Thursday, December 17, 2009

Corruption at the local government

Found in yesterday's Bangkok Post "Local officials top graft list"
Local administrative organisations top the list of state agencies embezzling public funds allocated for procurement and development schemes, a government report says.
The report, by the Office of the Permanent Secretary under the PM's Office, looked into alleged irregularities in the use of state budgets for the 2009 fiscal year, which ended Sept 30.
The office was able to conclude its investigations into 67 cases and retrieve 17 million baht. Thirty-three staff were dismissed and 30 had their salaries cut. About 40 cases have gone to the public prosecutors and the courts.
This fits with the survey published by the US-based NGO Asia Foundation in September on the opinions of Thai people to many questions regarding the constitution, the state of democracy and quality of administration. The full report is published as a 117 page PDF which can be freely downloaded. Question 12.5 targets the corruptions in local administration, which however includes both the local government as well as the local officials of the central government.
Some people say that it is often necessary to pay bribes to civil servants if you need something from the government, such as papers, permits, or documents. Others say that this is not true and that the civil servants are
honest. Which view is closer to your own? (Q77)
48% of the answers said yes, bribery is necessary, another 48% said no, and 3% had no opinion. And when asked about personal experience with bribery in the past 5 years, 26% confirmed that they at least personally know someone who had to pay bribes. The authors of the study aren't sure whether the fact that only have of those thinking that bribery is wide-spread actually have direct knowledge is due to a lower than perceived number of corrupt officials or simply due to the fact that many did not have to contact authorities recently.


John Francis Lee said...

I read that same article and took it as BP spin in support of Abhisit, the Democrats, and their corrupt coalition; trying to deflect attention from the corruption at the very top of this government, at the national level; trying to push it downstream, onto the "ignorant" masses as is the perennial fashion in Bangkok.

As you pointed out the other day the budget for local administrations is huge. Hands in the capital have first crack at the skim and veto power over all the projects cooked up under Thailand's new Iron Fist economic policy.

The story is that when asked why he robbed so many banks Willie Sutton replied, "Because that's where the money is."

That's also the reason the local administration honey pot is so frequently robbed, with the first and sweetest "taste" taken in Bangkok.

Andy said...

The corruption comes in many flavors. There's of course those who have large budgets to spend and therefore are tempted to get some of that money in their own pockets. There's also the tea-money to speed up some administrative act, like getting the ID card or a copy of the house registry a bit faster.

With more than 7000 local governments there is of course a bigger chance to find mischievous behavior of an official, conveniently far from the supervision by the central government. On the other hand, the citizens who voted for them have a much more direct contact to the officials, so they will notice such things and hopefully will then cast their vote to another candidate in the next election. As I posted earlier the reaction to corrupt and vote-buying officials differs widely, from resignation to revolution.