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 2016, Denmark ranked second after New Zealand. Denmark is thus considered one of the least corrupt countries in the world. Norms against corruption are strong and the risk of media exposure 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. A court case in 2017 led to the conviction of several employees of the IT vendor Atea A/S for bribery and embezzlement. The employees had offered electronic devices to government employees, some of whom were convicted for accepting these devices.
Transparency International Corruption Perception Index 2017, (Accessed 3 October 2018).
GAN Business Anti-corruption Portal, “Denmark Corruption Report,” (Accessed 3 October 2018).
New Zealand
New Zealand’s public sector is one of the least corrupt in the world. There is a very low risk of encountering corruption in the public service, police or the judicial system. 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. Corruption is also low in the private sector, though critical studies point to some problems, for example in the construction and housing markets. The Deloitte Bribery and Corruption Survey 2017 (the next survey will be published in early 2019) found that approximately 20% of New Zealand companies surveyed had detected some form of corruption – about the same level as the previous survey two years before.
Matthewman S (2017) ‘Look no further than the exterior’: Corruption in New Zealand.
International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy 6(4): 71‐85. DOI:
Deloitte. 2017. One step ahead – Obtaining and maintaining the edge Deloitte Bribery and Corruption Survey 2017. Australia and New Zealand.
Abuses of power and corruption have been the subject of considerable governmental and public concern. On the one hand, Estonia has established a solid institutional and legal structure to prevent corruption, with the National Audit Office, the parliamentary Select Committee on the Application of Anti-Corruption Act, the Supervision Committee and the Anti-Corruption Act. 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 efficient anti-corruption policy. However, they also indicate that loopholes remain in the public procurement process and in party-financing regulations, for example.

As a further step in fighting corruption and abuses of power, all legal persons have been required to make public their beneficial owners through the business register from 1 September 2018. Yet, lobbying remains unregulated, despite the Group of States against Corruption’s (GRECO) recommendations. In October 2018, the Ministry of Finance published “Codes of good conduct in accepting gifts and benefits,” which is intended to guide civil servants and public officeholders in avoiding corrupt behavior.

In 2017, the number of registered corruption offences was the lowest it had been for five years. Most corruption offences are related to bribery, with bribes most often paid during technical vehicle checks, although increasingly also in health care and public sector procurement. The number of corruption cases involving municipalities has decreased and now comprise only 7% of all corruption cases. This suggests that the governmental program to curb illegal behavior and prevent corruption at the local level has been effective.
Ministry of Justice (2018). Kuritegevus Eestis 2017. Crime in Estonia. 20.10. 2018)
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. The 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International ranked Finland 3 out of 180 countries. The country had ranked third in 2016 and second in 2015. Several individual mechanisms contribute to the Finnish success, 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 still 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 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.
Transparency International, “Corruption Perceptions Index 2017”,
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 rare 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 and some reports claim even accelerated during the review period.
Andersson, U. et al. (eds.) (2017), Larmar och gör sig till (Gothenburg: The SOM Institute) (

Bergh, Andreas, Gissur Ó. Erlingsson, Richard Öhrvall, Mats Sjölin (2016), A Clean House? Studies of Corruption in Sweden (Lund: Nordic Academic Press).

Olsson, J., H. Ekengren Oscarsson and M. Solevid (eds.) (2016), Eqvilibrium (Gothenburg: The SOM Institute).
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.

In 2018, there were scandals involving irregularities within the public bus system (“Postauto”). In addition, although formally correct, practices within the Swiss army have been criticized, including free flights in army helicopters for partners of high-ranking officers.
NZZ, 13.11.2018,
Bundesamt für Justiz, Press statement 14.8.2018
Most integrity mechanisms function effectively and provide disincentives for public officeholders willing to abuse their positions.
Prevention of corruption 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.

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. There have been isolated cases of misconduct in anti-corruption commissions. 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.

Australia has been reluctant to address cross-border corruption. A notable exception is the recent action of Australian federal police, which in October 2014 seized 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. 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.

As a consequence of the bankruptcy of a major bank (Alpen-Adria Hypo), the links between politics and business are more than ever openly discussed. Parliamentary committees at the state and federal levels have been able to bring some light to the affair and courts have successfully prosecuted highly connected persons (including politicians). Compared with evidence from previous decades, the prevention of corruption has improved in Austria, but could of course be further improved.

In 2018, the Austrian parliament established two investigative committees. One of the committees deals with a case of alleged corruption dating back 18 years, which involved a decision to buy military hardware (“eurofighters”). The very existence of this committee confirms the sensitivity of issues regarding political corruption.
While outright corruption is very uncommon in Belgium, several scandals involving abuse of public-office positions came to the fore in the 2016 – 2017 period. In most of these cases, the public officials involved actually did respect the letter of the law and thus could not be convicted by tribunals. But the scandals were so prominent in the press and shocking for the population that political parties expelled the individuals involved, and when possible also removed them from the positions they were holding. This was also followed by a number of announcements by prominent long-time politicians that they were about to end their political careers. This suggests that more cases existed, but were resolved through “honorable exits.” One consequence has been a decline in Belgium’s performance in the World Economic Forum’s ratings on issues including “public trust in politicians,” “diversion of public funds,” “favoritism in decisions of government officials,” and “efficiency of government spending.”

Most of these “almost legal” abuses involved a combination of very strict rules governing narrowly defined public-office positions with a number of private-public partnerships that legally transformed public entities into private ones. Among other provisions, regulations typically bar public officials from increasing their total earnings above 150% of their base salary by holding additional public positions. However, serving within institutions that have been transformed into private legal entities allow public officeholders to circumvent that law. One of the most shocking instances involved SAMU Social, an institution with the primary goal of “provid[ing] emergency help to the homeless and … assist[ing] them to exit precariousness” ( This institution found to be awarding generous wage supplements to the mayor of Brussels, one of his main political allies, and some family members and close friends.

According to Cumuleo, an activist group seeking to improve the regulation and oversight of public offices, Belgium has joined Macedonia and Armenia among the lowest-ranked countries with regard to effective implementation of the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption recommendations. Nevertheless, outright corruption, for instance within the public administration or in the police, is extremely rare in Belgium. For example, Transparency International ranked Belgium as the 15th cleanest nation out of 176 countries in its 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index. The cases noted above concern only the ability and propensity of some well-connected officeholders to abuse their position to accumulate wealth.
WEF: Schwab, Klaus and Sala-i-Marti, Xavier (2017). The Global Competitiveness Report 2017–2018. World Economic Forum editor.”
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. Perhaps the most consequential scandal 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 were 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 30 whose claims were ineligible; of these, nine cases were referred for police investigation. The Senate expense scandal 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.
Report of the Auditor General of Canada to the Senate of Canada—Senators’ Expenses, June 4, 2015, posted at
Despite several corruption scandals over the past decade, Germany performs better than most of its peers in controlling corruption. According to the World Bank’s 2017 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 2017, Germany ranked 7th out of 215 countries compared to 15th in 2010.

