Rule of Law


To what extent are public officeholders prevented from abusing their position for private interests?

Legal, political and public integrity mechanisms effectively prevent public officeholders from abusing their positions.
In Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index 2014, Denmark was ranked first together with New Zealand, followed by Finland, Sweden, Norway and Switzerland. Denmark is thus considered one of the least corrupt countries in the world.

We can therefore safely say that there is practically no corruption in Denmark. Norms are strong against corruption, and the risk of exposure by an active press is high. In the past, there was the occasional case of a local government official accepting “services” from business in exchange for contracts with the municipality, but such cases are rare. There have also occasionally been cases of officials using their representation accounts rather generously. Again, such cases are rare.
Transparency International, Corruption Perceptions Index 2014, (accessed 14 December 2014, re-accessed 8 October 2015).
New Zealand
New Zealand is one of the least corrupt countries in the world. Prevention of corruption is strongly safeguarded by such independent institutions as the auditor general and the Office of the Ombudsman. In addition, New Zealand has ratified all relevant international anti-bribery conventions of the OECD and the United Nations. All available indices confirm that New Zealand scores particularly high regarding corruption prevention, including in the private sector.
Freedom House: Freedom in the World 2015: (accessed October 20, 2015).
The overall level of corruption in Finland is low, with the country offering a solid example of how the consolidation of advanced democratic institutions may lead to the reduction of corruption. Several individual mechanisms contribute, including a strict auditing of state spending; new and more efficient regulations over party financing; legal provisions that criminalize the acceptance of brides; full access by the media and the public to relevant information; public asset declarations; and consistent legal prosecution of corrupt acts. However, the various integrity mechanisms still leave some room for potential abuse, and a 2014 European Commission report emphasized the need to make public-procurement decisions and election funding more transparent. It is also evident that positions in Finland are filled through political appointment. Whereas only about 5% of citizens are party members, two-thirds of the state and municipal public servants are party members. Recently, several political-corruption charges dealing with bribery and campaign financing – particularly a case in which a former head of Helsinki police’s narcotics unit was judged guilty of bribery – have been brought to light and have attracted media attention.
Hung-En Sung, “Democracy and Political Corruption: A Cross-National Comparison”, Crime, Law & Social Change, Vol. 41, 2004, 179-194.
Sweden has one of the lowest levels of corruption in the world. As a result, public trust in democratic institutions and public administration is comparatively high. There are, however, significant differences among government agencies in the level of trust they enjoy from citizens, with the National Tax Agency being the most trusted agency and the National Social Insurance Agency and the Labor Market Agency the least trusted.

Corruption at the state level remains extremely unusual in Sweden. Regulatory systems safeguarding transparency and accountability, coupled with an overall administrative culture that strongly forbids corrupt behavior, prevent corruption. At the local government level, however, there have been an increasing number of reports of corruption and court decisions on related charges. This tendency has continued during the period of review.
Bergström, Annika et al. (eds.) (2014), Fragment (SOM rapport 63) (Götheborg: SOM).
Corruption in Switzerland is rare according to international rankings. Indeed, Switzerland is consistently rated as being among the most successful countries with respect to corruption prevention. It is governed by the rule of law, offers high wages to public officials, and is based on a decentralized democracy with parties that efficiently control and audit public officials.

However, there are opportunities and incentives for political and societal elites to abuse their position for private interests. This is due to the country’s small size and the correspondingly small number of persons interacting in elite positions; to the culture of amicable agreement; and to the very pragmatic problem-solving culture. In addition, holders of elite positions know that they are highly likely to meet again in the future (and probably in different roles). This creates opportunities for the creation of broad informal networks, a reluctance to engage in close mutual surveillance and incentives for the non-observance of formal rules.

Given the considerable overlap between economic and political elites, critics such as the Swiss office of Transparency International have pointed to processes in which politicians’ economic interests may influence their decisions in parliament.

As host to 65 international sports bodies, Switzerland is very concerned with corruption in sports. In particular, the corruption affair involving Zurich-based FIFA has become a major issue. After the release of a report on the issue in December 2012, the federal government began to consider legal changes aimed at fighting corruption in sports more effectively.
The U.S. federal government has elaborate and extensive mechanisms for auditing financial transactions, investigating potential abuses, and prosecuting criminal misconduct. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has an ongoing, major focus on official corruption. Auditing of federal-spending programs occurs through congressional oversight as well as through independent control agencies such as the General Accountability Office (GAO) – which reports to Congress, rather than to the executive branch. The GAO also oversees federal public procurement. With all of the controls, executive-branch officials are effectively deterred from using their authority for private gain, and prosecutions for such offenses are rare. Still, incidents of financial corruption occasionally emerge both in the congressional and state-government spheres.
Most integrity mechanisms function effectively and provide disincentives for public officeholders willing to abuse their positions.
Corruption prevention is reasonably effective. Federal and state governments have established a variety of bodies to investigate corruption by politicians and public officials. Many of these bodies have the powers of Royal Commissions, which means that they can summon witnesses to testify. In 2014, Transparency International placed Australia at rank 11 in its international Corruptions Perceptions Index, with a good overall score.

At the federal level, these bodies include the Australian Crime Commission, charged with combating organized crime and public corruption, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, the main corporate regulator, and the Australian National Audit Office.

Nonetheless, significant potential for corruption persists, particularly at the state and territory level. Allegations of corruption in the granting of mining leases have sparked public outcry, and a New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry into corruption in the granting of such leases was in progress throughout the review period. This inquiry has led to the resignations of a number of members of the New South Wales parliament from both the Labor and Liberal parties.

Questions of propriety are also occasionally raised with respect to the awarding of government contracts. Tender processes are not always open, and “commercial-in-confidence” is often cited as the reason for non-disclosure of contracts with private-sector firms, raising concerns of favorable treatment extended to friends or favored constituents. Questions of inappropriate personal gain have also been raised when ministers leave Parliament to immediately take up positions in companies they had been responsible for regulating.

However, Australia has been reluctant to address cross-border corruption. A notable exception is the recent action of Australian federal police, which in October 2014 commenced to seize assets of allegedly corrupt Chinese officials. This joint operation with Chinese authorities has been a novelty.

Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives are required to report on their financial interests within 28 days of taking the oath of office. These registers were adopted by resolution of the House of Representatives on 8 October 1984 and the Senate on 17 March 1994. However, there have been instances of failure to comply with this requirement, usually with no consequences for the member concerned. Ministers are further subject to a Ministerial Code of Conduct, introduced in 1996, which articulates guidelines for ministerial conduct. However, this code has no legal standing, and is therefore unenforceable.

