Kamal’s* anxiety increased with the heat of the day. His 11-year-old daughter, who is partially blind, had injured her head and urgently needed a brain scan. It was a hot, sticky day in Casablanca, and they sat uncomfortably in the hospital, waiting for the doctor to arrive.
Eventually, the nurse in charge of brain scans spoke to them. He told Kamal that it would be several months before they would be able to find an appointment for his daughter. If he wanted her to be seen sooner, Kamal should return early the next morning with 500 dirhams (US$60), on top of the standard 200-dirham (US$24) scan fee. For Kamal, who is a vendor at a local market, paying the nurse would mean finding around a third of his monthly income overnight.
It’s a dilemma that regularly faces too many parents around the world – pay an illegal backhander, or risk the health of your child. Fortunately, Kamal knew of an alternative. Calling our anti-corruption helpline, he reported what had happened to him. When our advisors recommended that he file a complaint directly to the Attorney General’s Office, he quickly agreed, and presented the complaint in person that day.
As a result, he wasn’t alone when he arrived at the hospital the next morning. Unnoticed by the nurse, the two men who arrived with Kamal were undercover police officers. When the nurse arrived and asked for his money, the officers arrested him on the spot. After a fast-moving court case, the nurse was imprisoned for two months. In the meantime, Kamal’s daughter received the scan she so urgently needed – free from any excess charge.
With help, more citizens could follow this example. “All Moroccans are legally entitled to call for police assistance when faced with bribery, but most people don’t know about this right,” says Ali Lahlou, coordinator of the legal advice centre who helped Kamal on his case.
“In addition, others are reluctant to act on it because they think the judiciary will simply ask for more bribes. They also fear retaliation by the authorities against which they file complaints.”
Kamal agrees. “We need to make sure there is real protection and support for people who speak out,” he says, “then more people in situations like mine can come forward and take action against corruption.”
*Name has been changed