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Most of the year goes by without having to deal with too much corruption, but permit renewal is one period when I sometimes ask myself just why I put up with it. Every year around this time, we have to renew our health permit. It doesn’t matter that we already run a clean shop, abide by higher than normal hygiene, and do our best to make sure our products are safe and clean. The authorities are willing to recognize that. What they’re not willing to do is let anyone get away with being law abiding without paying a hefty fee, which is really all that matters to them.
This year, as usual, things have changed since last year. Instead of simply getting our health permit renewed, we now needed an inspection from the Fire Department. Last year we were supposed to have a fire department inspection, but in spite of contacting the fire department and setting up an appointment, they never showed up and never issued a permit.
But our “expediter” who is actually the same guy who issues the health permit from the Ministry of Healthy, insisted it was necessary that the inspection be carried out. He needed the inspection report from the FD before he could issue the permit.
After waiting several weeks, a man from the Fire Department showed up when we were out of town. This he made clear to us on his second visit; his motive for making this clear was cash. Since most government agencies don’t have budgets for things like transportation, it had cost him to come once and cost him again to come twice, and he insinuated that some kind of “compensation” should be given for having had to make two trips, since had to pay cab fare, or bus fare, to arrive.
During his inspection, he noted that we needed a 10 pound chemical powder fire extinguisher, in addition to the five pound one we already had, properly situated emergency evacuation lights, and smoke detectors in all four rooms of our workshop. He sat slowly making his notes and purposely forging an uncomfortable silence, obviously waiting for some offer of cash which would just make this all easily go away.
What he got was acceptance on our part to comply with the request, and no cash. He wasn’t happy about it. The form he left us noted what was needed; once we had put in place the requested items, then he or someone else would be back to re-inspect and have the form signed off on by the head of the fire department. But he didn’t really want to come back-he wanted the cash so he wouldn’t have the onerous burden of actually having to do his job.
We called our “expediter” at the Ministry and told him we had the inspection report. He told us straight-out we really didn’t need to actually comply with the requested items on the report. A copy of it sent over to him would suffice; my guess is he knows the fire department chief and would get it signed off on, probably sharing with the Chief a portion of the “fee” we pay him to get the permit issued.
At the same time, he sent us a form to sign off on stating that we would comply with the request in the Fire Department’s report within 90 days, and if we did not do so the Health Ministry had the right to revoke our permit. But of course, he is the Health Ministry, or at least he is the official in charge of enforcing the Health Ministry’s issuing of permits-so this form will probably just end up buried deep in some rusty file cabinet in some shadowy and dusty half-abandoned file storage closet in the Ministry. Ah, such is corruption!