Corruption has become a major topic of discussion in Austria. In recent years, scandals concerning prominent politicians (including former cabinet members) and industries dependent on government decisions have been exposed in increasing numbers, and thoroughly investigated. In consequence, a special branch of the public prosecutor’s office dealing especially with corruption (Korruptionsstaatsanwaltschaft) has been established. This office is seen as a significant improvement on the earlier system, although it remains far from perfect with respect to political independence. The more proactive approach taken by government, represented for example in the activities of the Korruptionsstaaatsanwaltschaft, have yielded positive results.
A number of corruption cases and issues of conflicts of interest, widely covered by the media, has pushed government reforms toward a higher level of regulation of public officers. Since 2006, the federal auditing commission of state spending is responsible for publicizing the mandates of all public officeholders, after some officeholders held a significant plurality of offices. Assets held before and after a period in public office also have to be declared. Although the asset information is not published, the information does have legal value as it can be used in the event of a legal case (public officeholders therefore complete comprehensive declarations); such a practice appears to be effective (and various politicians have been investigated, after the financial crisis and bailout plans). Since 1993, political parties have been funded by public subsidies based on electoral results. Private donations by firms are not allowed. This practice is often criticized as a means of preserving the political status quo, as the system makes it difficult for an outsider to enter the political scene. To prevent further corruption scandals, public procurements above a certain value must follow strict rules. This rule has, however, often been bypassed at the local level (as revealed by certain corruption cases, such as in Charleroi), by splitting the market into sufficiently small units. Overall, the fight against outright corruption seems to have gained in effectiveness over the last years.
Canada has historically ranked very high for the extent to which public officeholders are prevented from abusing their position for private interests. Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index ranks Canada among the top 10 least corrupt countries in the world.

In recent years, however, the country saw a number of high profile corruption scandals. In 2013, the Montreal-based company SNC Lavalin and its subsidiaries were blacklisted from bidding on the World Bank’s global projects due to corruption charges related to its Padma Bridge project in Bangladesh. In 2014, the Charbonneau Commission on corruption in the construction industry in Quebec uncovered a series of long running and far-reaching corruption cases, including price rigging and bribery in the form of illegal donations to the province’s major political parties from some of its biggest engineering firms. Perhaps the most consequential scandal, however, revolves around an investigation (which started in 2012) of wrongful travel and living allowance expense claims made by four members of the Canadian Senate. All four senators have since been suspended and three of them were criminally charged. As a result, the Auditor General of Canada examined expense claims made by all the other senators, identifying in a 2015 report thirty whose claims were ineligible; of these, nine cases were referred for police investigation. The Senate expense scandal has renewed calls to reform the Senate or abolish the upper house entirely. In early 2014, Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau expelled all 32 Liberal senators to sit as Independents, part of a proposed plan to overhaul Senate appointments to ensure it is a non-partisan body.
Abuses of power and corruption have been the subject of considerable governmental and public concern. On the one hand, Estonia has succeeded in setting up a solid institutional and legal structure to prevent corruption, with the National Audit Office, the national parliament’s Select Committee on the Application of Anticorruption Act, the Supervision Committee and the Anticorruption Act of 2013. On the other hand, cases of illegal conduct among high-level civil servants, municipality officials or political-party leaders do emerge from time to time. Such cases can be regarded as evidence of the efficiency of anticorruption policy. However, they also indicate that loopholes remain in the public procurement process and in party-financing regulations, for example.

In 2014, the number of registered corruption offences increased slightly as compared to 2013 (from 322 to 355). It is important to note that corruption offences are often repeated acts committed by the same persons, and that the share of unique cases comprised less than half of the total. The largest number of corruption offences overall was registered in connection with state agencies (inspectorates, boards, legal entities founded by the state), whereas corruption cases at the municipality level became less frequent. In all probability, the awareness-raising training provided by the state audit office to local government leaders, seeking to reduce the risk of corruption, contributed to this positive effect.
Despite a series of corruption scandals, Germany performs better than most of its peers. According to the World Bank’s 2014 Worldwide Governance Indicators, Germany is in the top category in this area, outperforming countries including France, Japan and the United States, but falls behind Scandinavian countries, Singapore and New Zealand. Germany’s overall performance has also improved relative to other countries. In 2014, Germany ranked 12 out of 215 countries compared to 15 out of 215 in 2010 (World Bank 2015).

The country’s Federal Court of Audit (Bundesrechnungshof) provides for independent auditing of national spending under the terms of the Basic Law (Art. 114 sec. 2). According to the 2011 Audit Report, the revenues and expenditures of the federal authorities were in general properly documented.

Financial transparency for office holders is another core issue in terms of corruption prevention. Until very recently, provisions concerning required income declarations by members of parliament have been comparatively loose. For example, various NGOs have criticized the requirements for MPs in documenting extra income which merely stipulate that they identify which of the three tax rate intervals they fall under. This procedure provides no clarity with respect to potential external influences related to politicians’ financial interests. However, beginning with the current parliamentary term, members of the German Bundestag have to provide additional details about their ancillary income in a ten-step income list. Auxiliary income exceeding €250,000 is the uppermost category. Four Members of Parliament (all members of the conservative government party CDU/CSU) declared auxiliary incomes exceeding €250,000. For example, Peter Gauweiler (CSU) declared 19 auxiliary income sources, among them one of the highest category. The number of different sources reveals that this more precise system of declaration is flawed, too. Similar to party financing, it seems likely that, in order to avoid public attention, Members of Parliament will resort to the partitioning of their auxiliary income. The current system is thus not apt to eradicate corruption via a transparent declaration regime. Instead, it sets incentives to declare auxiliary income in slices of lesser amounts.
World Bank (2015):
After a parliamentary inquiry into a large building project in Wickrange in 2012 where government ministers and the prime minister were suspected of improperly favoring a bidding company, the government proposed in April 2013 a deontological code, with reference to existing codes such as that of European Commission. The text defines the type of gifts or favors a minister is allowed to receive and those which might influence his decision-making and are thus prohibited. The text also outlines what type of professional activity a minister can take up at the end of his mandate. The overall objective is to avoid conflicts of interests. Additionally, an ethics committee will offer opinions concerning the interpretation of specific situations. The revised text was signed by each minister and came into force in December 2014. Transparency International Luxembourg supports the code of conduct, giving credibility to the ministers. But steps need to be taken to ensure sanctions will be imposed on the parties concerned, and adjustments are still needed.

In the 2014 Eurobarometer survey (using data from 2013), three of 10 citizens said they believe that connections and personal favors promote access to certain public services in Luxembourg. In Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2014, Luxembourg improved two places compared to the previous year, falling at ninth place worldwide
In Luxembourg, the fourth European evaluation of the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) called for the rapid implementation of the group’s anti-corruption guidelines in order to prevent corruption within the public authorities. Only one of the group’s 14 recommendations has been implemented into national law, and other directives have not been transposed or have been only partially implemented.
There are few instances of corruption in Norway. The few cases of government corruption that have surfaced in recent years have primarily been at the regional or municipal level, or in various public bodies related to social aid. As a rule, corrupt officeholders are prosecuted under established laws. There is a great social stigma against corruption, even in its minor manifestations. However, there has been growing concern over government corruption in specific areas such as building permits. During the last few years, the incidence of corruption related to investments and overseas Norwegian business activities has increased. The government has had a significant ownership share in some of the firms involved.
The United Kingdom is comparatively free of explicit corruption like bribery or fraud, and there is little evidence that explicit corruption influences decision-making at national level. Occasional episodes arise of limited and small-scale corruption at local level, usually around property development. The delinquents of recent scandals in UK politics mostly acted within the law. However, these scandals point to a continuing gap between politicians’ attitudes and the public’s expectations. Regulations against corruption have already been formalized to strengthen them, with the 2004 Corruption Bill consolidating and updating regulations into one law. On most international comparisons, the UK comes out with strong scores.

