies and equipment by the Defense Acquisition Program Administration. But they are often negligent. Corruption in purchases of specialized equipment and supplies cannot be identified unless the person in charge is an expert in his or her field. Questionable fire suits were supplied because the Public Procurement Service had not done its job. Irregularities in safety supplies cannot take place if the office is strict with its scrutiny.

Punishments must be toughened against manufacturers and suppliers. A company that supplied faulty antiaircraft guns joined a military tender process just a few years later. Corruption at the expense of public safety and national security must be rooted out. Public employees and soldiers also must face criminal and financial penalties if they gamble our safety for their own greed.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 17, Page 26

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