Report That Bribe

Here’s a thought: That bribe you’ve paid an official for an essential life service – report it. To whom? The cash you were forced to hand over to a policeman who pulled you over for no reason – tell the world. How? The sum you’ve been advised to pay to gain a favourable decision – let everyone know. Here’s how: ipaidabribe.com. But that’s in India, where one individual is trying to battle his country’s extensive corruption.

Corruptors operate in the dark; the light kills off their invidious operations. But if corruption is widespread in India, in Indonesia it is rampant, unfettered and entirely out of control, despite the government’s assurances that it is cracking down on the extraordinarily damaging activity. Indonesia is, after all, much further down the list of corruption indices than India.

So, given that little if anything is being done to stamp out graft in our country, should we accept it as our way of life – or try to collectively shine our own individual lights on the malfeasance?

At ipaidabribe.com, visitors get to report the details of a bribe they paid, knowingly or not. Here’s one, from Bangalore on Wednesday: “We bought a vehicle and in the quote provided by the dealer, there was an item called other charges for which no bill/invoice will be provided. Asked why, we were told that it is to be paid as bribe for registration. We have no choice but the bribe has become a part of a quote – very, very sad for the us, the Indian economy and the nation.”

Sound familiar? A Bali Times reader sent this account this week: “I recently purchased my scooter renewal license – asking price: Rp350,000; settled price: Rp200,000; government-published fee: Rp75,000. I realise the occasional traffic bribes and such we foreigners feel targeted for are nothing compared to the everyday experience of the Balinese people, who seem to have few, if any, options. This makes the issue all that more pressing.

“My friends speak of bribes to get their kids into school, pass tests, and bribes to even get a teaching position. I think just recently you had an article about child sex abuse wherein parents didn’t want to report the matter to the police. They felt a bribe would be asked in order for there to be an investigation. I suspect you have many more examples of your own. So what then should we do?”

Like our reader, we have long been distressed about the unbridled corruption destroying this country. People are despondent that, now in his second term, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has appeared limp in the face of a corruption environment that many feel has become worse since the downfall of late president Suharto.

Aside from our duty as a newspaper to report cases of official corruption as reported to the authorities, we will now publish accounts from readers of instances of corruption they encounter, from small bribes to substantial amounts paid or requested, for whatever reason. Reports can be sent to graft@thebalitimes.com.

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