Last Updated: Friday, 24 October 2014, 15:39 GMT

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Issues New Report on Corruption in the Western Balkans

Publisher UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
Publication Date 17 May 2011
Citation / Document Symbol UNIS/CP/648
Cite as UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Issues New Report on Corruption in the Western Balkans, 17 May 2011, UNIS/CP/648 , available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4dd63e4c2.html [accessed 26 October 2014]

VIENNA/BRUSSELS, 17 May (UN Information Service) - The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) today released its new public sector bribery survey for the western Balkans. Surveying over 28,000 people in 2010, the European Commission-funded report, "Corruption in the western Balkans: Bribery as Experienced by the Population", notes that one in six respondents were exposed to some form of bribery with a public official in the 12 months before the survey.

Focusing on the western Balkans (1), the report finds that corruption is a major concern amongst citizens of the region, ranking a high third in the list of most pressing issues, after unemployment and poverty but well ahead of security and education.

Highlighting how corruption affects everyday life, the report details the extent and levels of bribes paid for basic services. Experiences vary: the percentage of citizens who paid a bribe, amongst those who had contacts with public officials, range from six per cent to 21 per cent.

When paid in cash, average bribes range from €103 (2) to €1,212 (2), illustrating the vast differences demanded of citizens in the region. This is also reflected as a percentage of average salaries, with average bribes equivalent to 14 per cent of earnings in one country or area and climbing 10 times at the other end to a staggering 144 per cent.

Differences however do exist when considering the frequency of bribes given by bribe-payers. Ranging from between four to ten bribes per year, the report notes that where higher bribes are paid, these tend to be paid on fewer occasions.

Reflecting the harsh repercussions of corruption on everyday life, the report notes that 57 per cent of bribe-givers paid a doctor. This was followed by kickbacks to police officers at 35 per cent, nurses at 33 per cent, and municipal officers at 13 per cent (the sum is higher than 100 per cent since many bribe-payers paid on several occasions).

The report provides comprehensive data on the sectors most affected, the role of public officials and bribe payers, as well as the forms of bribery in the western Balkans. Through offering a sound benchmark on which to build, it aims to assist authorities to further their efforts in responding to corruption. Furthermore by surveying actual occurrences of corruption and bribery as opposed to perception, the report provides an experience-based indicator of how bribery affects the dealings of ordinary citizens with the public administration.

Speaking about the release of the report, UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov praised the countries and areas surveyed for acknowledging the need to conduct this evidence-based work: "The efforts of the western Balkans countries in their ongoing work to curb corruption are commendable - all states looked at in this report have signed up to the world's foremost tool in combating this crime, the UN Convention against Corruption, and are fully engaged in the Convention's Peer Review Mechanism. The areas highlighted in this report provide us with a realistic viewpoint of the on-the-ground situation which is so critical to authorities as we collectively work together in countering corrupt practices at all levels."

This was echoed by Commissioner Štefan Füle, Member of the European Commission for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy who stated: "This report offers a very useful assessment of the situation regarding corruption in the Western Balkans. Major challenges remain in the region as regards, amongst others, the rule of law, the fight against corruption and organized crime. The European Commission has been following this issue very closely and attaches great importance to this issue, undoubtedly one of the most important benchmarks for any candidate or potential candidate country wishing to fulfill its European perspective."

In addition to the data concerning amounts and recipients of bribes, the report also details the types and reasons for this form of corruption.

Of all citizens who reported the payment of a bribe, 43 per cent said that they instigated the offer to bribe a public official, while a similar number (45 per cent) noted that it was the public officials who either implicitly or explicitly made the request. In terms of the type of bribe, two out of three respondents confirmed that cash is, expectedly, the primary form of bribery used, while 22 per cent indicated that food and drink was offered or requested in this illicit payment.

A telling set of numbers gleaned from the survey highlights the purposes - according to respondents - of why they paid a bribe. Twenty eight per cent purported that through paying an official they 'received better treatment', while the same number claimed that a payment 'sped up the procedure'. Sixteen per cent indicated that they had paid at least one bribe during 2010 to 'avoid paying a fine', while 12 per cent cited that the money helped 'finalize a procedure'.

Of all bribe-payers, a mere 1.5 per cent reported their experience to the authorities. Thirty per cent noted that 'nobody would care' if they were to report it and it was therefore a pointless exercise, while 22 per cent indicated that bribery is 'common practice'. A slightly lower 18 per cent said that the bribe/s symbolized gratitude for something and was thus a positive practice, while one in five said that they received a direct benefit from paying a bribe, and so there would be no point in reporting it.

In addition to surveying bribery related to public service delivery, the report also looks into public sector recruitment and vote-buying before elections.

With regard to the former, one in eight of those respondents who had secured public sector employment in the three years prior to the survey admitted to bribery of some form in order to be hired. This was either through monetary payment, giving of a gift, or through doing a counter favour, and fluctuated from six per cent of applicable respondents in one country or area to 28 per cent in another.

Lastly, the report noted that on the occasion of the last general elections held in the countries and areas of the western Balkans, an average of eight per cent of citizens were asked to vote for a certain candidate or political party in exchange for a concrete offer, such as money, goods or a favour.

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For further information please contact:

In Vienna, Austria:

Kevin Town
Associate Public Information Officer UNODC
Telephone: (+43-1) 26060-5575
Mobile: (+43-699) 1459-5575
Email: kevin.town[at]unodc.org

In Brussels, Belgium:

Jean-Luc Onckelinx
UN Regional Information Centre for Western Europe
Telephone: (+32-2) 788-8454
Mobile: (+32-476) 21-54-85
Email: onckelinx[at]unric.org

(1) The survey covers Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as well as Kosovo.  All references to Kosovo shall be understood to be in the context of Security Council resolution 1244 (1999).

(2) The euro figures expressed here have been converted from national currencies into euros in terms of Purchasing Power Parities (PPP). This is in order to take into account the different cost of living in each country or area. Amounts expressed in PPP can be used for international comparison.

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