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 various reports, 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. Provisions concerning income declarations by members of parliament have improved, but the required declarations still lack precision. Since 2013, members of the Bundestag have to provide details about any ancillary income in a 10-step income list. Since the last election in 2017, 154 out of 709 members of parliament (22%) declared additional income. Within the FDP parliamentary party, almost every other member (43.8%) has an additional income, while politicians with the highest incomes are members of the CDU. The Greens have the lowest percentage of additional income with only 7.5% of its members of parliament. The current system of parliamentary transparency remains inadequate. Instead, it incentivizes declaring auxiliary income in slices of lesser amounts.
World Bank (2018):
In general, corruption is not tolerated in Luxembourg. However, there seems to be some agreement in parts of the public administration that small gifts may be accepted. This applies in particular to high-quality alcoholic beverages. Consolidation between individual political parties, related officials and certain economic sectors (e.g., finance and construction) are common.

In addition, large-scale corruption cases partly developed into political affairs (“Wickrange/ Livange”). In general, however, it can be assumed that politicians are not very susceptible to corruption because, if the corruption were discovered, this would immediately lead to the resignation and social exclusion of the politician.

The political change of 2013 affected corruption, since the leading party was not part of the government for the first time in decades. After 2013, many top officials were exchanged.

Political party financing is regulated by law. The names of donors are published. Donations to political parties in Luxembourg are rather uncommon. However, public officials often donate part of their salary, such as ministers.

After a parliamentary inquiry into a large building project in Wickrange in 2012, in which the prime minister and other government ministers were suspected of improperly favoring a company, the government adopted a code of conduct in 2014. The code, which references existing codes such as a European Commission code, defines the types of gifts and favors a minister may or may not receive. It also outlines a range of professional activities a minister may undertake after their ministerial term. The overall objective is to avoid conflicts of interest.
EU Anti-Corruption Report. European Commission, 2014.
Accessed 22 Oct. 2018.
“Corruption Perceptions Index 2017.” Transparency International, Accessed 22 Oct. 2018.

“Luxembourg Corruption Report.” Accessed 13 Nov. 2018.

GRECO: “The Fight against Corruption: A Priority for the Council of Europe.” Accessed 17 Nov. 2018.
There are few well-known 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 are concerns about government corruption in areas such as building permits. During the last few years, some incidences of corruption related to investments and overseas Norwegian business activities have been revealed.
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 United Kingdom comes out with strong scores.

The members of parliament 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 the salaries of members of parliament. 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 member of parliaments’ 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 minister’s country residence) to details of spending on government credit cards. The most recent report (December 2016) 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.
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. Judicial investigations revealed extraordinary scandals, which resulted in the conviction and imprisonment of industrial and political leaders. These cases were a key factor for the growing awareness of the prevalence of corruption in France, leading to substantive action to establish stricter rules, both over party financing and transparency in public purchases and concessions.

However, there are still too many opportunities and loopholes available to cheat, bypass or evade these rules. Though various scandals have provoked further legislation. Since a former minister of finance was accused of tax fraud and money laundering in March 2013, government ministers have been obliged to make their personal finances public. Similarly, parliamentarians are also obliged to make their personal finances public, but their declarations are not made public and the media is forbidden from publishing them. Only individual citizens can consult these disclosures and only in the constituency where the member of parliament was elected. The legal anti-corruption framework was strengthened again by the “Sapin law” adopted at the end of 2016, which complements existing legislation on various fronts (conflict of interests, protection of whistleblowers).

Immediately after the 2017 elections, President Macron decided, as a symbol, to table a bill dealing with the “moralization of public affairs.” The new law introduces many additional restrictions, such as the prohibition on parliamentarians employing members of their family, or the suppression of “loose money” that members of parliament were able to distribute without constraint or control. The new legislation constitutes a major contribution to tackling conflict of interest issues and may help to clean the Augean stables. As a consequence of the new rules and of the activism of the press on these issues, the appointment of ministers is kept secret for a few days before being officially announced. This affords an independent authority the time to check and clear the legal, fiscal and financial background of the potential nominees.

This permanent re-enforcement of the rules is justified by recurrent scandals concerning cases of corruption related to the funding of political campaigns by foreign African states, irregularities in the accounts of Sarkozy’s 2012 electoral campaign, or the misuse of funds provided by the European Parliament discovered in 2017. These affairs are currently before the courts.
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.

On 6 September 2017, Assistant Garda Commissioner Michael O’Sullivan published a report showing that of the 3,498,400 breath tests recorded on the Garda’s Pulse computer system only 2,040,179 were actually recorded using alcohol testing devices. This left a discrepancy of 1,458,221 fictive breath tests. Three causes for this glaring deficiency were presented: (1) systems failures, (2) difficulties in understanding Garda policy, and (3) oversight and governance failures. It is highly regretful that the Department of Justice and Garda authorities have not seen fit to prosecute any member of the Garda force because of the massive over-reporting of alcohol breathalyzer tests.

On 11 October 2018, Justice Peter Charleton published the third interim report of the Disclosures Tribunal (Tribunal of Inquiry into protected disclosures made under the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 and certain other matters following resolutions). In the report, Judge Charleton vindicated the behavior of Sergeant Gerry McCabe, a Garda whistleblower, who had been treated appallingly (including allegations of child sexual abuse) by certain sectors of the police force. The report also vindicated Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan and the former minister of justice, Frances Fitzgerald. It was highly critical of the behavior of former Commissioner Martin Callinan and former Garda press officer Superintendant David Taylor.
The saga of the two Garda whistleblowers, Gerry McCabe and John Wilson, showed a deep antagonism in the upper echelons of the police force toward disclosures (whistleblowing) by junior members of the force. More disturbingly, it showed that some police superiors were prepared to blacken the name of whistleblowers by making untruthful allegations about them to government ministers, politicians and members of the press.
The 2014 Public Services Reform Plan is available here:
Mr Justice Peter Charleton, Third Interim Report of the Disclosures Tribunal, October 11, 2018
Latvia’s main integrity mechanism is the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (Korupcijas novēršanas un apkarošanas birojs, KNAB). The Group of States Against Corruption has recognized KNAB as an effective institution, though it has identified the need to further strengthen institutional independence to remove concerns of political interference.

In recent years, KNAB has experienced several controversial leadership changes and been plagued by a persistent state of internal management disarray. Internal conflicts have spilled into the public sphere. For example, the previous KNAB director and deputy director were embroiled in a series of court cases over disciplinary measures in 2015 and 2016. These court cases ended with the director dismissing two deputy directors in the summer of 2016. Both have appealed their dismissal. The director adopted an administrative approach that resulted in a high turnover of qualified staff. Furthermore, these scandals have weakened public trust in the institution. A new, well-qualified and seemingly independent director, who formerly worked in the military, was appointed in 2017.
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. 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. In 2016, multiple parties were sanctioned for violations of public financing rules. Vienotība, a major parliamentary party, has had its public funding withdrawn due to violations of campaign finance restrictions.

