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'I Paid a Bribe' may be a model for anti-corruption

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AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool, File

(Read caption) A man shouts slogans as he sits next to a coffin during a protest against corruption in Mumbai, India. The discontent fueled by India's vociferous media and a blossoming sense of empowerment among the middle class has burst into the open after a series of galling corruption scandals late last year. Thousands have taken to the streets, the courts are pursuing rare high-level prosecutions and the government is scrambling to enact a tougher anti-corruption law.

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India's innovative "I Paid a Bribe" website – which puts a spotlight on government corruption – may become a model for rooting out corruption around the world.

Co-founder Ramesh Ramanathan told The Hindu news site that he had received requests from seven countries to start similar sites for them.

"I Paid a Bribe," begun last August, invites people to post anonymous reports on instances in which they have had to bribe an official. They can also share ways that they have been able to avoid paying a bribe.

"Bribery is routinely expected in interactions with government officials – to register your house, to get your driving license, domestic water connection, even a death certificate," Swati Ramanathan, the other co-founder, told the BBC. "We said, 'It's not enough to moralize, we need to find out what exactly is this corruption? What's the size of it?'"

The site has recorded more than 10,000 incidences of bribery.

Some results are already being seen. In the Indian state of Karnataka, transportation department officials have responded to complaints on the website.

The driving test for a driver's license now has been automated. Applicants wheel their way around a track with embedded electronic sensors that record their actions, rather than a human test giver. Applications also are received online. Between them, the changes remove two opportunities for an official to ask for a bribe.


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