The MPs’ expenses scandal of 2009 provoked a call for more transparency in this field, but is an example of an informal “British” approach to the political problem of not wanting to raise MPs’ salaries. Instead, there was a tacit understanding that they could claim generous expenses. The rules were tightened very substantially in the wake of the scandal, and an independent body was set up to regulate MP’s expenses. Codes of practice, such as the Civil Service Code and the Ministerial Code, have been revised (the latter in October 2015, following the election) and are publicly available. The volume of material published has been overwhelming, with examples range from lists of dinner guests at Chequers (the Prime Minster’s country residence) to details of spending on government credit cards. The most recent report (December 2015) from the independent adviser on ministerial interest appears to present a clean bill of health and notes that no reason to investigate any breaches of the ministerial code since 2012.

At a more subtle level, influence based on connections and friendships can occur, but rarely with direct financial implications. However, some regulatory decisions may be affected by the exercise of such influence.

The legal framework and rules regarding standards in public office have been progressively tightened and extended over time in Ireland.

In January 2014, Public Service Reform Plan 2014 – 2016 was published. Its stated goal was to maintain momentum with regard to reducing costs and increasing efficiency in the public sector, “to deliver greater openness, transparency and accountability and to strengthen trust in government and public services.”

Many proposed reforms are still at the planning stage, and it is too early to assess their impact on the integrity of officeholders and public servants.
The 2014 Public Services Reform Plan is available here:
Latvia’s main integrity mechanism is the Corruption Combating and Prevention Bureau (Korupcijas novēršanas un apkarošanas birojs, KNAB). The Group of States Against Corruption has recognized KNAB as an effective institution, yet has identified the need to further strengthen institutional independence in order to remove concerns of political interference. KNAB has seen a number of controversial leadership changes and remains plagued by a persistent state of internal management disarray. Internal conflicts have spilled into the public sphere. For example, the KNAB director and deputy director have been embroiled in a series of court cases over disciplinary measures that continued throughout 2015. The director continues to adopt an administrative approach that has resulted in a high turnover of qualified staff. Furthermore, these scandals have weakened public trust in the institution. The results of an April 2014 public-opinion poll, commissioned by KNAB itself, found that public trust in KNAB had declined between 2007 and 2014, when public trust in other public institutions had increased.

The Conflict of Interest Law is the key piece of legislation relating to officeholder integrity. The Conflict of Interest Law created a comprehensive financial disclosure system and introduced a requirement for all violations to be publicly disclosed. In 2012, all Latvian citizens were required to make a one-time asset declaration in order to create a financial baseline against which the assets of public officeholders could be compared. This information is confidential and there is no publicly available evaluation of the efficacy of this policy.

Party-financing regulations contain significant transparency requirements, limitations on donation sources and size, and campaign expenditure caps. In 2011, a major political party voluntarily dissolved in order to avoid paying a substantial fine for campaign financing violations, while electoral support for a second political party collapsed after they too had received a similar fine. Until the introduction of a public financing mechanism in 2012, political parties were privately financed. KNAB is charged with oversight of public financing for political parties. In 2012, violations of campaign-finance laws were criminalized, but no criminal cases have yet been presented.

The slow progress of cases through the court systems undermines efforts to assess the system’s effectiveness. However, the available statistics indicate some positive trends. In 2013, for example, the number of persons tried in the court of first instance decreased to 85 (compared to 108 in 2012), while only 20 public officials were convicted of misdeeds, the lowest such number since 2004. Cases brought in 2013 were few and simple, evidenced by the fact that most judgment had already come into force by mid-2014, and no defendant received a prison sentence. In 2011, officials of the Riga City Council Development Department were convicted of taking bribes exceeding €1 million. In 2012, by contrast, the largest bribe exposed was under €4,000.
1. Corruption °C (2012), Updated Statistics on Convictions for Corruption Offences (2013 Data Added), Available at:, Last assessed: 16.11.2015.

2. Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO)(2012), Fourth Evaluation Round, Corruption Prevention in Respect of Members of Parliament, Judges and Prosecutors, Evaluation Report, Available at:, Last assessed: 21.05.2013

3. Freedom House (2012), Nations in Transit, Country Report, Available at:, Last assessed: 21.05.2013

4. KNAB (2014), Attitudes toward Corruption in Latvia (in Latvian), Available at:, Last assessed: 22.10.2014
Integrity mechanisms have functioned relatively well in Poland, and corruption at the top has been limited. The official anti-corruption strategy for the period from 2014-2019, as adopted in April 2014, strengthened the role of the Ministry of the Interior and placed greater emphasis on education and prevention. Corruption scandals in 2015 included the acting Minister of Justice Cezary Grabarzyk and the influential former interior Minister Krzysztof Janik. The cases identified or prosecuted in 2015 show that bodies tasked with oversight to monitor corruption generally carry out their duties. Three sectors seem to be especially prone to corruption: real estate (partly because of the boom in the construction of motorways during the last decade), the construction of sport stadiums and the health system.
Under Portuguese law, abuse of position is prohibited and criminalized. However, as elsewhere, corruption persists despite the legal framework. A 2012 assessment of the Portuguese Integrity System by the Portuguese branch of Transparency International concluded that the “political, cultural, social and economic climate in Portugal does not provide a solid ethical basis for the efficient fight against corruption,” and identified the political system and the enforcement system as the most fragile elements of the country’s integrity system. This assessment is corroborated by the Transparency International’s 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index, which placed Portugal 33rd worldwide – the same rank as the previous year. It must be noted, however, that Transparency International’s ratings are based on perceptions by the population, and are thus entirely subjective.

A law was approved by the Assembly of the Republic in September 2011 on the illicit enrichment of public officeholders. However, this legislation was deemed unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court in April 2012. While practically all the parties that voted for the legislation declared that they would bring new legislation on this issue, no new legislation had been approved by the end of the review period.

Efforts have been made at the state level to impede corruption, although there remains room for improvement in terms of the implementation of anti-corruption plans. A survey by the Council for the Prevention of Corruption, published in June 2015, noted that half of the country’s public entities admitted to having applied only parts of their corruption-prevention plans. The reasons given were largely related to a lack of human, technical and financial resources.

It should also be noted that a number of high-profile corruption cases were pursued during the period under review. Former Prime Minister (2005 – 2011) José Sócrates was put under house arrest after spending 10 months in jail awaiting trial for alleged corruption, money laundering, and tax fraud. Likewise, a number of top public officials – including the head of the immigration and border service – have been detained due to suspicions of corruption in the granting of visas.
Maria Lopes (2015), “Entidades públicas têm de reforçar planos de prevenção da corrupção,” Público online, 15/06/2015, available online at:
The Netherlands is considered a corruption-free country. This may well explain why its anti-corruption policy is relatively underdeveloped. The Dutch prefer to talk about “committing fraud” rather than “corrupt practices,” and about improving “integrity” and “transparency” rather than openly talking of fighting or preventing corruption, which appears to be a taboo issue.

Research on corruption is mostly focused on the public sector and much more on petty corruption by civil servants than on mega-corruption by mayors, aldermen, top-level provincial administrators, elected representatives or ministers. The private sector and civil-society associations are largely left out of the picture. Almost all public-sector organizations now have an integrity code of conduct. However, the soft law approach to integrity means that “hard” rules and sanctions against fraud, corruption and inappropriate use of administrative power are underdeveloped.