The slow progress of cases through the court systems undermines efforts to assess the system’s effectiveness. However, available statistics indicate some positive trends. In 2016, for example, the number of persons tried in the court of first instance increased to 34, from an all-time low of 23 in 2014. Defendants included police officers, customs officers, border guards and one judge. In five cases, sentencing included prison terms. In 2016, the largest bribery case involved a €68,560 bribe, offered to an official of KNAB. The outcome of this case is still pending.

In 2017, a high-profile corruption investigation, dismissed by the prosecutor’s office, came under public scrutiny. A series of leaked recorded conversations of “oligarchs” colluding to manipulate political decision-making has forced the re-examination of this investigation and the reasons why it was dismissed. A parliamentary inquiry process ended inconclusively. In 2018, the Governor of the Latvian Central Bank was investigated following serious allegations of bribery. He has since been suspended, but has not stepped down from his position, although his six-year tenure will end in December 2019.

Overall, the Latvian government has taken efforts to fight corruption and money laundering in recent years, particularly following the U.S. FinCen report (which led to the liquidation of ABLV bank) and the Council of Europe’s 2018 Moneyval report. Latvia’s admission to the OECD in 2016 significantly raised the country’s international credibility. However, the successes of the country’s investigative and auditing bodies have remained limited.

Nevertheless, Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index in 2017 ranked Latvia 40 out of 180 countries, with one being the least corrupt country. Latvia’s average ranking in the index was 53 between 1998 and 2017, from a record high rank of 71 in 1998 to a record low rank of 40 in 2015.
1. Corruption °C (2017), Updated Statistics on Convictions for Corruption Offences (2016 Data Added), Available at:, Last assessed: 05.01.2019

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: 05.01.2019

3. Freedom House (2018), Nations in Transit, Country Report, Available at:, Last assessed: 05.01.2019

4. Corruption Perceptions Index 2017. Available at:, Last assessed: 05.01.2019

5. KNAB (2014), Attitudes toward Corruption in Latvia (in Latvian), Available at:, Last assessed: 22.10.2019
Under Portuguese law, abuse of position is 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 weakest links of the country’s integrity system.

While efforts have been made at the state level to tackle corruption – and it is an oft-discussed topic – there remains considerable room for improvement in terms of the implementation of anti-corruption plans.

Legislation was approved by the Assembly of the Republic in 2011 and 2015 regarding the illicit enrichment of public officeholders. However, in both instances, the legislation was deemed unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court. While the issue continued to be publicly discussed throughout the period under review, no new proposal has been made.

A survey by the national Council for the Prevention of Corruption, published in June 2015, noted that half of the country’s public entities admitted to having applied only portions of their corruption-prevention plans. The reasons given were largely related to a lack of human, technical and financial resources. A 2018 study by the council into the prevention of corruption in public management concluded that the existing weaknesses were “very similar to those previously identified.”

Equally, the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) compliance report published in March 2018 found that Portugal had satisfactorily implemented only one of the fifteen recommendations published in 2016, with a further three partly implemented, while the remaining 11 had not been implemented. It concluded that “the current very low level of compliance with the recommendations is ‘globally unsatisfactory’.”

This is also consistent with the analysis of the outgoing attorney general, Joana Marques Vidal. In an interview in October 2018, she stated that the political response to corruption had not been effective and was very superficial, and noted the need for additional legal instruments to tackle corruption in Portugal.

Under the helm of Joana Marques Vidal, the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) was considerably more active in dealing with high profile corruption scandals. Former Prime Minister José Sócrates (2005 – 2011) remains under investigation for alleged corruption, money laundering and tax fraud, and was formally charged with 31 crimes in October 2017.

In the previous report we noted the beginning of a trial on the so-called Golden Visa case, which involves a number of high-ranking civil servants and a former minister of internal affairs, Miguel Macedo (2011 – 2014). The case was set to be sentenced in September 2018. However, the judge decided to postpone sentencing for a further six months.

During the period under review, other high-profile cases have included: the so-called Fizz case, involving a Portuguese judge and a former vice-president of Angola; the Lex case, involving another Portuguese judge; the e-toupeira case, involving the Benfica football club’s alleged access to privileged judicial information; the BES case, involving a major banker and government officials; and a case involving the main energy company, EDP.

The greater dynamism of the PPS under Joana Marques Vidal is widely interpreted as indicating the important role of leadership in prosecuting corruption in Portugal. It will be relevant to assess how the PPS proceeds under the direction of the new attorney general, who took office in October 2018.
Conselho de Prevenção da Corrupção (2018). “Prevenção da corrupção na gestão pública: mapeamento de áreas e fatores de risco,” available online at:

GRECO (2018), “Fourth Evaluation Round Compliance Report – Portugal,” available online at:

Público (2018), “O futuro destes homens vai marcar o mandato de Lucília Gago,” available online at:…/portugal_melhora_no_ranking_de_corrupcao_e_e.
South Korea
After the massive corruption scandals involving the two previous governments, the situation in South Korea has improved, although the abuse of power for private gain remains a major problem. The Me Too movement has brought many abuse-of-power cases to light. As demonstrated by the protests against President Park, the Korean public, civil society organizations and the media are vigilant and ready to protest top-level abuses of power effectively. Courts have also been tough on those involved in corruption scandals, handing down prison sentences to many involved. Park’s predecessor received a 25-year jail sentence in October 2018, which means that the two most recently serving presidents are now in jail for bribery and corruption. President Moon promised to strengthen anti-corruption initiatives, and announced that members of the elite involved in corruption scandals would not be granted pardons as has been common practice in Korea in the past. Positive institutional changes made in past years, such as the Kim Young-ran Act, are now showing results, and have effectively limited Korean traditions of gift giving. Despite the strong campaign against corruption in the public sector, there has been less success in curbing corruption and influence peddling by big business groups. In February 2018, an appellate court reduced the five-year prison sentence originally given to Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong to a suspended sentence of two and a half years. The controversial decision was seen as extremely lenient compared with the long jail sentences given to former public officials.
Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission. “President Moon says anti-corruption should be first priority of new government.” September 26, 2017.
Yonhap News. “South Korea moves away from corruption-prone culture.” September 24, 2017.
“Samsung Heir Freed, to Dismay of South Korea’s Anti-Corruption Campaigners”, New York Times, February 5, 2018.
Corruption levels have declined in Spain since the real-estate bubble burst in the wake of the economic crisis, and also as a consequence of the criminal, political and social prosecution of corrupt officials. “Corruption is not in our cultural DNA,” said a report published in 2018 by the Círculo de Empresarios; and the fact is that – political-party funding aside –few corruption cases have involved career civil servants. Everyday interactions between citizens and the administration are typically characterized by a high level of integrity. 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 has fallen to 41st place in 2018. 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.

