This fall, hardly a week goes by with no corruption case popping into public limelight. The former Port of Tallinn bosses. The Mayor of Tallinn suspected in accepting bribes. The incidents at local governments… The latest? Driving licence tests bribery suspicions at Road Administration, and a «passport mafia» network built on Police and Border Guard Board people.
On the one hand, the abundance of incidents of various kinds serves to show the competence of investigative bodies to fight corruption. Even so, it makes us worriedly to ask what’s wrong, now.
Thus far, and especially in the Central and Eastern European context, we have stood out as a land not too corrupt. In corruption perception index by Transparency International last year, Estonia earned 69 points landing 26th among 174 nations. Equal with France. In the index, 0 points would spell heavy corruption perceived, and a 100 would mean people thinking their land to be corruption-free.
What feels especially worrisome that, in addition to the Big Corruption i.e. rottenness in political and business elite, also surfacing is the petty. And the petty kind of corruption is what reflects the society more broadly. Over the radio, member of Corruption-Free Estonia board Asso Prii said that what is happening at Road Administration is outright shocking.
He said we had been rather convinced, in Estonia, that the «lubrication» of officials by ordinary people was a thing of the past. And that’s what we told the world outside.
Meanwhile, this serves us an option to explain the hazards of corruption – the grassroots level corruption touches people in a personal way.
While in a waiting line for medical treatment, in one instant a patient may feel lucky, able to buy himself forward. The next time, another passes him by the same way... for surgery. In traffic, a driver with «purchased» skills may end up causing chaos.
The petty stuff listed should alert us to awaken, to fight back. As citizens in a state, as workers at a job. It’s a cultural thing. We have a role.