There have been more and more frequently major corruption scandals in the public sector involving top-executives – particularly in (government-commissioned) construction of infrastructure and housing, but also in schools and health care and transport. Transparency problems in the public sector concern job nominations, and salaries for top-level administrators and additional jobs.

In the private sector, 26% of respondents in a recent survey were convinced of the occurrence of corruption in the Netherlands. In dealing with foreign governments or companies, a majority considered bribes inevitable and “normal.” Van Hulten (2012) notes that bribes and corruption by Dutch companies in foreign countries would amount to some €10 billion annually. In December 2014, the OECD urged the Dutch government to speed up the passage of rules and law-enforcement actions against Dutch companies that violate international anti-corruption rules in their international operations.

In at least three (out of 17) areas, the Netherlands does not meet the standards for effective integrity policy as identified by Transparency International. All three involve preventing corruption and taking sanctions against corruption. In 2015, the government published an Integrated Vision on Preventing and Tackling Corruption, and a bill was proposed for the protection of whistle-blowers.
Transparency International Nederland (2015), Nationaal Integriteitssysteem Landenstudie Nederland.

A.J.P. Tiller, Ontwikkelingen rond corruptiebestrijding in Nederland, 2015 (, consulted 2 November 2015)

M. van Hulten, ‘Nederland – corruptieland’, in Tijdschrift voor Politieke Filosofie en Cultuur Civis Mundi,, digitaal nummer 13, 2012 onder thema 26.

“Crimineel weet welke agent hij hebben wil”, in NRC-Handelsblad, 11 October 2015

Additional references:

Heuvel, J.H.J. van den, L.W.J.C. Huberts & E.R. Muller (Red.) 2012. Integriteit: Integriteit en integriteitsbeleid in Nederland. Deventer: Kluwer
In general terms, the integrity of the public sector is a given, especially on the national level. The most notable problem consists in the strong ties between high-level officials and the private sector. Political and economic elites overlap significantly, thus reinforcing privilege. This phenomenon was particularly problematic under the previous government, as many members of the Alianza – including Sebastián Piñera himself – were powerful businesspeople. This entanglement produces conflicts of interest in the policymaking process, for example in regulatory affairs.

Furthermore, there are no regulations enabling monitoring of conflicts of personal economic interest for high-ranked politicians (for example the president and ministers). In the period under review, repeated corruption scandals (involving numerous major companies, with one case even involving President Bachelet’s son) showed corruption and abuses of power within Chilean’s political and economic elite is in fact more common than (international) indicators regarding corruption and transparency tend to suggest. It is as yet unclear how state institutions will confront these issues.

As a response to this crisis, President Bachelet convoked a council that proposed several anticorruption measures intended to prevent abuse of office. These measures would include a restriction on private campaign funding and the creation of a public register of all lobbyists. However, as of the time of writing, the proposals that required changes to existing law had yet to pass parliament.
Financial corruption in politics is not viewed as a serious problem in Iceland, but in-kind corruption – such as granting favors and paying for personal goods with public funds – does occur. Regulatory amendments in 2006, which introduced requirements to disclose sources of political party financing, should reduce such corruption in the future.

In very rare cases, politicians are put on trial for corruption. Iceland has no policy framework specifically addressing corruption because historically corruption has been considered a peripheral subject. However, the appointment of unqualified persons to public office, a form of in-kind corruption, has been and remains a serious concern. Other, subtle forms of in-kind corruption, which are hard to quantify, also exist. The political scientist Gissur Ó. Erlingsson claims that corruption in mature democracies, including Iceland, is perhaps more of the character of nepotism, cronyism, and ”You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.”

The collapse of the Icelandic banks in 2008 and the subsequent investigation by the Special Investigation Committee (SIC), among other bodies, highlighted the weak attitude of government and public agencies toward the banks, including weak restraints and lax supervision before 2008. Moreover, three of the four main political parties, as well as individual politicians, accepted large donations from the banks and affiliated interests. When the banks crashed, 10 out of the 63 members of parliament owed the banks the equivalent of more than €1 million each. Indeed, these personal debts ranged from €1 million to €40 million, with the average debt of the 10 MPs standing at €9 million. The 10 highly indebted MPs include the current Minister of Finance and Minister of the Interior. The SIC did not report on legislators that owed the banks lesser sums, say €500,000. GRECO has repeatedly highlighted the need for Icelandic MPs to disclose all their debts beyond standard mortgage loans. In 2015, GRECO formally complained that Iceland had not responded to any of its recommendations in its 2013 report on Iceland.

In November 2011, parliament passed a law that obliges members of parliament to declare their financial interests, including salaries, means of financial support, assets and jobs outside parliament. This information is publicly available on the parliament’s website.

According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2014, which measures business corruption, Iceland scored 78 out of 100, where a score of 100 means absolutely no corruption. Although this score implies that Iceland is relatively free of corruption, it is still well behind the other Nordic countries, which score between 86 and 91. In an assessment of political corruption in 2012, Gallup reported that 67% of Icelandic respondents view corruption as being widespread in government compared with 14% to 15% in Sweden and Denmark.
Erlingsson, Gissur Ó. (2014): CORRUPTION IN LOW CORRUPT COUNTRIES: THE CASE OF SWEDEN. Open lecture given at the University of Akureyri, Iceland 19th September 2014.

Special Investigation Committee (SIC) (2010),“Report of the Special Investigation Commission (SIC),” report delivered to parliament 12 April.

Rules on registration of parliamentarians financial interests. (Reglur um skráningu á fjárhagslegum hagsmunum alþingismanna og trúnaðarstörfum utan þings. Samþykkt í forsætisnefnd Alþingis 28 nóvember 2011.).

Gallup (2013), Government Corruption Viewed as Pervasive Worldwide,
A survey of the Israeli legal framework identifies three primary channels of a corruption-prevention strategy: 1) maintaining popular trust in public management (including bank managers and large public-oriented corporations’ owners), 2) ensuring the proper conduct of public servants and 3) ensuring accountability within the civil service. Israel pursues these goals by various means: It established a legal and ethical framework to guide civil servants and the courts, reinforced the position of the State Comptroller through the passage of a basic law (1988) in order insure government accountability, adapted the civil-service commission’s authority to manage human resources (e.g., appointments, salaries) and so forth. In 2005, Israel was one of 140 states to sign a national anti-corruption treaty and began implementing it in 2009, issuing annual progress reports.

Annual opinion surveys demonstrate that Israeli citizens are concerned about high levels of corruption in their country, but this belief is not empirically supported. Nevertheless, criticism of Israel’s centralized public-service structure have been mounting, in part because it is characterized by some very powerful ministries with broad ability to engage in discretionary spending. These powers detract from accountability, leaving room for corruption.

Criminal inquiries into politicians are common. Former Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman was on trial for fraud, money laundering and breach of trust. Former Finance Minister Avraham Hirschson was indicted for a number of crimes including aggravated fraud, theft, breach of trust and money laundering. In 2014, the courts issued a historic ruling, sentencing former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to six years in prison for accepting bribes while serving as mayor of Jerusalem.

