You’re Still Here: Less crooked than the rest, but still corrupt! – The Post

You’re Still Here: Less crooked than the rest, but still corrupt!

Turning a blind eye when it suits its interests? (photo: iStock)
July 2nd, 2016 7:00 am| by Kelly Draper

Denmark regularly comes out on top of world rankings for low corruption. While reports of police investigations into bribes of public officials are rare, other more insidious forms of corruption are widespread. These rarely make the news or even the courts, so they do not show up in the formulae that decide a country’s placing inh the rankings.

Lairy landlords
An example that most people have direct experience of is how landlords help themselves to huge rental deposits when their tenants leave. Tenants are on the hook for ridiculous redecorating expenses, whether they caused damage or not. These cases usually end with the tenant just cutting their losses and moving on. The essential corruption of taking money for nothing is not challenged. The system encourages it.

Rules about hiring and firing are not as stringent as you would expect. Nepotism is rife in most Danish firms’ hiring practices. It is not essential to advertise a job and interview all the qualified candidates, so Danish companies are infamous for hiring friends of friends. Same with firing: there are rules but there are enough loopholes that it is almost impossible to prove a case of unfairness without the employer saying something overtly discriminatory. There is nothing anyone can do about any of this, so no-one tries.

Wimpy watchdog
There are also cases of misuse of public funds and misuse of public office that are ignored and allowed to continue unchecked. Figures are not often fact-checked by the Danish media and so civil servants and politicians can make unsubstantiated claims. The Danish media eschews investigative journalism, so when borough councils do dodgy deals for their friends, no-one says anything. It goes on unchecked.

There are also tempting opportunities for volunteer-led organisations to misappropriate funds and engage in less than savoury practices. While this is lower stakes corruption than when a public official engages in similar activities, the lack of oversight allows too many groups of people to get away with squandering taxpayer money. And they do. But hardly anyone notices, and no-one says anything if they find out about it.

Hometown courts
In family courts, the biggest asshole wins the case. All it takes are a few false allegations and the will to brainwash your child, and full custody can be yours. Or throw in a mixed couple, and the Danish courts will favour the Danish parent. This discrimination has been challenged by the EU and the UN and yet Denmark does not lift a finger.

For all we know, even if these cases of corruption were recognised and tallied, Denmark would still have the most transparent society in the world. For people to be able to do anything about a problem, they need to know what it is. It just seems to me, given how passive and accepting the Danish public is about what they are told without difficult questions, there is no way of knowing how corrupt the country really is.

Kelly Draper


Kelly Draper is a British teacher who came to Denmark for work. She acts informally as a critical friend to Denmark. This has not gone down particularly well with Danes, who often tell her she should like it or leave it. Her blog is at adventuresandjapes.wordpress.com.