MANILA, Philippines – Businesses believe nothing much has improved in the government’s efforts to stamp out corruption, a survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) showed.
“Perception of managers on the extent of public sector corruption has not changed over the past three years,” SWS president Mahar Mangahas said in his presentation of the “2009 SWS Surveys of Enterprises on Corruption” at the Asian Institute of Management Conference Center in Makati City yesterday.
The survey, sponsored by the Asia Foundation, was conducted from Nov. 3 to Dec. 5, 2009 among top and middle-level managers. The survey found that three of every five managers see “a lot” of corruption in the public sector, and that the picture has remained unchanged since 2008.
The survey showed that nine of every 10 managers believe corruption was most prevalent in the national government based on the perception of 97 percent of respondents in Cagayan de Oro-Iligan City; 94 percent in Metro Manila; 91 percent in both Metro Cebu and Metro Davao; and 89 percent in Cavite-Laguna-Batangas.
The survey also showed that 60 percent of managers were asked for bribes in one of seven transactions tested.
The new figure, however, is 11 points lower than the record-high 71 percent in 2008, 58 percent in 2006 and 61 percent in 2007.
Compared to the previous year, incidence of bribery declined for all seven transactions tested in the 2009 survey. It fell by 17 points in getting local government permits and licenses; 15 points in securing national government permits and licenses; eight points in application for government incentives.
The survey also established that Metro Manila had the highest incidence of bribery solicitations in “assessment and/or payment of income taxes (50 percent)” and in “complying with import regulations including payment of import duties (40 percent).”
Reports of solicitation of bribery were equally prevalent in Metro Cebu and Metro Manila in getting local permits and licenses, 42 percent and 39 percent, respectively.
Reported solicitation of bribery in “collecting receivables” was 22 percent in both Metro Cebu and Metro Manila.
SWS said the proportion of managers reporting bribe solicitation to authorities has fallen to nine percent in 2009 after steadily rising from seven percent in 2006, to 11 percent in 2007 and 14 percent in 2008.
SWS said the perception of futility of reporting bribe solicitations explains the reluctance of many businessmen to squeal on corrupt government personnel.
Other reasons cited were “Afraid of reprisal” (51 percent), “Will spend much” (50 percent), “Cannot prove anything” (50 percent), “Too small a thing to bother” (48 percent), “It is a standard practice not to report” (46 percent), “Don’t know how or whom to report” (44 percent), “Don’t want to betray anyone” (32 percent) and “It is embarrassing” (23 percent).
SWS said that for the past three years, almost one-third of managers could not name any government agency that could be trusted to address complaints of corruption. It was 28 percent in 2007, 32 percent in 2008, and 31 percent in 2009.
Of those who did name an agency, the Office of the Ombudsman was the most cited agency trusted by managers over the past three years, the SWS said.
In terms of sincerity in fighting corruption, the survey showed that the Filipino Business Associations obtained a “very good” score of +64.
Five institutions were rated “good” – the Supreme Court +40; Social Security System, +40; Department of Trade and Industry, +38; Department of Health, +37; and the city/municipal government, +35.
Two agencies received “moderate” ratings – the Trial Courts, +11 and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, +10.
Five obtained “poor” ratings – Department of Budget and Management, -17; Philippine National Police, -17; Department of Agriculture, -19; Department of the Interior and Local Government, -25; Presidential Commission on Good Government, -28.
Six institutions were given “bad” ratings: the Department of Transportation and Communications, -30; Presidential Anti-Graft Commission, -33; Department of Environment and Natural Resources, -34; House of Representatives, -34; Office of the President, -37; and the Land Transportation Office, -39.
Three obtained “very bad ratings” – the Bureau of Internal Revenue, -57; Department of Public Works and Highways, -65; and Bureau of Customs, -69.
Topping the list of institutions with the most positive or improved change in corruption over the past five years were DTI with +13 and DOH +12.
On the other hand, the institutions that obtained the highest margins of worsening corruption were BOC with -41; BIR, -34; DPWH, -28; and the Office of the President, -14.
SWS said the agencies also obtained the highest margins of worsening corruption in 2008.
The survey used face-to-face interviews with 550 top and middle-level enterprise managers, 366 of them from randomly drawn small and medium enterprises and 184 from randomly drawn large corporations.
It has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.
Customs Commissioner Napoleon Morales has expressed disappointment over the latest SWS survey results.
Morales said that when the survey was conducted from Nov. 3 to Dec. 5 last year, the agency was still experiencing the birth pains of its E2M (electronic to mobile) project that has removed human intervention in transactions.
He said the BOC has already set up the E2M system in the Ports of Manila, Limay, and the Manila International Container Terminal.
“It is a perception survey but the facts say otherwise. We have launched projects to curb corruption, including the harnessing of new technologies that minimize if not totally eradicate face-to-face contacts between our personnel and the transacting public,” he said.
“We have laid down rules that reduce to a minimum discretionary powers of those who assess duties and charges. Through the Run After the Smugglers (RATS) program we have filed charges against smugglers and their coddlers in office,” he said.
“We have conducted intrusive lifestyle checks on our personnel and have asked courts to seize any unexplained wealth discovered,” he pointed out.
“But whatever we do our bad reputation precedes us. The Bureau of Customs has been typecast as an agency beyond redemption when our gains in the area of reform say otherwise,” he said.
“This cynical view of the public is the cumulative results of years of bad publicity,” he added.
Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Undersecretary for Luzon and spokesman Romeo Momo also said he was surprised to learn of the survey results.
Momo said he felt sad that the agency received a “very bad rating” of -65 despite being praised by the Presidential Anti Graft Commission in the 2009 Integrity Development Action Plan or IDAP.
“Before we had pre-qualification, but now we have post-qualification in the bidding process and this means that more contractors would be able to participate,” he said.
It has also partnered with a non-government organization, Project Lansangan which checks on government projects “to ensure that there is no deviation from the contract.” With Evelyn Macairan