Codru Vrabie: Paying Too Much On Bribes? Save Your Money!

Codru's project is a great example of how we can use digital tools in the fight against corruption. The Bribe Market is an online reporting platform where people can anonymously report corruption cases. The website empowers people to openly talk about corruption, raise awareness and put pressure on authorities. In the end every new government has the fight against corruption as one of the top priorities, right?

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Paying Too Much On Bribes? Save Your Money!

by Codru Vrabie

 

A man walked into a bar... Oops, not that story! :) A man walked to me during the first coffee break at an event.

"So, you are the coordinator at that Bribe Market site?"

"Yes, Sir, how may I help you?"

"Oh, just wanted to shake hands and thank you for that--your site helped me decide on the kindergarten for my daughter."

 

Turns out that this man had a choice between two kindergartens with roughly the same services and quality of education, but wanted to make sure he would not need to pay bribes.

And that is the precise objective at piatadespaga.ro: To highlight the islands of integrity, where institutions work properly, where you don't need to "grease the wheels." True, a secondary objective is to help people save money: Why pay 200 when the market goes for 100? Why pay 100 here, when reports show you can get the same for 50 over there? In time, reports will increase in numbers, and pressure from "customers" will drive the prices down. For a volunteer project, we are quite satisfied with almost 1,000 clean reports in less than 2 years--about 700 reports were filtered out as irrelevant, unrealistic and/or libelous.

"Can this be true? 1 million € for illegal logging in the Delta?" One week later, that report was deleted, after three different sources confirmed it was bogus. One silviculture professor explained that no species of trees would yield such a profitable operation in that area. One investigative journalist demonstrated that such a bribe would not break even for at least 10 years--maybe that was the overall prejudice to the environment? One local auntie of a friend confirmed there was no operation on the ground, and no talks about such a thing among the locals waiting for a job.

The site has no budget for promotion, and the 2014 elections precluded any efforts in this direction: It is wiser to keep a low profile when society tends to breed and consume scandal. Still, at least one ministry informed us that their inspectors use the site's notifications to track potential wrongdoings in their regional agencies, and follow up with administrative measures. By the beginning of 2015, though, we scheduled an upgrade to piatadespaga.ro, that will include optimization for smartphones and tablets, facilitation of exporting reports in open data format, and improved search facilities within the website.

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Codru Vrabie, the coordinator of Bribe Market, is a trainer, consultant and facilitator on good governance and public administration reform. He contributed to many monitoring, evaluation reports and handbooks for citizens and public administration (both local and national) and drafted legislative acts for preventing, combating and sanctioning corruption and the conduct of officials and civil servants, acces to public information, as well as transparency and public participation in decision making. Over the years, Codru worked or collaborated almost entirely with non-governmental organizations; currently he is a member of Funky Citizens.