Corruption is Out, Dubious Job Responsibility is In
Last week, I wrote about the President’s campaign to cut out bribery and corruption inherent in Azerbaijan. Locals aren’t necessarily believing it, but I have heard accounts of state employees unable to ask for their cut off the top. This includes all sorts of employees, including medical staff, police officers, and other government workers. While there are promising signs, something to keep in mind is that the corruption we’re dealing with is not limited to isolated cases. It’s a system-wide problem.
A great example of what’s changing is the system by which traffic police issue tickets and how people can pay those tickets back. Instead of paying a ticket off in cash, you must now pay your seat-belt violation using your bank card. Police are no longer allowed to take cash as payment at the time of their writing the ticket. The police officers can no longer ask for cash at the car, reducing the opportunities for bribes to get slipped in. In addition to this change in ticket payment processes, officers are now going to get a commission in their salary. Officers will receive 25% of the total amount they write up in tickets. And if they reach certain plateaus, they get bonuses. The catch is that those tickets have to be official, on record. No more under-the-table cash transfers. I’m not really up for incentivizing an increase in the writing of seat-belt tickets, but these measures are an improvement over the previously murky field of bribery at the driver-side window.
That said, there are certainly downfalls when you’re trying to fix only parts of the corrupt system, instead of overhauling the entire system at once. Let’s start with other government employees. I have a confirmed story of a family that just had a new baby two or three days ago. As they frantically called doctors in their region, the medical professionals bowed out, not interested in helping when they couldn’t get the bribes, on top of their salary, for taking the case. It used to be that doctors would compete to get a case for the bribes they could glean.
Another example comes from state registration workers. Apparently, as these workers can no longer take the bribes they want for filling out registration documents (like deeds to a house). Since they can’t take the bribes, people have been lining up to get their deeds of ownership. Instead of filling out the registration as expected, these workers are staying home or working extremely slowly. The grease on the wheels has dried up.
Back to our police friends, I’m curious to see what happens with the restructured salary system and payment system. What’s to stop someone from handing over a small sum that’s lower than the fee noted on their traffic police ticket, but higher than the 25% that the officer will receive for filling out his ticket duties as prescribed? I’d like to learn more about additional of incentives the government is building into the system to reduce the bribe-taking.