In January 2018, a court in Barcelona ruled that the ruling party of Catalonia (the moderate nationalist CDC) had for many years received illegal commissions. In May, the Supreme Court found former PP officials guilty of tax evasion and of having received illegal commissions for public contracts; this led to the fall of Mariano Rajoy as prime minister.

Several measures for preventing corruption have been put in place in recent years. In 2017, a parliamentary committee initiated a ongoing series of public hearings aimed at improving the financing of political parties. In March 2018, the Law 9/2017 on public procurement came into force. In addition, Directive 2014/23/EU, concerning application thresholds for contract-award procedures, was implemented into law. Although the new legal frameworks led to a certain degree of confusion during the period under review, they are intended to achieve greater transparency in public procurement.
Transparency International (2018), Corruption Perceptions Index,

GRECO (2018), Fourth evaluation round, Spain:

William Chislett (2018), Forty years of democratic Spain, Real Instituto Elcano,

Círculo de Empresarios (2018), La calidad de las instituciones en España.
The Netherlands is considered a relatively corruption-free country. In Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index 2017, the Netherlands ranked 8 out of 180 countries. 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 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 arguably increasing mega-corruption by mayors, aldermen, top-level provincial administrators, elected representatives or ministers. 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. In at least three (out of 17) areas, the Netherlands does not meet the standards for effective integrity policy as identified by Transparency International, with all three areas failing to prevent and appropriately sanction corruption. Experts attribute this to a highly fragmented and operationally inconsistent network of public and semi-public organizations tasked with fighting corruption and fraud.

There have been more and more frequent prosecutions in major corruption scandals in the public sector involving top-executives – particularly in (government-commissioned) construction of infrastructure and housing, but also in education, health care and transport. Transparency problems in the public sector also involve lower ranks, job nominations, and salaries for top-level administrators. Increasingly, police and customs officers have been prosecuted for assisting criminal organizations in illegal-drug production and transportation. One high-level police officer in a lecture for the Police Academy used the term “Netherlands Narcostate” to characterize the dire state of affairs.

In July 2016, a new law for the protection of whistle-blowers entered into force. Experts consider the law to be largely symbolic, with real legal protection remaining low and administrative costs high. A “house for whistle-blowers,” intended to protect and facilitate whistle-blowers, proved to be a failure.
Transparency International Nederland (2017), Nationaal Integriteitssysteem Landenstudie Nederland.

Juridisch Actueel, Klokkenluiderswet is een feit, 15 March 2016 (, consulted 9 November 2016)

Volkskrant, Voltallig bestuur van het Huis voor de Klokkenluiders stapt op na kritisch rapport, 14 December 2017

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

de Koning, B., 2018. Vriendjespolitiek. Fraude and corruptie in Nederland, Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam
The first two years of the Trump presidency have brought an unprecedented disregard of established practices to prevent conflict of interest. The U.S. federal government has long had elaborate and extensive mechanisms for auditing financial transactions, investigating potential abuses and prosecuting criminal misconduct. The FBI has an ongoing, major focus on official corruption. Auditing of federal spending programs occurs through congressional oversight as well as 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 these controls, executive-branch officials have been effectively deterred from using their authority for private gain and prosecutions for such offenses have been rare.

President Trump has openly flouted established practices with respect to conflict of interest. Trump has defended his refusal to move his assets into a blind trust on the grounds that (in contrast with other federal officials) there is no conflict-of-interest statute that pertains to the president. His son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka have continued to run separate business while performing White House roles. The administration has been heedless of conflict-of-interest in appointments to regulatory and other positions and refused to provide information to the Office of Government Ethics concerning potential conflicts among appointees, prompting the respected nonpartisan director of the office to resign in protest. Several Trump officials have been embroiled in scandals involving abuse of public resources (such as using military aircraft for vacation travel). During the first two years of the Trump presidency, the Republican Congress, in a sharp departure from past practice, has failed to investigate or wage criticism of President Trump and his administration’s corruption issues.
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. In general terms, this phenomenon can be observed irrespective of the larger political parties’ ideology, although it tends to be more evident in the current government of Sebastián Piñera as many members of the Alianza – including the president himself – are powerful businesspeople.

Such entanglements produce conflicts of interest in policymaking (e.g., in regulatory affairs). There are no regulations enabling the monitoring of conflicts of interest for high-ranking politicians (e.g., the president or government ministers). However, there are some independent projects emerging that aim to increase public awareness about this issue.

The scandals revealed in recent years have shown that corruption and abuses of power within Chile’s political and economic elite, as well as some cases of higher ranked public servants (as in the case of the police and the military), is in fact more common than (international) indicators regarding corruption and transparency suggest. It is unclear how state institutions will confront these challenges.

In 2016, a minister and an undersecretary of state of the former government were convicted of corruption, while during the period under review several high-ranking military and police officials have been prosecuted for corruption. Due to these corruption scandals, discussions about making public a large number of secret laws, which relate to military budgets and spending, have been revived.

As a response to this crisis, former President Bachelet convoked a council (Consejo Asesor Presidencial contra los Conflictos de Interés, el Tráfico de Influencias y la Corrupción) that in its final report (April 2015) proposed several anti-corruption measures intended to prevent abuse of office. Due to their conclusions, restrictions on private campaign funding (Ley sobre Fortalecimiento y Transparencia de la Democracia) and the creation of a public register for all lobbyists were implemented in 2016. In August 2018, current President Piñera announced a draft law on transparency (Ley de Transparencia 2.0) in order to improve the existing regulation.
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. In Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, out of 180 countries, Israel ranked 32 in 2017 and 34 in 2018. Criticism of Israel’s centralized public-service structure have been mounting, in part because it is characterized by some very powerful ministries with broad discretionary spending powers. These powers undermine accountability, leaving room for corruption.

Criminal inquiries into politicians are common. In 2014, the courts issued an historic ruling, sentencing former prime minister Ehud Olmert to six years in prison for accepting bribes while serving as mayor of Jerusalem. Current Prime Minister Netanyahu has been going through a series of investigations regarding several corruption cases. Former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman was on trial for fraud, money laundering and breach of trust. Former tourism minister Stas Misezhnikov, of the Yisrael Beytenu party, was sentenced to a 15-month sentence for fraud and breach of trust. In addition, former deputy interior minister Faina Kirshenbaum and nine other officials linked to Yisrael Beytenu were indicted for a litany of corruption charges, including bribery, fraud and money laundering.
Aliasuf, Itzak, “Ethics of public servants in Israel,” 1991 (Hebrew)

Ariel, Omri, New poll shows 72% view Israel as a corrupt country, 08.01.2016,

Times of Israel, “Israel’s top legal officials warn PM’s allies seek to undermine the rule of law,” 5.1.2019:

Brayner, Joshua, Hovel, Revital, and Landau Noa, “Police recommends prosecuting Netanyahu for corruption in 1000 and 2000 cases,” 13/2/2018:

“Corruption investigation explores bribe attempts from Netanyahu,” The Jerusalem Post, 9/9/2016,

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

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

Ma’anit, Chen, Former tourism minister Stas Misezhnikov signs plea bargain, Globes, 31/10/2017:

Shahm, Udi “Former Netanyahu Aide to Provide Information in ‘Submarine Case,” Jpost, 3/8/2017

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).

