07 Aug 2012

Corruption in Public Construction Target of Creative Initiatives in Eastern Europe

Public construction contracts are typically among the government activities most vulnerable to corruption in most countries plagued by this phenomenon. Scandals involving procurement fraud and embezzlement of funds from public works have become more and more common, and in some cases indications of corruption are so flagrant that the resulting buildings, bridges and other landmarks are seen by the public as true monuments to corruption. Recent initiatives in two Eastern European countries are now making use of that to increase awareness about the problem and insure that old abuses are not forgotten.

Delna Society for Transparency, Transparency International’s national chapter in Latvia, is one of the organisations exploring this issue. Already in 2009, Delna organised an exhibition entitled ‘History of Ugliness’, which featured photographs of 17 landmarks in Riga, all of which were suspected of having been built under severe irregularilities. According to the article “The ugly face of Latvia’s landmarks”, recently published by Delna’s representative Aiga Grisane on Transparency International’s blog, “[t]he aim of the exhibition was to bring the public’s attention to sites and buildings in Riga which are suspected of having been constructed using corrupt practices and to fuel discussions of urban planners of how to make the urban environment not only aesthetic but also ethical”.  Now the organisation has revisited its earlier initiative and has made all photos available on the online platform Foursquare, where users can spot the location of each landmark on a map of the city. This step is a great opportunity to give more visibility to their initiative.

Another initiative initiated in Prague, Czech Republic, takes a more satirical approach to putting corruption in public works in the spotlight. Theatre director and philosopher Petr Šourek is the creator of CorruptTour, an agency that takes Prague’s visitors and locals to see “the best of the worst” in the city, according to their slogan. In addition to the ‘Prague Corruption Tour’, they organise the tour ‘Hospitals on the Edge of the Law’, which takes people to three Prague hospitals where state money is allegedly being misused, and also lead visitors to addresses of individuals who have been involved in corruption cases. In an interview to Czech radio Mr. Šourek highlighted that “the main aim [of the project] was to find a fresh way to present the urgency of this issue to the public”. More details on this project and the motivations behind it are available in the interview with Mr. Šourek published by Radio Praha.

The pictures above are featured respectively in the article by Aiga Grisane and in the interview by Radio Praha.