Survey spotlights high level of corruption in Czech society

A wide scale poll has revealed that most Czechs have witnessed corruption. The survey results come hard on the heels of moves by corruption watchdogs to push the current caretaker government into taking action. In particular, they want a clampdown on corruption in the public sphere.

The survey by the polling agency SANEP found that 64 percent of Czechs questioned say they have witnessed corruption in some form or another. Thirty-eight percent said they had been offered bribes and 19 percent said they had accepted them.

A third of those surveyed ― mostly the well-off and business people ― said they had offered bribes.

Photo: Barbora Kmentová
The survey was quite large with more than 12,000 people — out of the polling agency’s database of 115,000 people selected as a cross section of Czech society —responding to Internet questions.

SANEP’s spokesman Oldřich Zajíc says the results were startling. “The results were surprising and we feel it is pretty concerning the numbers about the high level of corruption in the Czech Republic”

He added that the survey was carried out by the agency itself because it is a high profile issue.

“The survey was planned because we feel it is a pretty strong topic with what has been going on in the last two or three years ― the events and scandals on the political field.”

A similar survey by international corruption watchdog Transparency International in the summer revealed that 11 percent of Czechs surveyed said they had paid bribes at least once over the previous year.

Perhaps much more worrying was the fact that 95 percent of those who were asked for bribes let the matter drop and did not make any official complaints. And around two-third of Czechs said they had no confidence in government efforts to tackle corruption.

Transparency International is currently one of a group of organisations leading calls for the current Czech caretaker government to take a series of key steps to clamp out corruption in some of its strongholds in the public sector.

The corruption watchdog co-signed an open letter to the government last week calling, for example, for the government to introduce electronic auctions for public tenders so that the awarding of big contracts would be more transparent and less open to abuse. The letter also urged the government to scrutinise new rules for joint ventures between the public sector and state, introduce a database on EU funds to show who is getting what, and introduce clear rules separating the public administration from party politics and cronyism.

Minister of the Interior, Martin Pecina, has signalled that he wants an anti-corruption drive to be one of its priorities over the next months. But anti-corruption clampdowns have been launched in the past with apparently little success.