Transparency International: Corruption Perception Index 2017.

Transparency International: Corruption Perceptions Index 2018:
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. With the reforms of previous governments, the Anti-Corruption Authority has been significantly strengthened and its anti-corruption activity progressively increased.
The new Conte government has declared its willingness to step up the fight against corruption, but it is too early to judge its performance in this field.

In general, the ongoing reform of public administration should also contribute to reducing administrative abuses.
Corruption is not sufficiently contained in Lithuania. In the World Bank’s 2017 Worldwide Governance Indicators, Lithuania scored 75 out of 100 on the issue of corruption control, down from 70 in 2016. The 2013 Eurobarometer poll revealed that Lithuania had the European Union’s highest percentage (29%) of respondents who claimed that they had been asked for or expected to pay a bribe for services over the past 12 months, compared to an EU average of 4%. In the Transparency International Corruption Perception index, Lithuania scored 59 out of 100 and ranked 38 out of 180 countries in 2017, down from 32 in 2015. According to the new Index of Public Integrity, Lithuania was ranked 25 out of 105 countries overall, but only 85 out of 105 countries for budget transparency.

One of Lithuania’s key corruption prevention measures is an anti-corruption assessment of draft legislation, which grants the Special Investigation Service the authority to carry out corruption tests. According to the Lithuanian Corruption Map of 2016, measured by the Special Investigation Service based on surveys, the institutions viewed as most corrupt were hospitals, the parliament, the court system, local authorities and political parties. 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. In September 2017, the Special Investigation Service investigated allegations of corruption involving Lithuania’s Liberal Movement and Labor party. The parties are suspected of accepting bribes and selling political influence. For instance, two Liberal Movement members are alleged to have accepted bribes of more than €100,000 on behalf of the party from a vice president of a major business group in exchange for political decisions that benefited the corporation.

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 risk of corruption, not all corruption causes and conditions are addressed in anti-corruption action plans. The European Commission has suggested that Lithuania develop a strategy to tackle informal payments in health care and improve the control of conflicts of interest declarations made by public officials. To advance its preparations for OECD membership, the country became a member of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention in July 2017. Accession into the OECD in 2018 is likely to hold the focus on corruption prevention; also one of the key priorities during the two terms of President Dalia Grybauskaitė, the second of which will end in 2019.
The Worldwide Governance Indicators of World Bank are available at
The Lithuanian Corruption Map is available at
The 2017 – 2018 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 Transparency International Corruption Perception index is available at
The Index of Public Integrity is available at
The European Commission. Annex 15 to the EU Anti-Corruption Report: Lithuania. Brussels, 3.2.2014. COM (2014) 38 final.
Some integrity mechanisms function, but do not effectively prevent public officeholders from abusing their positions.
Corruption ranked high on the agenda of the accession negotiations with the European Union. Despite the Anti-Corruption Strategy for 2015-2020 adopted by the Croatian parliament in early 2015 and the Anti-Corruption Action Plan for 2017-2018 passed by the Ministry of Justice in mid-2017, corruption remains one of the key issues facing the political system. During the period under review, a number of high-profile corruption cases surfaced or were under investigation, involving, among others, a close aide to former Prime Minister Milanović and the most powerful man in Croatian soccer. The Agrokor case has also exposed the extent to which economic and political interests in the country co-mingle. While the main anti-corruption office, the Croatian State Prosecutor’s Office for the Suppression of Organized Crime and Corruption (Ured za Suzbijanje Korupcije i Organiziranog Kriminala, USKOK) and the parliament’s commission for the conflict of interests have been quite active in opening and investigating cases, the courts have often failed to prosecute corruption either as a result of external pressure or a lack of competence. In most of the major corruption cases in which indictments were raised against high-ranking officials like former prime minister Sanader, incumbent Zagreb mayor Bandić and a number of former ministers and other officials, no final sentences have been brought yet. This fact has additionally shaken citizens’ confidence in the judiciary system and the government’s ability to prevent corruption.
In Czechia, corruption has remained widespread. Subsequent governments have emphasized their commitment to fight corruption but have done little to adequately address the issue. Two significant changes were implemented in 2017: amendments to the law on party finance and law on conflict of interest. Despite this apparent progress, the merging of business, political and media power in the hands of Prime Minister Babiš represents an escalation of past corruption to a new level. The most public controversy concerns the use of EU funds, intended for SME support, to finance a business temporarily separated from his conglomerate which was then returned to his control after the subsidy had been received. It emerged that nominal ownership had only been transferred to his family members, but police investigations reached no clear conclusions. A key barrier was that adult children, the temporary owners, were reportedly unfit to face a court owing to psychiatric problems. In November 2018 journalists from the relatively new online channel Seznam TV published an interview with Andrej Babiš’s son Andrej Babiš jr who reported that he was willing to be interviewed by police but had been kidnapped by people working for his father and taken to Crimea from which he later escaped. Subsequently, Babiš gave a press conference denouncing the media on an “attempted coup” and informing the public that both of his adult children are mentally ill. Despite demands from the opposition for his resignation and public demonstrations in Prague and other cities, he was emboldened by the sympathetic treatment he received from the media outlets he controlled and thus remained in power, thanks to continuing support from Social Democrat coalition partners who feared that he would survive by creating a new coalition with Okamura’s party. Further problems await him through action precipitated by Transparency International that challenge his control over media companies while an active politician, and by a possible action from the European Commission following a reported opinion that all subsidies for his businesses should be returned in view of conflict of interest as he was both a government minister and effectively a business owner, despite nominally putting ownership of his businesses into a trust fund.
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.

Instability has plagued anti-corruption mechanisms. In March 2017, the resignation and replacement of Greece’s very experienced anti-corruption prosecutor (a new post established in 2011) was a setback for the government’s anti-corruption policy. The prosecutor’s resignation reflected tensions between the government and the judiciary, and complicated relations between the different prosecuting authorities entrusted with fighting corruption. Meanwhile, between 2016 and 2017, the laxity with which government ministers dealt with issues of corruption among members of the civil service sent the wrong message to past and future offenders.

