There have been media reports of a major corruption scandal at the Air Force Combatant Command involving a NT$3 billion (US$101.67 million) project to renovate a Taipei base.
Major General Chang Ta-wei (張大偉), director of the Ministry of National Defense’s Armaments Bureau, allegedly received a NT$30 million kickback from the contractor, BES Engineering Corp, the reports said.
The contractor and a gravel business operator allegedly serving as a middleman have been questioned by prosecutors investigating the case.
Taiwan was placed in “Band B” in Transparency International’s Government Defense Anti-Corruption Index in the first and second global analysis in 2013 and 2015. This is a top rank indicating a low risk of corruption.
The third analysis is being conducted now. If Taiwan does not move quickly and come up with a plan to address the problem, it risks losing points in the review.
Although Taiwan’s national defense ranks highly on the anti-corruption index, it scored poorly in the category of procurement, lowering the total score.
During the procurement process, the military is always careful when signing a master contract. However, due to a low level of awareness against corruption among suppliers, contractors and subcontractors, these parties often pose the greatest risk in the whole procurement process.
Despite the public sector’s efforts in preventing corruption, the management of many enterprises in the civil sector is not very transparent.
They have no strategy to prevent bribery, and they also have no idea how to deal with it if it occurs.
As a result, Taiwanese companies are often said to pay bribes to actors in the public sector, and this is hurting the government’s image and administration.
In the past few years, the US and the EU have come to see a private company’s incorruptibility as part of its corporate social responsibility, and a high degree of corporate incorruptibility is considered a public good in a democracy.
That being so, the world’s developed countries have been pushing for international anti-corruption standards, such as ISO37001, the International Organization for Standardization’s anti-corruption standard.
After obtaining anti-corruption certification, international companies can export their products to the US and EU, or participate in their infrastructure projects.
This also encourages companies to direct their governance efforts toward making lobbying more transparent, define anti-corruption and anti-bribery policies, have zero tolerance for corruption, and continue to educate their employees and other stakeholders about their policies.
A defense procurement budget plan can easily exceed NT$100 million. Giving and taking bribes are two sides of the same coin.
As the English saying goes: “It takes two to tango.”
When a bribery case occurs, investigating military personnel will only provide temporary relief.
The ministry should proactively promote source controls, and give lectures to contractors, subcontractors and undertakers to improve their anti-corruption awareness, and encourage them to obtain the relevant international certifications.
Perhaps stopping companies from paying bribes is the fundamental solution to this kind of procurement scandals in the military.
Luke Shaw is a board member of Transparency International Taiwan and director of its Southern Taiwan Office.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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