According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, Israel ranks 36th out of 175 countries in terms of corruption. Of the 34 OECD nations, Israel ranked 24th. One aspect of institutional corruption lies in bureaucracy. Studies have shown that corruption gets an extra institutional incentive where private businesses face the difficulties that bureaucracy raises. Where bureaucracy is complicated, corruption can thrive. Overall, few scandals of political corruption were revealed during 2015. Several senior figures from government ministries and local councils were accused of crimes including bribery, fraud, breach of trust, money laundering, falsifying documents, and obstruction of justice by funneling money to various organizations and foundations. According to the head of the Israel Police’s fraud investigations task force, General Meni Yitzhaki, Israel does not suffer from widespread corruption but rather “islands of corruption.” General Yitzhaki claimed that the Israeli police “treat corruption as criminal organizations.”

Transparency International reports that “no information is made public about government discussions and ministerial committee proceedings.” The government and the executive branch in particular do not cultivate a culture of accountability with regard to the public. The executive rarely issues reports and often eschews responsibility for its errors and failures. At times, according to Transparency International, ministers will publicly renounce government decisions that they themselves have been involved with, thereby fomenting conflicts and undermining integrity.
Aliasuf, Itzak, “Ethics of public servants in Israel,” Mishkanut Shananim Website, 1991 (Hebrew).

Hovel, Revital, “Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert sentenced to 6 years in prison,” Haaretz, 13.5.2014: )English).

Knalfman, Ana ,“Political corruption in Israel,” IDI website, 13.11.2010, (Hebrew).

Shahar Levi, Zohar, “The head of the Israel Police fraud investigations task force: We have number corruption affairs in line,” Calcalist, 19.5.2015:,7340,L-3659694,00.html (Hebrew).

Ministry of Justice, “Israel-phase 2,” Ministry of Justice, December ,2009, (Hebrew).

“85% of Israelis think corruption is widespread in business,” The Times of Israel, 12.5.2012: (English).

Ynet Reporters, ”Massive scope of Yisrael Beiteinu corruption scandal revealed,” Ynet, 25.12.2014:,7340,L-4607728,00.html (English).

Transparency International – TI Israel:
How resilient is the Israeli Integrity System? National Integrity System Assessment – Israel, 2013
Strengths, Sustainability and Challenges.
Corruption is not sufficiently contained in Lithuania. In the World Bank’s 2014 Worldwide Governance Indicators, Lithuania’s received a score of 68.8 out of 100 (up from 67 one year ago) on the issue of corruption control. The 2013 Eurobarometer poll revealed that Lithuania had the EU‘s highest percentage (29%) of respondents who claimed that had been asked or expected to pay a bribe for services over the past 12 months (with the EU average of 4 %). According to the Transparency International Corruption Perception index Lithuania was ranked 39th in 2014, up from being ranked 43rd in 2013.

Anti-corruption policy is based on the National Program on the Fight Against Corruption (2011– 2014), which has two primary building blocks: eliminating or minimizing conditions that enable corruption, and enforcing penalties in cases of identified corruption. According to the Lithuanian Corruption Map of 2011, the most corrupt institutions were the health care sector, the parliament, the courts, the police, and the local authorities. Bribery is perceived to be the main form of corruption by most average Lithuanians, while businesspeople and civil servants respectively identified nepotism and party patronage as the most frequent forms of corruption. According to the World Economic Forum, Lithuanian firms perceive corruption as one of the most problematic factors for doing business in the country. Since state and municipal institutions often inadequately estimate the likelihood of corruption risks, not all corruption causes and conditions are addressed in anti-corruption action plans. The European Commission suggested that Lithuania should develop a strategy against informal payments in healthcare, and improve the control of declarations of conflicts of interest made by elected and appointed officials. The transparency of political party financing also requires additional efforts.
The Worldwide Governance Indicators of World Bank are available at e/wgi/index.asp.
The Lithuanian Corruption Map is available at public/2013/01/22/korupcijos_zemela pis_2011.pdf.
See the 2015-2016 Global Competitiveness Report of the World Economic Forum:
The European Commission. Annex 15 to the EU Anti-Corruption Report: Lithuania. Brussels, 3.2.2014. COM (2014) 38 final.

The European Commission. Annex 15 to the EU Anti-Corruption Report: Lithuania. Brussels, 3.2.2014. COM (2014) 38 final.
Corruption has been publicly perceived as one of the most serious problems in Slovenia ever since 2011. In the period under review, the development has been contradictory. On the one hand, the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption stabilized itself in 2015 after a difficult start and a problematic appointment of the chief commissioner and his deputies in 2014. Moreover, the Cerar government adopted a detailed new two-year anti-corruption action plan in January 2015 and finalized the legislative amendments to three judicial acts on the basis of the GRECO recommendations (Courts Act, Judicial Service Act, State Prosecutor Act). At the same time, however, two high-profile corruption cases - the case against the former Prime Minister Janša and the former CEO of Istrabenz holding Igor Bavčar - fell apart in 2015 in ways that undermined the judiciary’s credibility.
“The programme for government measures for combating corruption”, Ministry of Public Administration, 28 January 2015,
Corruption levels have plausibly declined in Spain since the real-estate bubble burst in the wake of the 2008 crisis. Massive spending cuts since that time have also arguably helped bring down corruption levels. Nonetheless, perceived corruption levels and Spain’s position in international indices such as Transparency International’s CPI have worsened since the early 2000s. Spain was ranked at 20th place worldwide at the beginning of last decade, but fell over time to 40th place in 2013 and a somewhat better 36th place in 2015. This can be attributed to the fact that cases currently moving through the legal system are based on past events and activities that are now receiving considerable media attention. Spaniards are also showing a decreased tolerance for the abuse of public office.

The corruption cases now being investigated typically involve illegal donations by private companies to specific parties in exchange for favors from the administration, or simply personal enrichment on the part of officeholders. There have also been several cases of fraudulent subsidies received by individuals close to the governing political parties, and some “revolving door” conflict-of-interest cases involving politicians and industries affected by regulation. Nevertheless, the central government passed several legal initiatives in 2014 and 2015 intended to dissuade such behavior, including a change in party-funding legislation, a new transparency law, and reforms of the criminal code and the public-procurement law. In addition, systematic audits of the public accounts are mandatory, and officeholders must make an asset declaration. Finally, a new anti-corruption agency was announced in October 2015.

Therefore, incentives for officeholders to exploit their positions for personal gain have arguably decreased, as public servants now face more serious legal consequences and/or adverse publicity. Moreover, very few corruption cases have involved career civil servants, and everyday interactions between citizens and the administration typically function on the basis of a high level of integrity.
Spain’s position in the corruption perception index (36/175)

Political Parties anticipate TI-Spain its electoral commitments against Corruption

Spain to the EU Anti-corruption report (European Commission)