After 2015, the justice system intensified its efforts, not so much to prevent as to punish corruption. In the most important trial, Akis Tsochatzopoulos, the former minister of defense and deputy prime minister of the PASOK governments of the 1990s, was accused of receiving large kickbacks for armament deals. In November 2017, he was sentenced to prison and received a very large fine from an Athens-based second-instance criminal court. In the period under review, Yannos Papantoniou, former minister of finance and former minister of defense, was arrested on charges of corruption (for bribes related to armaments deals).

According to a July 2017 report by the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV), the state has shown a fragmentary approach, and a lack of determination toward combating corruption and promoting transparency in six kinds of state bodies: ministries, town planning authorities, municipal authorities, courts, custom offices, and economic and trade offices at Greek embassies abroad.
For the ranking of Greece by Transparency International in 2016 and 2017, see and
For the SEV report, see
Corruption and bribery scandals have emerged frequently 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).

However, financial and office-abuse scandals involving bureaucrats have 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. A new criminal-justice plea-bargaining system implemented in June 2018 is expected to create additional pressure on companies to comply with anti-corruption laws.

In the past, the country has had a reputation for weak enforcement with respect to anti-bribery enforcement abroad – an issue relevant for Japan’s multinational companies. In response, Japan decided in 2017 to join the UN Convention against Transnational Crime and the UN Convention against Corruption, which have respectively existed since 2000 and 2005.
UNODC Chief welcomes Japan’s decision to join crime and corruption conventions, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 12 July 2017,

N.N., Build public trust in the plea bargaining system (Opinion), The Japan Times, 1 June 2018,
The government generally implements anti-corruption laws effectively. Malta’s Criminal Code criminalizes active and passive bribery, extortion, embezzlement, trading in influence, abuse of office, and receiving and offering gifts. The penalty for bribery, whether in the private or public sector, can be up to eight years’ imprisonment. Money laundering is criminalized under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, which stipulates procedures for the investigation and prosecution of money laundering, and establishes the Prevention of Money Laundering and Funding of Terrorism Regulations.

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 Ombuds Office and the Public Service Commission. The judiciary also plays an important part in ensuring accountability. The 2018 Malta Corruption Report (Business Anti-Corruption portal) states: “The Maltese judiciary carries a low corruption risk for companies. The courts are perceived as independent and the public generally believes that the courts are free from corruption. Businesses report that bribes in return for favorable court decisions are generally rare. Businesses also report confidence in the ability of the police to protect companies from crime and uphold the rule of law.” The government also abides by a separate Code of Ethics that applies to 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. Internal audit systems can also be found in every department and ministry, but it is difficult to assess their effectiveness.

In 2013, the government strengthened the fight against corruption by reducing elected political figures’ ability to evade corruption charges by removing statutes of limitation on such cases. It also introduced a more effective Whistleblower Act, although this needs further reforms. More importantly, in 2016 the government passed a law on Standards in Public Life, and in 2018, the government and the opposition agreed on the appointment of the person who is to oversee the workings of this law.

Both the National Audit Office and the Ombuds Office are independent, but neither enjoys sufficient legal powers to allow them to follow up their investigations at the judicial level. In 2018, the NAO launched a five-year plan to improve governance across the public service. This office has frequently complained about non-compliance with financial regulations and fiscal obligations. In 2018, the ombudsman called for greater government transparency and accountability. The latter’s 2017 recommendation that legislation to regulate lobbying be passed has not yet been addressed. The Permanent Commission Against Corruption, established in 1988, has proved ineffective despite having investigated some 300 cases of alleged corruption. The opposition’s continued delay in naming its representatives has not helped matters. The Public Service Commission, which is tasked with ensuring fairness in recruitment and promotions in the public service, remains under-resourced.

Conflicts of interest remain prevalent. The 2018 GAN report states that the public-services sector carries a low corruption risk for businesses operating in Malta, while Malta’s land administration suffers from moderate risks of corruption. It additionally says that corruption risks at Malta’s border are moderate, but that Malta’s public procurement sector carries a high corruption risk for business. Malta’s Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA) has for decades been under scrutiny due to allegations of corruption and other irregularities in its decision-making process. This situation is exacerbated by the prevalence of the face-to-face relationships common in small countries, and the fact that most of Malta’s parliamentarians aside from members of the government serve on a part-time basis, and thus maintain extensive private interests. According to a 2018 report by the European Greens, Malta loses 8.65% of its GDP to corruption. In comparison, the lowest figure in this respect is 0.76% in the Netherlands, while the highest is 15.6%, in Romania. Malta gained one point in the 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index, climbing from 55% to 56% (with 100% being the best possible score).
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 unauthorized 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
Transparency International Corruption perception index 2016
Study shows political corruption at the PA Times of Malta 29/10/17
The Global Competitiveness Report 2017-2018
Will the chickens come home to roost in 2018 Times of Malta 08/01/18
Ombudsman Report 2016
GAN Business anti corruption Portal 2018 Malta Corruption Report
The Cost of Corruption across the EU. The Greens/EFA Group 2018
Corruption remained a major political issue in the period under review. On the one hand, the PiS government has continued to accuse the previous government of corruption, and has emphasized its own commitment to the fight against corruption. On the other hand, the PiS government has itself been under fire for corruption and cronyism in state-owned enterprises. Thousands of PiS apparatchiks and followers have been placed in management positions, so that a widespread clientelistic network has emerged.

