The Korea Environment Corp. under the Environment Ministry last year had 12 review board members inspect bidders for a project to build facilities for recycling sewage sludge in provincial cities. Ten of the members are suspected of accepting bribes from three bidders, with just two members refusing to take the money. Though the review system was intended to prevent irregularities by government officials and enhance professionalism in the review process, it merely ended up changing the bribe takers while keeping the bribe givers the same.
The environment corporation`s open tenders for environmental facilities are tainted with corruption. Of 50 reviewers who served in the corporation`s design division from May 2010 until the end of last year, 23 allegedly took bribes. The reviewers include employees of the corporation, government officials and professors at state-run or private universities. All seven bidders are known to have offered bribes. Reviewers from the private sector, academia and the government were implicated in the bribery scandal. The review processes for projects to build purification facilities were also polluted.
The bidders allegedly gained information about 50 candidate reviewers and assigned senior employees to the reviewers in a one-on-one scheme, wining and dining them and giving them gift certificates and free golf time. Even if a bidder failed to win a project, it had nothing to lose because other projects were up for bidding and the reviewers would be selected among the pool of 50.
Irregularities involving state-funded projects result in the waste of taxpayers` money and shoddy construction. The bidders offset the money spent for the bribes by bloating construction costs since they stole taxpayers` money. Certain reviewers allegedly gave top scores to a bidder that offered them money. Because of this horrendous practice, a company offering a big bribe has a higher chance of winning a project by sacrificing quality and efficiency of environmental facilities.
The Korea Environment Corp. is hardly alone in corruption over the process of selecting winners of state construction projects. It is an open secret that as government organizations have pools of candidate reviewers, construction companies frequently offer them money and entertainment to gain their favor. Without severing the chain, similar irregularities will be repeated in public sector contracts. The government should strictly restrict those found to have offered bribes from bidding for other projects so that they can no longer tempt reviewers. Punishment for government officials and university professors who accept bribes should also be tightened.