Police force is most corrupt Vietnam institution: survey

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Thirty percent of respondents in a Transparency International survey said they had paid bribes to one or more of eight public services in Vietnam and the police force remains the most corrupt institution in the country, according to results announced Tuesday.

The eight services covered in the Global Corruption Barometer 2013 are police, judiciary, registry, land, medical, education, tax and utilities.

Only one percent of respondents in Australia, Japan, Denmark and Finland reported having paid bribes to any of these eight services while the highest proportions were found in Sierra Leone with 84 percent and Liberia with 75 percent.

In Vietnam, police retained the position as the most corrupt of 12 institutions, according to the survey that polled 1,000 people from September last year until this March.

On a 15 scale with 1 meaning not at all corrupt and 5 meaning extremely corrupt, the police ranked 4.0, followed by public officials/civil servants and healthcare sectors both at 3.6. Judiciary ranked fourth at 3.5 followed by the education system at 3.4.

Among the other institutions, political parties polled 2.8, parliament/legislature, 2.7, the military 2.8, NGOs 2.4, media, 2.8, religious bodies, 2.2, and business/private sector, 2.9.

The survey found that the percentage of people willing to get involved in fighting against corruption in Vietnam was 79 percent, against the global percentage of 87 percent.

The Global Corruption Barometer 2010/2011 also found that the  police force was the most corrupt institution in Vietnam.

Zachary Abuza, a Washington-based South East Asia analyst, admitted he has bribed traffic cops in Vietnam.

"They are awful. They have just enough power to make average citizen's lives miserable," Abuza told Thanh Nien News via email.

"It is easier to make them go away quietly. The line between any policeman (in any country) and criminals is a fine one," he said. 

Abuza said people are less willing to not pay a bribe because the consequences are so great and their other recourses are so few. 

He said increasing the pay of government officials can reduce corruption.

"Vietnam is not Singapore. But civil servant salaries are so bizarrely low that no one could be expected to live, let alone raise a family on those salaries," he said.

Globally, more than one person in two thinks corruption has worsened in the last two years but survey participants also firmly believe they can make a difference and have the will to take action against graft, Transparency International said in a press release.

Still, nearly 9 out of 10 people surveyed said they would act against corruption and two-thirds of those who were asked to pay a bribe had refused, suggesting that governments, civil society and the business sector need to do more to engage people in thwarting corruption, it said.

"Bribe paying levels remain very high worldwide, but people believe they have the power to stop corruption and the number of those willing to combat the abuse of power, secret dealings and bribery is significant," said Huguette Labelle, chair of Transparency International.

They survey found that in many countries the institutions people rely on to fight corruption and other crime are themselves not trusted.

Thirty-six countries viewed police as the most corrupt; and in these countries an average of 53 percent of people had been asked to pay bribes by the police.

In 20 countries, the judiciary was viewed as the most corrupt; and in these countries, an average of 30 percent of the people who had come in contact with the judicial systems had been asked to pay a bribe.

"Governments need to take this cry against corruption from their citizenry seriously and respond with concrete action to elevate transparency and accountability," Labelle said.

Transparency International (TI) describes itself as a "non-governmental organization based in Berlin that monitors and publicizes corporate and political corruption in international development."

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