El Gobierno aprueba la creación de una oficina contra la corrupción
Some integrity mechanisms function, but do not effectively prevent public officeholders from abusing their positions.
Corruption is one of the key issues facing the Croatian political system, and ranked high on the agenda of the accession negotiations with the European Union. Upon coming to office in 2009, Prime Minister Kosor made the fight against corruption one of her priorities and succeeded in improving the legal framework and its enforcement. The implementation of anti-corruption measures was gradually reinforced in 2013 and 2014. However, the fight against corruption lost ground in 2015, when major verdicts, most notably the conviction of former Prime Minister Sanader, were annulled for procedural reasons and prominent indicted political actors, including the mayor of Zagreb, were able to re-enter the political scene after having paid considerable bailout sums.
Czech Rep.
The fight against corruption has featured prominently in the program of the Sobotka government, which has criticized activities of previous governments as excessively formalistic and ineffective. In December 2014, the government presented an anti-corruption plan for the period 2015-2017. The new strategy features four key points: strengthening the executive’s integrity through the adoption and implementation of the long-discussed civil service law and the preparation of a new law on the public prosecution office; increasing transparency through the electronic collection of laws and legislative materials and an amendment to the law on the central register; a better use of state property through new rules for public procurement, greater transparency of ownership and an expansion of the powers of the Supreme Audit Office; and fostering civil society by providing whistleblowers better protection. However, the Sobotka government’s present action plan has been the fifth anti-corruption strategy since 1999. With the exception of the civil service law, all bills are still under discussion, as there is a lack of political agreement within the governing coalition. There is still no protection planned against the conflicts of interest inherent to a business and media tycoon holding a high government position.
Government Anti-Corruption Action Plan 2015. Available online (last visited 7.11.2015)
Up to the 1990s, corruption plagued French administration. Much of the problem was linked to secret party financing, as political parties often sought out alternative methods of funding when member fees and/or public subsidies lacked. Methods included on the national level weapons sales to brokering lucrative contracts with multinational companies, or on the local level, public purchasing to the awarding of long-term concessions for local public services. Judicial investigations revealed extraordinary scandals, which resulted in the conviction and imprisonment of industrial and political leaders. The cases themselves were a key factor for the growing awareness of the prevalence of corruption in France. This led to substantive action to establish stricter rules, both over party financing and transparency in public purchases and concessions. The opportunities to cheat, bypass or evade these rules however are still too many, and too many loopholes still exist. A scandal in March 2013 involving a minister of finance who is accused of alleged tax fraud and money laundering has put the issues of corruption, fiscal evasion and conflict of interest on the public agenda. In reaction, government ministers have been obliged to make public their personal finances; parliamentarians are also obliged to do so, but their declarations are not made public and media are forbidden from publishing them. Only individual citizens can consult these disclosures and only in the constituency where the MP was elected. However, these hastily adopted measures are still incomplete and do not tackle critical problems related to corruption, such as the huge and largely unchecked powers of mayors (who are responsible for land planning and public tenders), the rather superficial and lax controls of regional courts of accounts, the intertwining of public and private elites, the holding by one person of many different political offices or political mandates simultaneously (cumul des mandats). All these factors, by themselves, do not constitute acts of corruption, but can lead to it – particularly as the legal definition of corruption is narrow and thus reduces the possibility to effectively sanction any malpractice. Cases of corruption related to the funding of political campaigns by foreign African states or through unchecked defense contracts are currently (at the time of this writing) before the courts. Moreover, the accounts of the Sarkozy campaign in 2012 were rejected by the Constitutional Council and the public funding granted to candidates refused as a consequence. Since then, the finances of his party are under investigation and some instances of malpractice have been identified. As long as legal codes to regulate conflicts of interest (beyond the case of ministers or parliamentarians) have not been adopted and seriously enforced, corruption will continue, unimpeded by sanctions.
Public officeholders are not efficiently prevented from exploiting their offices for private gain, but things changed in the period under review. In 2011, Greece’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) score was far lower than that of all other EU member states, except for Bulgaria. In 2012, Greece’s score fell below that of Bulgaria, but in 2014 Greece again caught up with Bulgaria and both countries were ranked at the 69th rank among 175 countries (Denmark was ranked first, as the least corrupt country, followed by other Scandinavian countries).

Between 2012 and 2014, the government passed extensive anti-corruption legislation, following the advice of the Troika and the Council of Europe. Yet, there still is an implementation gap in enforcing legislation on party financing, parliamentary integrity, the corruption of civil servants and tax evasion. After Syriza’s rise to power in January 2015, the earlier lack of resolve among political and administrative elites to control corruption was reversed. However, the Syriza-ANEL coalition was undecided on how to steer anti-corruption policy. In January 2015, a new post of Minister for Anti-Corruption was established; in September the post was abolished and a post of Deputy Minister for Anti-Corruption was created and subsumed under the supervision of the Minister of Justice. A new General Secretariat on Anti-Corruption was created under the aforementioned Minister, but remains understaffed. In September 2015, the government transferred the 3,500 employees of the Economic Crime Unit (SDOE), who had been functioning under independent authority, to the General Secretariat of Public Revenue, a unit within the Ministry of Finance.

Regardless of such organizational turmoil, in the period under review visible progress has been made on most fronts. For instance, in March 2015 the trial of former Minister of Finance Giorgos Papakonstantinou, for misconduct, infidelity, and document falsification (for removing files from the Lagarde list that involved his relatives), ended with a guilty verdict. However, the court found that his offences were minor and he received a one year suspended prison sentence. Between April and November 2015 the competent anti-corruption prosecutors, entrusted with fighting corruption among public officials, intensified their efforts to unearth evidence of corruption and charged two well-known Greek arms dealers, Thomas Liakounakos and Costas Dafermos, with offences which led to their arrest. They are now awaiting trial.

The visible, though not always stable, progress in fighting corruption is associated with multiple factors: the plethora of legislative acts on corruption; the lack of expertise and resources available to institutions entrusted with the fight against corruption and the problematic coordination between these institutions; and the ongoing very generous immunity protection offered by the Constitution of Greece to serving and former ministers. Without constitutional reform, the effort to control corruption will always stumble into recurring legal impediments.
Citations: Accessed on 05.11.2015. Law 4254/2014 (section IE), passed in April 2014, contains very strict penalties for public officials receiving briberies and also protects whistleblowers who help prosecuting authorities to fight corruption in the public sector. Law 4320/2015, passed in March 2015, re-organizes anti-corruption authorities, by assigning the relevant tasks to a new General Secretariat and a Minister of Anti-corruption.
The Italian legal system has a significant set of rules and judicial and administrative mechanisms (with ex ante and ex post controls) to prevent officeholders from abusing their position, but their effectiveness is doubtful. The Audit Court (Corte dei Conti) itself – one of the main institutions responsible for the fight against corruption – indicates in its annual reports that corruption remains one of the biggest problems of the Italian administration. The high number of cases exposed by the judiciary and the press indicates that the extent of corruption is high, and is particularly common in the areas of public works, procurement, and local building permits. It suggests also that existing instruments for the fight against corruption must be significantly reconsidered to make them less legalistic and more practically efficient. The Monti government introduced an important anti-corruption law (Legge 6, Novembre 2012, no. 190). In 2014, the Anti-Corruption Authority was significantly strengthened and its anti-corruption activity progressively increased. In 2015, new legislation proposed by the Renzi government was approved by parliament. The current reform of public administration could also contribute to tackling administrative abuses.
Corruption and bribery scandals have for decades frequently emerged in Japanese politics. These problems are deeply entrenched and are related to prevailing practices of representation and voter mobilization. Japanese politicians rely on local support networks to raise campaign funds and are expected to “deliver” to their constituencies and supporters in return. Scandals have involved politicians from most parties except for the few parties with genuine membership-based organizations (i.e., the Japanese Communist Party and the Komeito).

Financial or office-abuse scandals involving bureaucrats have, however, been quite rare in recent years. This may be a consequence of stricter accountability rules devised after a string of ethics-related scandals came to light in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Prime Minister Abe has indicated that he will make corruption prevention a topic at the 2016 G-7 meeting hosted by Japan.

