It’s something that Estonia has to admit to being a lingering problem and confront with its own political ethics and discipline intact – eliminating corruption from all spheres of society.
Although Transparency International (TI) ranks Estonia as the 27th most free of corruption country in the world (leaders are New Zealand, Denmark, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland and Finland), Estonia in the eyes of Estonians has still a long way to go. Neither are Estonians particularly impressed with being the most corruption free in Eastern Europe – also according the TI.
Recently the Ministry of Justice released the results of a comprehensive study entitled “Corruption in Estonia 2010”. In short, the data indicated progress in the decrease in corruption in Estonia.
A survey conducted among three target groups – the public, government officials and business people – showed a noticeable drop in corruption incidents since the last similar study completed in 2006.
Some results: 18% of the public said they had been asked for favours or bribes during the last year. This compares with 27% in 2006. 10% of business people declared facing a situation where graft was involved compared to 15% four years ago.
When the same target groups were asked whether they had offered bribes or favours, then the results were more definitive. Only 4% of the public and 3% of business people revealed that they had actually offered bribes in the past year. In 2006 these levels were substantially higher – 8% for the public and 12% for business people.
When officials are involved then the levels have remained nearly the same as 2006. Three percent admit to having a personal encounter with corruption and 17% claim to know of an official who has had an experience involving corruption.
When asked where favours are asked, the public reported that three most common occurrences take place a when getting official approval for something technical (car safety for instance, 11%), when involved with a physician (9%) and the police (8%). Business people also mentioned technical inspections (5%) and second on their scale was government procurement (4%).
How large are typical bribes? 20% of the respondents said 1000 crowns was common. Larger sums were mentioned by 2% of the respondents, as compared to 1% in 2006.
According to the research non-Estonians see corruption as a more serious problem in Estonia than Estonians do. But at the same time non-Estonian respondents indicated that they were more willing to pay bribes than respondents of Estonian heritage. When differentiating between age groups, those between 15-30 years of age are much more willing to pay bribes (67%) if necessary, than those 46 years and older of whom, only 30% indicated a willingness. Similarly, younger officials are more willing to accept bribes. Estonia, dependent on expanding business relations and attracting investments, must involve its citizens in this fight – adopting a zero-tolerance policy.
Estonia’s recent invitation to join the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is international recognition of Estonia`s sincerity in eliminating corruption. Estonia`s business sector must understand the most basic aspect of graft - that corrupt practices involve legal risks. Note the highly published cases underway in the courts. Companies who fail to meet high ethical standards or take a relaxed attitude to compliance with laws are exposed to reputational damage. It`s not enough for one to comply with ethical practices, the appearance of compliance is equally crucial.
Corruption in Estonia lower than four years ago, but still perceived to be inevitable amongst youth