Supreme State Attorney proposes controversial anti-corruption method

In 2001, the Czech Republic came 47th out of the 91 countries on Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index. That's far behind most of the developed countries of Europe, North America and Asia and even some post-communist countries such as Estonia, Hungary and Slovenia. The Supreme State Attorney Marie Benesova has decided that things have gone too far, and has proposed a new and controversial method to combat corruption in the Czech Republic.

Even the Czech Republic's own statistics are grim. The number of corruption cases has multiplied over the last few years and bribery seems to be a widespread problem. The Supreme State Attorney Marie Benesova has therefore come up with a new instrument to fight bribery known abroad as the "integrity test". It simply means that the state will send its agents to try and bribe civil servants and catch them red-handed. David Ondracka from Transparency International's Czech branch explains what the integrity tests entail.

"These integrity tests are used worldwide, so in this respect the Czech Republic should not be an exception and perhaps at least think and debate about this method. Secondly, this method is the only method which 'detects' corruption and shows where it is and brings evidence to the police and state prosecutors. It has to be seen in this context: it is just one method which does not solve all the problems, which helps only the detection of corruption. Another thing I would like to stress is that it's not a method which is used on a mass basis, that there would be hundreds of agents running around the country, provoking corruption and offering bribes. It only means that if this method were allowed it would discourage other people from taking bribes and behaving in a corrupt way."

The idea of integrity tests has raised controversy across the Czech political spectrum. Critics of this method of exposing corruption say it might be too radical for this country. David Ondracka again.

"I would say that those integrity test are not that radical in a way because they don't have criminal consequences since it is all started by the state. So it will only have consequences within the working relations of the individual people, so it means it might end up with firing them and not putting them in jail."

Marie Benesova says her office will propose using integrity tests in a special report on corruption in the Czech Republic which they will submit to the government in the summer. However, she says it is still only a suggestion and she remains open to other methods used abroad. Transparency International Czech Republic is preparing an international survey which might provide some more information.

"This year, Transparency International Czech Republic is preparing an international survey which should find out where exactly and in which countries and with what results those integrity tests are used and it should also find out what the real results of this method are. So I think it might contribute to the expert discussion about this proposal in this country."