What happens if you give someone you know is fairly corruptible the power to impose fines on you over matters that are left to their own judgement?
Not a very clever way to fight corruption, you would have thought, but this is exactly what the KAT, Bulgaria's notorious traffic cops, have been authorised to do through amendments to the Traffic Code. Now a traffic cop lurking in bushes or behind bends on motorways can flag you down and fine you up to 50 leva if he considers your car dirty. The definition of dirty is up to the cop in question to formulate.
Sounds like a Monty Python sketch, I know, but it is true in a country that is increasingly being put at loggerheads with reality by a political establishment that concedes corruption and bureaucracy are its biggest woes.
The legal changes being put into effect include some "minor" offences including speeding up to 20 km/h in built-up areas, talking on a mobile phone while driving (in Bulgaria, this is considered minor; in the UK it is dangerous driving punishable with up to two years imprisonment), having inadequate tyres, and hooting in built-up areas. Our favourite, of course, is the offence of driving a dirty car.
We would have thought the first one to be given a huge fine for filth would be the mayor of Sofia, as anyone attempting to navigate a vehicle through the mud, dirt and potholes in the capital will swear. But we have a really constructive proposal. Let Vladimir Putin come more often. The last time (some of) Sofia's streets got a proper clean up was when the former Russian president, with whom the establishment has very warm relations, came on a state visit.
Alternatively, the authorities could give Vagabond readers the right to demand money from traffic cops who don't look well. That would certainly put the scales in balance.