Portraying Lithuanian corruption

  • 2001-10-11
  • Rokas M. Tracevskis
VILNIUS - Most Lithuanians say they are against corruption, but 61 percent are prepared to offer bribes if it might benefit them, a public opinion survey found.

Some 72 percent of Lithuanians say that bribes help to solve problems. The biggest bribe was 2 million litas ($500,000), according to the survey conducted by Baltijos Tyrimai.

The Lithuanian branch of the corruption watchdog Transparency International presented the poll results on Oct. 2 as part of its Map of Lithuania's Corruption 2001 project.

Transparency International monitors corruption worldwide and provides consulting on how to fight corruption.

The British and Finnish embassies and the World Bank branch in Vilnius supported the Map of Lithuania's Corruption 2001 project. The study is aimed at devising practical measures for government and non-governmental institutions to effectively fight corruption in Lithuania.

The poll surveyed Lithuanian residents and businesspeople. The joint U.K.-Lithuanian public opinion pollster and market research company Baltijos Tyrimai performed it from July to August.

Aleksandras Dobryninas, chairman of the board at the Lithuanian branch of Transparency International, said the survey showed that 36 percent of the public and 37 percent of businesspeople gave bribes over the last five years.

Mantas Nocius, head of the World Bank office in Lithuania, said that the corruption level was lower among top officials in Lithuania than in other Eastern and Central European countries, but that it was very high among low-level officials here.

"It's important to note that over the last 12 months 13 percent of business people gave bribes four or more times," Dobryninas said.

Laima Zilinskiene, executive director of Transparency International in Lithuania, said the results from the business and private sectors were similar. "About 70 percent of business people and 76 percent of residents believe corruption is a large problem," she said.

Zilinskiene reported half of those interviewed in the survey thought corruption had increased in Lithuania over the last five years.

Residents indicated they knew about corruption in their country mainly from the media, while business people said they had personal experience.

Dobryninas said the likelihood of meeting with corrupt officials was about 50 percent in the traffic police, 40 percent in healthcare institutions and 30 percent in customs.

He reported up to 61 percent of residents were willing to offer a bribe if they believed it would benefit them.

"Residents condemn corruption morally but understand pragmatically that it is often unavoidable," he said.

Dobryninas emphasized that usually bribe givers, not bribe takers, show the initiative in bribing. He said that it is especially obvious in hospitals.

The survey found that the average amount a citizen offers as a bribe is around 811 litas ($202), while business people on average shell out around 8,031 litas.

In state-run hospitals the average bribe is 500 litas while 557 litas is an average bribe to traffic police.

The Map of Lithuanian Corruption 2001 study didn't confine itself to institutional corruption, but, as the name suggests, also tried to pin down geographical aspects of corruption. Dobryninas said corruption is most rampant in the administrative regions around the capital Vilnius, the second largest city Kaunas and the Baltic Sea port of Klaipeda.

"In the Vilnius region is where 38 percent of all bribes were paid, while in the Kaunas region 21 percent and in the Klaipeda region 11 percent," Dobryninas revealed.

Baltijos Tyrimai questioned 1,005 heads of enterprises and 2,028 other residents from 15 to 74 years of age. Rasa Alisauskiene, head of Baltijos Tyrimai, said that people questioned were free to decide themselves what was a bribe and what was not. Many people considered flowers, sweets and champagne as bribes.

"It is nonsense. Champagne, sweets and other gifts is a common thing all around the world and nobody considers it as a bribe in foreign countries," Christian Democrat MP Kazys Bobelis, a former surgeon in the United States, told The Baltic Times.