Sunday, May 19, 2024

The War Against Corruption and Social Integrity

Author: Sefer Selimi Jr.

Most likely, in October this year, Northern Macedonia will receive the date for the start of membership negotiations with the European Union. This implies the beginning of a process of institutional reform and adjustment with European standards. No doubt this will be a challenge for fragile democratic institutions, with limited professional capacity from their partisanship over the years and with limited financial resources. But the biggest challenge has been, is, and will be the widespread corruption at all social and institutional levels. This practice, which has entered deeply into the culture of social interaction, erodes not only public goods but severely damages society in both the individual and collective dimensions.

With few exceptions, for example, it is a public secret that the corruptive fee for a public tender varies from 10% to 20% of the total amount, money which must be paid through a realtor who either works in the institution or is engaged by the same. These funds end up at the head of the institution who then deals with their distribution, of which a certain part necessarily ends up in the party. There are also occasions where various compensations are made, by providing services or by giving specific “gifts” which are for private needs of officials. This costs us a lot both financially and socially. In the financial plan, for a stolen denar, we need three more denars to make up for it: 1 is the stolen denar, 1 is the denar that was not invested and 1 is the denar we have to pay again through taxes in order to return it in the budget. In social plan, the public/ investment services will be of poor quality as during the implementation, one of the authorities’ eyes will be closed to eventual drops and so we end up with the schools, kindergartens, roads, water supply and sewerage we have. It is known that the war for public leadership is fierce within political parties, of course with the main idea ​​’making money’.

But more tragic than this is our mentality and social approach to this practice. These leaders enjoy high social respect and status, sit in front of public events, are praised and are often the models to follow. The excuses are different, but the most ridiculous is the popular one: It is normal, if you have your toe in honey and not lick it?! The opposite is the case with those who are not corrupted. We call them incompetent, naive, lazy people that cannot seize the opportunity.

This social tolerance for corruption has produced fast and enormous wealth for a given class. That is why today we have judges with private cars worth hundreds or thousands of euros, prosecutors with wealth for several generations, executor with millions in their bank accounts, director of cadaster full of flats, rich ministers inside and outside the country, mayors with private businesses. We have a class which, before they were given the chance and position by the party, they did not represent any particular intellectual or social value.

Recently, the ‘war against corruption’ has become the main promise of politicians all over the Western Balkans, including North Macedonia. But can the corrupted fight the corruption

The war against corruption must start at the highest levels and for this we’ll have to wait a certain time. But what can we do in the meantime? Can citizens, without power, fight against this practice? What can a teacher, a doctor, a farmer, a journalist, a student do to fight this evil?

They can, anybody of us can win a small battle in this great war for our common good. We, the citizens, must build our social integrity by refusing to nourish this system as we have nurtured until today, starting with the simple principle: to do the right thing even when nobody is watching you. Even though it might sound naive, utopian, and liberation from this system it seems impossible, but the more we enforce the law and become responsible citizens, the smaller the number of those who tail it. The war against corruption, like any other war, requires courage, sacrifice, but also determination.

Here are some practical examples of some “public secrets” of corruption:

– When you are asked for 300 euros to pass a driving license test, do not give it but report it to the competent authorities. The most you can sacrifice is not to get the driving license for a period of 3-4 months, which you already didn’t have it. If the authorities do not act the first time, it will be reported by a second person and then by a third one until public pressure becomes so great that the authorities will have to act.

– If the doctor asks you 500 euros to perform the appropriate medical intervention, give it to him or her in order to pass the emergency but report him anyway. Report and shame publicly the hypocrite with a Hippocrates’s oath.

– If the professor asks you 300, 500 or 1500 euros to pass the exam at the Faculty of Medicine or any other Faculty, record and report him to the competent authorities but also to the public in order to remove from him the non-honorary clothing which doesn’t belong to him.

Social integrity means, consciously not to make mistakes and when we make them to be responsible for our mistakes

Above all we have to take on the civic responsibilities that belong to us, and that includes reporting when something unfair is done to us, when we are asked to bribe.

Although trust in public institutions is generally low, especially in law enforcement, but when 70% of young people would agree to pay bribes in exchange for a favor, this indicates that the problem is not only structural but also cultural.

Next time do not look for the easiest way to get the job done, but the right way.

‘We are not poor, we are robbed’ was the slogan used during the recent student protests in Albania. This should be used as an alarm, because without eradicating corruption we will always remain poor.

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