Losing the corruption battle

  • 2009-03-25
  • By Adam Mullett
VILNIUS - The director of Transparency International Lithuania (TI) said whistleblowers have no legal protection from retribution if they are discovered, deterring people from reporting crimes.
A new report found that while the reporting of corrupt practices is regarded highly, corruption is the same or worse than last year.

"They encourage people to report things, but to me this is like jumping off a bridge without someone to catch you or playing Russian roulette. Because there is no law to protect these people and we are asking them to put a gun to their head and pull the trigger and ask if something will come out. The situation has not changed here over the last 8 years," TI Director Sergejus Muravjovs told The Baltic Times.
He said Lithuania's corruption perception index has remained steady for almost a decade.
Lithuanians regard bribery, abuse of office and nepotism as the most widespread forms of corruption plaguing their country and don't believe the situation is improving, but is rather declining, according to the TI report titled "The Lithuanian Map of Corruption for 2008."

Some 54 percent of the respondents believe that over the past five years the level of corruption in Lithuania has increased dramatically. Meanwhile, 26 percent of public servants and 25 percent of business people stated the same.
Muravjovs believes that there is insufficient information available to people about the need for a law to protect whistleblowers that could potentially stop corruption.
"If you ask a politician why there is no law, they would say that there is no political will. I guess people think it's not important and don't see the direct relevance of it. There needs to be a systemic understanding that whistle blowing protects you," he said.

Muravjovs noted that in the U.S.A. last year, whistleblowers prevented corruption that siphoned 2.3 billion dollars back into the state budget.
Gintautas Sakalauskas, a doctor of Criminology Law at Vilnius University, told TBT that he couldn't see why the laws couldn't be passed.
"I don't know [why] 's it would be easy to make, it could be done in a few months. Maybe they don't want to," he said.
He said that before the country could start to tackle large scale corruption it would have to work on everyday cases.

"I see two levels of corruption 's micro-corruption with doctors and police, and macro-corruption with energy and politicians. There are laws to combat micro-corruption 's there is a barrier against this, but people ignore it because it is normal [to give bribes]."
Despite the lack of laws, citizens are still informing the authorities, the report stated.

"An increasing number of Lithuanian citizens are willing to take part in anti-corruption activities. They also believe that whistleblowers 's people that report about possible acts of corruption 's are brave and civically active people."
The Special Investigation Service, the government arm for anti-corruption measures, did not comment on the issue.


Survey respondents spoke of the "moral decline" of the country saying that the lack of democratic processes has led to the current situation.
The respondents first of all tend to associate corruption in Lithuania with the moral decline of the public and the lack of knowledge of democratic management and administration, as opposed to national cultural qualities of Lithuanians and the Soviet heritage.

As additional factors influencing the spread of corruption, all respondents named public lenience for corrupt individuals, impunity of those involved in corrupt activities and their lack of feeling guilt.
"We have been taught to think why this is 's they say it is our culture and it is from the Soviet Union, but people say there is a general lack of integrity in the country. They say there is a lack of punishment. People involved in these things escape," Muravjovs said.
Sakalauskas said people need to stand up to corruption every day, rather than wait for the law to protect them.

"We need a minimum of 10 percent of people who say "no 's this isn't a good practice" and who do everything right in the day 's not pay police and at the hospital."
"We have a strict law and imprisonment up to five years, but this doesn't work because you can see corruption in most parts of society. You could catch one person and throw him in jail, but he is just one from a thousand."


Despite wanting to root out corrupt officials and practice, most people said they would give a bribe to improve their immediate situations.
The study found that 24 percent of people have given a bribe recently, with a staggering 46 percent of respondents admitting that they hadn't given a bribe because there was no opportunity to do so.

"A large part of the respondents point to the absence of a situation that would prompt one to give a bribe as a reason for not participating in corrupt behavior. The majority of those who have not given a bribe [46 percent of residents and 48 percent of business people] acknowledge that they have not been in a situation, in which they would be prompted to bribe. At the same time, 47 percent of residents and 39 percent of business people acknowledge to have given a bribe because they believe it would immediately solve their problems," the report states.

Sakalauskas said the laws are in place, but the culture of corruption goes beyond the law 's especially in hospitals and for police.
"We have a good law based on international standards for corruption in civil cases, but I think that the most important thing is the culture of corruption 's when you have this culture it is hard to do something against it."
"Every day you have thousands of cases of corruption in hospitals. When you don't have the critical mass of people against it, you can't do anything," he said.

Over the past 12 months, 24 percent of residents and 11 percent of business people said they had given a bribe.  Meanwhile, 44 percent of residents and 24 percent of business people acknowledge having done so over the past five years.

Health sector institutions are mentioned as the establishments in which residents most frequently paid a bribe. Business people most frequently mention town and district municipalities and county head administrations.
When evaluating the situation in Lithuania over the past 12 months, 41 percent of residents believe that the level of corruption has increased very much, with 25 percent stating it has increased to a certain extent, and another 25 percent that it has remained the same.

"There are no positive anti-corruption changes in Lithuania. Lithuanian people believe politicians and public officials are the ones to blame for the current anticorruption situation. The public sector suffers from political interference into decision-making, nepotism and abuse of public office," the report says.
About 62 percent of public servants said nepotism is the most widely spread form of corruption in state and municipal service. Some 60 percent of public servants believe that there is widespread bribery in Lithuania and 53 percent say there is widespread abuse of office.