Following the 3/11 disasters, the public debate on regulatory failures with respect to the planning and execution of nuclear power projects supported a widely held view that, at least at the regional level, collusive networks between authorities and companies still prevail and can involve corruption and bribery.
A number of institutions and processes work to prevent corruption and guarantee the integrity of government officials, including the Permanent Commission Against Corruption, the National Audit Office, the Ombudsman Office and the Public Service Commission. The government also abides by a separate Code of Ethics, set out for ministers, members of parliament and public servants. Ministers and members of parliament are also expected to make an annual asset declaration. The Public Accounts Committee of the unicameral House of Representatives can also investigate public expenditure decisions to ensure that money spent or contracts awarded are transparent and conducted according to law and general financial regulations.

Until recently, with the exception of the National Audit Office and the Ombudsman Office, these mechanisms provided insufficient guarantees against corruption. The Permanent Commission Against Corruption, which has the independent power to investigate incidents of alleged or suspected corruption, rarely does so before a complaint has been lodged. Recent scandals associated with oil procurement by the state power station revealed that the commission had received calls from private individuals to investigate allegations of corruption, but that it had proved unable to do so effectively. The commission’s report hinted that while suspicions of corruption existed, the authorities failed to call in the police to investigate the suspicions further. The government has promised a new round of reform of the commission by the end of the year. The 2015 report of the audit office also highlighted regulatory abuse regarding procurement, inventory inadequacies, and non-compliance with tender requirements and ministries’ fiscal obligations.

The Public Service Commission has consistently lacked resources sufficient to allow it to work effectively. As the members of both commissions are appointed by the president on the sole advice of the prime minister, they lack public trust.

Both the National Audit Office and the Ombudsman Office are independent, but neither enjoys the necessary executive powers to follow up on their investigations.

In 2013, the government strengthened the fight against corruption by reducing elected political figures’ ability to evade corruption charges, and introduced a more effective Whistleblower Act.
Transparency International: The 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index
Audit office finds lack of adherence to procurement regulations by the office of the prime minister Times of Malta 14/12 2015
Audit office flags unauthorised payments by science council Times of Malta 14/12/2015
No independent testing of concrete at child development center in Gozo Times of Malta 14/12/2015
Audit office calls for better verification of applications for social assistance Times of Malta 14/12/2015
Corruption has been a major political issue in Romania. The demonstrations that took place in after the deadly fire in a nightclub in October 2015 targeted the entire political class with the slogan “Corruption Kills.” While the courts and the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA) have been successful in prosecuting a number of high-profile cases, they have faced strong opposition by the parliament. In 2015, the DNA indicted over 1250 defendants, including the acting prime minister, former ministers, members of parliament, mayors, presidents of county councils, judges, prosecutors and a wide variety of senior officials. The Romanian parliament continued relentlessly in the disturbing habit of legislating loopholes that facilitate corrupt practices or delay prosecutorial work by postponing immunity-lifting for members of parliament. In the period under review, parliament refused about one-third of requests from DNA for the lefting of immunity of members of parliament to allow for the opening of investigations or the application of preventive detention measures, and it has done so in an unpredictable manner. Overall, despite robust inter-party competition, a consensus prevails that state oversight institutions and anti-corruption agencies should have their mandates curtailed to allow the political elite to retain opportunities for illicit enrichment.
European Commission 2016: Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council On Progess in Romania under the Co-operation and Verification Mechanism. COM(2016) 41 final, Brussels (
The Fico government has never paid proper attention to anti-corruption efforts. Despite spectacular corruption scandals in the period under review which, inter alia, involved the minister of health and the speaker of parliament, few attempts to strengthen integrity mechanisms were undertaken. An amendment to the public-procurement law seeking to prevent companies with undisclosed owners (so-called shell companies) from taking part in public-tender processes was widely criticized for its restrictive remit. A proposal by the parliamentary opposition to make public officials personally accountable in public tenders was rejected by Smer-SD members of parliament. The state administration largely ignored an act granting protecting whistle-blowers, which became effective in January 2015.
South Korea
Corruption remains a major problem in South Korea and government attempts to curb the problem are seen as mostly ineffective by the population. The enforcement of the OECD anti-bribery convention is evaluated as “moderate.” Recent major corruption scandals have involved the Defense Acquisition Program as well as two major investment projects mounted by the previous Lee administration – the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project, and the administration’s resources-diplomacy program.

On 29 February 2008, the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission (ACRC) was launched following the merger of the Ombudsman of Korea, the Korean Independent Commission against Corruption, and the Administrative Appeals Commission. Before February 2012, ACRC commissioners were appointed exclusively by the president, a provision that critics had argued undermined its independence. As a consequence of legislative reform, the president’s prerogative to appoint the members of the commission is now limited to nine out of 15 commissioners, whereas three of the remaining six (non-permanent) members of ACRC are appointed by parliament and three by the chief justice of the Supreme Court.

The ACRC has no power to investigate corruption scandals. The prosecutor’s offices that hold this power are not free of corruption in their own right. Proposals to create an independent institution to be in charge of corruption scandals involving high-ranking officials – including prosecutors – failed due to resistance on the part of the prosecutor’s office and some conservative politicians.

In the aftermath of the April 2014 Sewol ferry disaster, in which collusion between public officials and private enterprises played a role, the National Assembly began drafting new legislation that would impose severe punishments on former government officials engaged in lobbying or other similar activities that took advantage of their network in the public sector for private gain. This was enacted in March 2015, as the Kim Young-ran Act. However, bickering over the details of the legislation has already begun and the debate over implementation is expected to be protracted.
The Economist 2 February 2013, Pardon Me, 21571192-departing-president-proves -extravagantly-forgiving-pardon-me
Act on Anti-Corruption and the Foundation of the Anti-Corruption & Civil Rights Commission, 2008, l
Transparency International 2013, Country Page Korea, #KOR
“Ferry Tragedy: A Righteous and Overdue Rage Over Corruption,” The Diplomat, May 28, 2014
As successive European Commission reports under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism have shown, Bulgaria’s formal legal anti-corruption framework is quite extensive, but has not proven very effective. Despite some improvement in the standard corruption perception indices in the past three years, corruption has remained a serious problem. While the executive and state prosecutors have initiated numerous criminal prosecutions against high-profile political actors, the conviction rate in those high-profile cases has been very small. In 2015, the Borrisov government prepared a comprehensive national anti-corruption strategy which provided for the creation of a unified anti-corruption authority bundling the functions of three existing institutions and included new provisions on the control of conflicts of interests and private property of public officials. However, the new draft law failed to pass the first reading in the National Assembly in September 2015, thus raising doubts about the governing coalition’s commitment to fighting corruption.
European Commission (2016): Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on Progress in Bulgaria under the Co-operation and Verification Mechanism. COM(2016) 40, Brussels (
The Auditor General’s office, a respected and trusted institution, audits state expenditure and compliance with rules and procedures, and produces an annual report. Policy corrections in response to the office’s comments, observations and recommendations seem rare. However, in 2014 and 2015, a number of cases of corruption were brought before the courts.

Oversight rules and mechanisms aiming at creating transparency and preventing favoritism and bribery are either deficient or incompletely implemented. The concept of conflict of interest has gained public prominence since 2014, with civil-society organizations and the media pushing for more transparency; however, this pressure has still had little effect.