A new law on transparency in public life entered into force in March 2018. This ostensibly was passed to address and reduce corruption, but has itself been widely criticized. It requires employers to establish internal corruption-prevention mechanisms that critics say have been badly prepared, are too ambitious in their terminology and would create unnecessary burdens. It introduces the category of whistleblower into the law, and aims to protect such activity, while also tightening regulations governing public-sector employees’ subsequent work in the private sector. However, it also allows enforcement agencies to collect citizens’ personal data, enabling substantial violations of privacy.
Citizens Network Watchdog Poland et al. (2018): Major Challenges Regarding the Draft Law on ‘Transparency’ in Public Life. Warsaw (
Corruption is the most sensitive political problem undermining political stability and quality of democracy in Slovakia. The previous two governments headed by Robert Fico did not pay much attention to anti-corruption efforts and were shaken by several corruption scandals. The government manifesto of the third Fico government contained some anti-corruption measures, and Lucia Žitňanská (Most-Híd), the minister of justice until her voluntary resignation in March 2018. The alleged corruption case involving Minister of Interior Robert Kaliňák and Prime Minister Fico has continued to attract the most attention. Their links to Ladislav Basternak, a businessman involved in fraud, have led to several votes of no confidence. Thanks to the government’s parliamentary majority, the interior minister survived all of them, and had to resign only after the murder of Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová. The fact that Kuciak was murdered because of his investigations regarding links between the mafia, oligarchs and top politicians testifies to the pervasiveness of corruption in Slovakia, and so does the reluctant investigation of the two murders. In the wake of anti-corruption demonstrations, a new initiative Chceme Veriť (We Want to Believe) launched by leading NGOs (Fair-Play Alliance, Via Iuris, Slovak Governance Institute, Human Rights League, Open Society Foundation, Pontis Foundation and Stop Corruption foundation) has demanded that the new Pellegrini government implement more effective measures to combat corruption. These demands include installing trustworthy leadership in the police force and among prosecution efforts, strengthening police independence, and subjecting the Prosecutor’s Office to mechanisms of public control.
Corruption has been publicly perceived as one of the most serious problems in Slovenia since 2011. While the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption (CPC), the central anti-corruption body, managed to upgrade its Supervisor web platform and launch its successor Erar in July 2016, it has remained under fire for its lack of determination and professionalism, especially after the resignation of Alma Sedlar, one of the three-strong CPC leadership in September 2017, which was eventually replaced by Uroš Novak in March 2018. Allegations of corruption have featured prominently in the debates about the investment by Magna, the construction of the second railway line from Divača to the port of Koper and the health care system. The continuing failure of parliament to adopt an ethical code for members of parliament and the inability of the prosecution to present strong cases, which would enable courts to convict some major political players (e.g., Zoran Janković, mayor of Ljubljana), have further raised the doubts about the political elite’s commitment to fighting corruption.
Bulgaria’s formal legal anti-corruption framework is quite extensive, but has not proven very effective. Measurements of perceived corruption have remained stable over the last five years at levels indicating that corruption is 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 line with recommendations by the European Commission and the Council of Europe, new legislation creating a unified anti-corruption agency was adopted by parliament in December 2017. While it is too early to assess its effectiveness, as of the end of 2018, the only publicly announced procedures to confiscate illicitly acquired property have been directed against people clearly identifiable with the opposition.
Avdjiiski, L. (2016): Why Does the Fight Against Corruption in Bulgaria not Give Results. Institute for Market Economics, Sofia (
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, even nepotism, 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.” A recent article by Gissur and another Icelandic political scientist, Gunnar Helgi Kristinsson, concluded that “corruption is rare but still clearly discernible. Less serious types of corruption, such as favoritism in public appointments and failure to disclose information, are more common than more serious forms, such as extortion, bribes and embezzlement. Nonetheless, it should be noted that a sizable minority of experts still believe corruption is common, especially in the case of favoritism and fraud.”

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 members of parliament standing at €9 million. Two out of the 10 members of parliament in question still sit in parliament and the cabinet, one is the current finance minister, without having divulged whether they have settled their debts or not. Write-offs of bank debt are not made public information in Iceland. The SIC did not report on legislators that owed the banks lesser sums (e.g., €500,000). GRECO has repeatedly highlighted the need for Icelandic members of parliament 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 2017, which measures business corruption, Iceland scored 77 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 84 and 88. 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. A 2018 poll from the Social Science Research Institute at the University of Iceland shows that 65% of respondents view many or nearly all Icelandic politicians as corrupt.

New information, including emails leaked from one of the failed banks, about corruption surrounding the crash of 2008 and involving the outgoing prime minister, has come to light. This information led to a gag order being imposed on the newspaper Stundin shortly before the election. The gag order was lifted in late 2018.
Erlingsson, Gissur Ó., and Kristinsson, Gunnar H (2016), “Measuring corruption: whose perceptions should we rely on? Evidence from Iceland,” Icelandic Review of Politics and Administration, Vol. 12, Issue 2, 215-236. Accessed 22 December 2018.

Erlingsson, Gissur Ó. (2014), CORRUPTION IN LOW CORRUPT COUNTRIES: THE CASE OF SWEDEN. Open lecture given at the University of Akureyri, Iceland 19 September 2014.

Félagsvísindastofnun Háskóla Íslands (Social Science Research Institute, University of Iceland), 2018. Accessed 20 December 2018.

Hagsmunaskrá Alþingismanna: Accessed 22 December 2018.

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.).

Transparency International, and . Accessed 22 December 2018.

Gallup (2013), Government Corruption Viewed as Pervasive Worldwide, Accessed 22 December 2018.

Gylfason, Thorvaldur (2015), “Social Capital, Inequality, and Economic Crisis,” Challenge 58, No. 4, July, 326-342.
Corruption has been a major political issue in Romania for some time and has become even more pronounced since the 2016 parliamentary elections. As early as in January 2017, the newly installed PSL/ALDE government launched legislation aimed at decriminalizing and pardoning certain offenses. Broadly understood as an attempt to help politicians and others either accused or convicted of corruption, including PSD leader Liviu Dragnea, these initiatives prompted an unexpectedly strong public outcry that led the government to retract them. Next, the governing coalition has sought to strengthen its influence in the judiciary and to discredit and weaken the much-acclaimed National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA), which has achieved many high-profile convictions. The PSD has attacked the DNA and its combative Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kövesi, referring to her and the DNA as an illegitimate “parallell state.” In a 36-page report in February 2018, Minister of Justice Tudorel Toader stated that the DNA engages in “excessively authoritarian behavior” and that it prioritizes “solving cases with a media impact.” The minister also criticized the DNA for “daring” to comment on legislative proposals, of falsifying wiretap transcripts and failing to investigate abusive acts allegedly committed by prosecutors. After a tug-of-war with President Iohannis, and favored by a controversial Constitutional Court decision in May 2018, Minister Toader eventually succeeded in bringing the president to dismiss Kövesi in July 2018. The attacks on the DNA, combined with its cuts in funding, have limited its capacity to maintain the fight against corruption.
European Commission (2018): Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on Progress in Romania under the Co-operation and Verification Mechanism. COM(2018) 851 final, Brussels (

Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO)(2018): Ad hoc Report on ROMANIA (Rule 34) Adopted by GRECO at its 79th Plenary Meeting, Strasbourg, March 19-23 (

Selejan Gutan, B. (2018): The Taming of the Court – When Politics Overcome Law in the Romanian Constitutional Court, in: Verfassungsblog, June 6 (
The auditor general’s office is constitutionally independent and assigned to audit the accounts of all state entities. The auditor general’s findings have been very often ignored. However, numerous cases of corruption since 2014 have resulted in the conviction of officials for corruption. Various policies are designed and promoted to serve transparency and fight corruption. However, the pace is slow.

GRECO observed in 2018 that only two out of 16 anti-corruption measures it recommended in 2016 were implemented, with a further eight partly implemented and six not implemented at all. In addition, measures adopted under previous reports, such as in party financing, have loopholes and deficient mechanisms that seriously affect their efficiency.

In 2018, the European Commission repeated its observation that the existing authority against corruption is inadequately resourced. We note also that no evaluation report is available on the implementation of public service and ministers codes of conduct established years ago.

