Czechs rate 52nd on Corruption Perceptions Index 2002

Transparency International has just published its Corruption Perceptions Index for 2002. The Czech Republic is half way down the list of 102 states, ranking 52nd. Earlier today, Daniela Lazarova spoke to the executive director of the Czech branch of Transparency International Adriana Krnacova and asked her what she thinks of the Czech Republic's rating .

"The situation is as bad as it was last year and that's very bad. There were just proclamations and no action. It is necessary to do a lot more, starting with the conflict of interests law which is very weak, necessary changes to the judiciary system, to commercial registration , political party financing and many others. In particular, laws which have loopholes that allow abuse of public funds. There are many areas which need attention."

For people who don't know anything about the situation here -where is corruption most rife?

"That's a difficult question, because corruption is very difficult to pin down. That's why our index is a perception index based on people's opinions. It is impossible to measure corruption by so called hard data."

People themselves contribute to the level of corruption by offering money to traffic police to avoid having their license confiscated, they do it to get higher up on an operations waiting list in hospitals, I'm sure they do it to avoid red tape and other extensive bureaucratic procedures...where else?

"For instance, they abuse public money via public procurement. Very serious damage is being done in this respect. The system is not transparent, the respective laws are complicated and allow for lots of exemptions which can be abused." So you think that the main thing now is to improve our legislation. Is that correct?

"Not only that. The entire standpoint has to change. There has to be political will to change the situation. It is not enough for people to want to change something. They must really do it. "

Transparency's mission is to help eradicate corruption in the Czech Republic . Can you tell me how you are going about this?

"Well, we try to create projects that would help improve the system in areas such as the police and judiciary. We try to convince the people responsible that changes are necessary and we offer to help them."

We are lower down on this list than Poland and Hungary for instance - is their legislation is better than ours?

"Well, maybe not their legislation. I really can't compare the legislation. But clearly they have been better rated in some areas."

Possibly people simply feel that there is less corruption - that they have a more positive outlook?

"Yes, that is possible."

So how trustworthy is this index?

"Yes, that is a valid question. Because it relies on people's judgement and that can be influenced by many aspects. These are not "hard" data - they are what we call "soft" data . This is an index based on perception and it can be questionable sometimes."

It seems that Finland, Denmark and New Zealand invariably top the list. What is their secret to success?

"I think it is the transparency of their systems, the trust in the law and institutions and in general the way in which these countries operate."

In the post-communist states corruption is something that has been carried over from the communist era. How long do you think it may take us to root it out?

This is a very difficult question but I think that the Czech Republic made a tremendous effort after 1989 . We can't expect things to change overnight. I think that it will take more than ten years to reach West European standards."