Anti-corruption measures, including a code of conduct for public servants (passed in July 2013), are generally either inadequate or have not been implemented effectively. New cases of corruption were exposed in 2015, but supervision mechanisms appear weakened overall. According to Transparency Cyprus, 81% of the public believes there is corruption at both the local and national levels, with 83% deeming it a serious problem.
1. EU anti-corruption report, 2014,
2. Press report, Interview with Ombudsperson,
3. Survey on corruption by Transparency Cyprus, 2014-5, in Greek,
Corruption in Hungary became a major public issue in autumn 2014, when the U.S. government refused to issue visas for six high government officials, citing severe corruption as grounds for the decision. However, widespread corruption has been a systemic feature of the Orbán governments, with benefits and influence accruing through Fidesz’s informal political-business networks. Members of the Fidesz elite have been involved in a number of corruption scandals, with many accumulating substantial wealth in a short period of time. The third Orbán government has introduced new challenges for the Fidesz regime. During the third Orbán government, firms owned by Lőrinc Mészáros (a native of Orbán’s home village of Felcsút) have won many public tenders, prompting allegations that he is simply a puppet behind the Orbán fortune. This suspicion has been supported by public outcries over the fact that Orbán’s new son-in-law has become a multi-billionaire in a very short period of time. Corruption has become so pervasive that even some senior Fidesz figures have begun openly criticizing the Fidesz elite’s fast-growing wealth.
Despite many attempts to deal with the issue, there are severe and persistent corruption problems in Mexico. In the years after the Revolution, social peace was bought largely through a series of semi-official payoffs. This carried through to the 1970s and beyond. Bribery remains widespread in Mexico, and although official data indicates that the level of corruption has decreased, the cost of bribery has remained high. A case in point was a prominent politician, Carlos Hank Gonzalez, who famously stated, “a politician who is poor is a poor politician.” The culture has changed somewhat in that those who enrich themselves from public office are, at least officially, no longer admired.

But there are regions of Mexico where the culture of corruption persists, though efforts have been made to combat the problem. Measures have included increasing the professionalism of the civil service and considerably strengthening the legal framework. Such efforts had some positive effect, but at the price of creating new problems, such as introducing paralyzing bureaucratic procedures. Another problem is that federal and state definitions of illegal and corrupt practices are often contradictory or inconsistent, the latter being more lax. Particularly troubling is that the worst victims of corruption are the poor, who, unlike the wealthy, lack the resources to pay off corrupt officials. In addition, it should be noted that drug cartels systematically influence local and regional politics through corrupt practices.
Law 5018 regarding public financial management and oversight also touches on issues of legality, transparency and predictability. However, these concepts, as well as instruments such as the formation of strategic plans, performance budgets and regulatory impact assessments, are not effectively incorporated into government oversight processes. An amendment to the law on audit court has limited the degree to which state expenditures can be audited. Public-procurement safeguards have deteriorated thanks to legislation allowing municipalities to operate in a less than transparent fashion. There are no codes of conduct guiding members of the legislature or judiciary in their actions. Conflicts of interest are not broadly deemed a concern, and there is no effective asset-declaration system in place for elected and appointed public officials.

The Council of Ethics for Public Officials lacks the power to enforce its decisions through disciplinary measures. Codes of ethics do not exist for military personnel or academics. Legal loopholes (regarding disclosure of gifts, financial interests and holdings, foreign travel paid for by outside sources, etc.) in the code of ethics for parliamentarians remain in place. In 2014, a total of 3,664 public civil servants across 48 institutions were provided with ethics training, and 130 of them were themselves assigned to serve as ethics trainers. Moreover, two separate modules dealing with the issue were placed online for further training purposes.

In general, corruption remains widespread, and unfair and biased treatment by the bureaucracy is common. Especially at the local level, corruption remains a systemic problem. While municipalities controlled by opposition parties are closely monitored by law-enforcement authorities and government inspectors, municipalities controlled by the AKP are shielded from close scrutiny. The Court of Audit reported a number of municipalities to the Ministry of Finance in 2014 on the basis of illegitimate practices. Recent reports by the Audit Court have not been addressed by parliament. However, the reports have been published in the media and online, thus publicly exposing a number of irregularities including hidden budget expenditures, housing-procurement abuses and tax compromises.

A major source of international concern during the review period were the corruption investigations launched in December 2013 against four ministers, their relatives, one district mayor and various other public officials and businessmen, along with the lack of credible investigation afterwards. In 2014, an Istanbul prosecutor specializing in organized crime, dropped proceedings against 53 suspects in a case that had targeted the inner circle of then-Prime Minister Erdoğan. The HSYK suspended four prosecutors who initiated the corruption investigation. About 50 of the AKP’s 312 parliamentarians declined to support at least one of the four deputies who sought to open a parliamentary graft investigation. Furthermore, journalists that wrote on the corruption cases were intimidated. The government of Erdoğan’s successor as prime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, introduced a “transparency package” in January 2015. However, even Erdoğan, by this time president, considered this package to be ineffective.

In general, no progress has been made in limiting the impunity of politicians and public officials with regard to corruption-related cases, and major concerns persist regarding transparency and accountability in funding for political parties and election campaigns. Turkey is no longer subject to Financial Action Task Force (FATF) monitoring under that group’s global anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) compliance process. However, as of the time of writing, the outcome of the 2010 – 2014 National Anti-Corruption Strategy and Action Plan remained uncertain, and it was unclear whether authorities would reinstate the campaign. GRECO’s third-round recommendations have not been fully implemented. In particular, the country’s official definition of active bribery is not in compliance with the GRECO standards. Political funding and campaign-finance rules and procedures need to be more transparent. The first review of compliance with the U.N. Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) was published in June 2015.

In February 2014, an omnibus law amended various aspects of Turkish public-procurement legislation, introducing restrictive measures that make the previously optional domestic price advantage of up to 15% compulsory for “medium and high-technology industrial products.” The law authorizes the Ministry of Science, Industry and Technology to determine the list of items for which a domestic price advantage will be compulsory; this gives considerable discretion to the administration.

Despite some legal and institutional advances in the fight against corruption and organized crime, Turkey still needs to ensure that its investigatory units and law-enforcement agencies are independent of political interference, provide for effective enforcement of sanctions, and create a realistic action plan and independent anti-corruption unit to coordinate relevant agencies’ activities, as required by the UNCAC.
European Commission, Turkey 2015 Report, 10.11.2015,…/2015/20151110_report_turkey.pdf (accessed 10 November 2015)
Ömer Faruk Gençkaya, “Kamuda şeffaflık paketi ne getirecek?” 30 January 2015, (27 October 2015)
Turkey’s top judicial body suspends graft probe prosecutors: agency, 30 December 2014, (27 October 2015)
Daniel Donbay, Turkish parliament votes against graft trial for former ministers, Financial Times, 21 January 2015, (27 October 2015)
Çiğdem Toker, Sayıştay yeni soygunu belgeledi, Cumhuryet daily newspaper, 7 October 2015, (27 October 2015)
İşte duman eden Sayıştay raporları, Taraf daily newspaper, 10 March 2014, (accessed 5 November 2014).
Transparency International (2014) ‘Corruption Perception Index 2014’, Berlin. (27 October 2015)
Public officeholders can exploit their offices for private gain as they see fit without fear of legal consequences or adverse publicity.
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