Efforts against corruption suffered a serious blow in 2018 when most of the officials incarcerated for corruption were freed before completing even half of their sentences. Also, the citizenship-by-investment scheme is increasing the risk for corruption. These challenges explanation why corruption and impunity is perceived by the public as extremely high.
1. Council of Europe, GRECO, Fourth Round Evaluation Report, Cyprus, 2018
2. Contractor corruption watchdog unable to carry out duties, Cyprus Mail, 10 May 2018,
Widespread corruption has been a systemic feature of the Orbán governments, with benefits and influence growing through Fidesz informal political-business networks. Members of the Fidesz elite have been involved in a number of corruption scandals, with many people accumulating substantial wealth in a short period of time, most notably Lőrinc Mészáros, István Garancsi and István Tiborcz (the son in law of Orbán). According to Forbes Hungary, Mészáros, for example, has tripled his fortune in 2017. Corruption has become so pervasive that even some senior Fidesz figures have begun openly criticizing the Fidesz elite’s rapid wealth accumulation. Corruption in Hungary has to be seen through the prism of oligarchic structures and is strongly linked to public procurement, often related to investments based on EU funds and facilitated by the new public procurement law of 2012. A general problem here is that there is comparably little competition in this field, in 36% of public procurements there has been just one contender, the second worst case in the EU. Its political power has allowed the Orbán government to keep corruption under the carpet. De-democratization and growing corruption are thus mutually reinforcing processes. As a result, the fight against corruption has largely rested with the political opposition and some independent NGOs. In addition to Transparency International Hungary and Átlátszó (Transparent), Ákos Hadházy, the former co-president of the opposition party Politics Can Be Different (LMP), has been very active and effective in investigating the corruption by the leading Fidesz politicians and oligarchs, and he has recently begun collecting signatures to join the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, refused by the Hungarian government.
Corruption is widespread in Mexican politics, the judiciary and the police. Anti-corruption efforts so far have failed. After pleading guilty in September 2018, 14 former governors accused of corruption – including the former governor of Veracruz, Javier Duarte – have been sentenced to nine years in prison, a small sign of hope. Most of these governors had been close allies of President Peña Nieto and were the public faces of his effort to re-launch the PRI in order to give the party a new start after its decades-long association with corruption and bribery. Beyond the governors, the former director of the state-owned oil company Pemex, another close Nieto ally, has also been accused of corruption in the fallout of the scandal surrounding the Brazilian engineering firm Odebrecht. The Odebrecht scandal has rattled several Latin American countries, and now also engulfs high-placed public officials in Mexico. Although Odebrecht admitted bribing Pemex with $10.5 million, Mexican prosecutors refused to cooperate with Brazil authorities, delaying any clarification. These high-profile cases revealed the inability of the Mexican justice system to effectively deal with corruption, especially if the perpetrators are politically well connected.

At the same time that corruption scandals roiled the political arena, efforts to implement the National Anti-Corruption System (SNA), which had been signed into law by President Nieto in 2016, floundered. Neither the special anti-corruption prosecutor nor the judges for the specialized administrative tribunal have been appointed. At the subnational level, not even half of Mexico’s states have approved the required secondary legislation to implement the SNA. According to a May 2017 study by Corparmex, the Mexican confederation of business owners, corruption costs Mexico around 10% of its GDP. In Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, Mexico ranked 135 out of 175 countries in 2017, a significantly deterioration in the country’s ranking compared to 2012.

The main positive development with regard to corruption is sustained pressure from civil society for more transparency and accountability, but in general there is little hope for quick change.
Latin American Regional Report: Mexico & Nafta (August 2017) “Anti-corruption reform fails to convince.”
The Guardian (September 27, 2018). “Mexico: ‘worst governor in history’ sentenced to nine years for corruption,
AP (October 11, 2018). “Brazil: Mexico dragging feet on Odebrecht corruption scandal,”
Public officeholders can exploit their offices for private gain as they see fit without fear of legal consequences or adverse publicity.
Turkey is a signatory of UNCAC, the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, and the COE Civil and Criminal Law Conventions, and is a member of GRECO. Law No. 5018 regarding public financial management and control prioritize legality, transparency and predictability in public administration. 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 asset-declaration system was established in 1990 by Law 3628 on Asset Disclosure and Fighting Bribery and Corruption. All public officials (legislative, executive and judicial, including nationally and locally elected officials) must disclose their assets within one month of taking office and renew their declaration every five years. However, these declarations are not made public unless there is an administrative or judicial investigation. The Regulation on Procedure and Basis of Application of the Civil Servants Ethical Behavior Principles defines civil service restrictions, conflicts of interest and incompatibilities. The Council of Ethics for Public Officials, which was attached to the Presidency of the Republic of Turkey in July 2018, lacks the power to enforce its decisions through disciplinary measures. Codes of ethics do not exist for military personnel or academics. Legal loopholes (e.g., regarding disclosure of gifts, financial interests and holdings, and foreign travel paid for by outside sources) in the code of ethics for parliamentarians remain in place.

Corruption remains widespread, and unfair and biased bureaucratic treatment is common. Especially at the local level, corruption remains a systemic problem. Almost two out of five Turks believe local government officials are corrupt. 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 Turkish Court of Accounts reported several improper transactions in the 2017 annual accounts of several municipalities. These reports emphasized the lack of improvement to issues such as undue process, corruption in municipal government and shortcomings in municipal public services, all of which have yet to be addressed by parliament. Though the reports were published in the media and online, publicly exposing hidden budget expenditures, housing-procurement abuses and tax compromises. Instead of prosecuting the corrupt officials (including mayors), President Erdoğan simply removed them from office. Procedures for doing business in Turkey were recently improved, but enforcing a contract in Turkey is more time-consuming than the regional average, and bribes and irregular payments in return for favorable judicial decisions are perceived by companies to be fairly common. The public considers one-third of judges and judicial officers to be corrupt. Companies report very low confidence in the independence of the judiciary and the ability of the legal framework to settle disputes or challenge regulations. The Court of Cassation introduced a draft judicial code of conduct in late 2017. Corruption in the Turkish police is moderately high. Companies indicate that they perceive the police force as not adequately reliable. Impunity of corrupt officials is widespread. Turkey’s land administration made progress in terms of corrupt processes – although most corruption allegations relate to construction projects, for which bids are rigged, permits are illegally awarded, and bribes are paid by developers to government officials. The public procurement legislation was amended 186 times in 16 years.

In late 2017, the main opposition party leader stated that the President Erdoğan’s family members transferred millions of U.S. dollars to a company in the Isle of Man (a tax haven) in 2011 and 2012. In a counterattack, the minister of interior removed the mayor of Ataşehir, a town in Istanbul, from office following allegations of corruption. The chief public prosecutor of Ankara took the decision not to prosecute, before President Erdoğan sued for compensation. In July 2018, the ninth Anadolu Court of Istanbul ruled that Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the main opposition party, should pay pecuniary compensation to Erdoğan and others.
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