Rule of Law

 

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

EUOECD
 
Legal, political and public integrity mechanisms effectively prevent public officeholders from abusing their positions.
10
Denmark
Denmark is among the least corrupt countries in the world and ranked first in the Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index 2018. Norms against corruption are strong and the risk of media exposure is high. In the past, there were occasional cases 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.
Citations:
Transparency International Corruption Perception Index 2017, https://www.transparency.org/news/feature/corruption_perceptions_index_2017 (Accessed 3 October 2018).

GAN Business Anti-corruption Portal, “Denmark Corruption Report,” https://www.business-anti-corruption.com/country-profiles/denmark/ (Accessed 3 October 2018).

Transparency International Corruption Perception Index 2018. https://www.transparency.org/cpi2018 (Accessed 18 October 2019).
New Zealand
New Zealand’s public sector is perceived to be 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. The 2018 World Bank Governance indicators put New Zealand in the top 0.5 percentile regarding “control of corruption.” However, this does not mean that the country is free of corruption. For example, Deloitte Bribery and Corruption Survey 2017 found that approximately 20% of New Zealand companies surveyed had come across some form of corruption. There are also concerns about “revolving door” practices, whereby individuals shift between government positions and private sector jobs, and vice versa. In addition, critics have pointed out that local government struggles with issues of transparency, accountability and financial management to a much greater extent than political institutions at the national level.
Citations:
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:
10.5204/ijcjsd.v6i4.439.
Deloitte. 2017. One step ahead – Obtaining and maintaining the edge Deloitte Bribery and Corruption Survey 2017. Australia and New Zealand.https://www2.deloitte.com/nz/bribery-corruption-survey
Edwards, Political Roundup: The Government’s revolving door for lobbyists, New Zealand Herald (https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11998380)
Transparency International, Corruption Perceptions Index 2018 (https://www.transparency.org/cpi2018)
World Bank, Worldwide Governance Indicators (https://info.worldbank.org/governance/wgi/Home/Reports)
9
Estonia
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.

The number of registered corruption offenses remained about the same level in 2018 as in 2017, although the number of corruption cases in the healthcare sector increased substantially. Most corruption offenses relate to bribery and abuses of power in public procurement. The number of municipal-level corruption cases has decreased, with most cases (59%) occurring in the governmental sector. Notably, no recent corruption case at the central government level has involved an elected politician in contrast to municipal-level cases.
Citations:
Ministry of Justice (2019). Kuritegevus Eestis 2018. Crime in Estonia 2018. https://www.kriminaalpoliitika.ee/et/kuritegevus-eestis-2018
Finland
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. Transparency International’s 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index ranked Finland at third place out of 180 countries. The country was also ranked third in 2017 and 2016. 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.
Citations:
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 2018,”
https://www.transparency.org/cpi2018
Norway
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.
Sweden
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.
Citations:
Andersson, U. et al. (eds.) (2017), Larmar och gör sig till (Gothenburg: The SOM Institute) (https://som.gu.se/publicerat/bocker/70.-larmar-och-gor-sig-till).

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).
Switzerland
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 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.
Citations:
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.
8
Austria
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.

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. The other investigative committee will look into the political background of the “BVT affaire” – the police raid of the government agency responsible for observing political extremism and terrorism.
Belgium
While outright corruption is very uncommon in Belgium, several scandals involving abuse of public-office positions came to the fore. 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.

The most recent case concerns a large public-private company in Wallonia. The company’s board of managers was tasked with divesting and privatizing a number of assets, but eventually had to be sacked for alleged abuse (with some lawsuits under way). This case follows a number of others, and may prove a turning point toward a stricter implementation of anti-corruption and abuse of public office legislation in Belgium.

In the public sphere, rules are increasingly being tightened. Yet, according to Cumuleo, an activist group seeking to improve the regulation and oversight of public offices, Belgium still occasionally suffers from deep malpractice in reporting public decisions and a lack of actual control from the authorities that are expected to oversee these decisions (https://www.cumuleo.be/presse/cp/02-09-2019.php).
Citations:
WEF: Schwab, Klaus (ed) (2019). The Global Competitiveness Report 2019. World Economic Forum.
http://plus.lesoir.be/archive/recup/1452484/article/soirmag/meilleur-du-soir-mag/2017-03-03/vrai-salaire-net-nos-elus
https://www.sudinfo.be/id149334/article/2019-10-31/nethys-stephane-moreau-pol-heyse-et-benedicte-bayer-se-sont-remuneres-en-cash-et
http://www.business-anti-corruption.com/country-profiles/belgium
http://www.tradingeconomics.com/belgium/corruption-rank
http://www.brusselstimes.com/opinion/8047/is-belgium-fighting-hard-enough-against-corruption
https://www.cumuleo.be/
Canada
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 of wrongful travel and living allowance expense claims by members of the Canadian Senate. The Senate expense scandal renewed calls to reform the Senate or abolish the upper house entirely, and in early 2014, Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau expelled all 32 Liberal senators from the party, asking them instead to sit as independents, part of a proposed plan to overhaul Senate appointments to ensure it is a non-partisan body.

Another significant scandal emerged in 2019, when it came to light that Trudeau had used his powers as prime minister to influence the actions of the attorney general to prevent the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin for bribing the son of former Libyan Prime Minister Muammar Qadhafi. The scandal also illuminated what many regard as a flaw in the governance structure of Canada’s justice system. The roles of the minister of justice and attorney general of Canada are held by the same person. When Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould resisted government pressures, the prime minister moved her to a different cabinet position, terminating her role as attorney general in the process. Wilson-Raybould later resigned, and was ousted from the Liberal caucus. A special adviser subsequently reviewed the roles of the attorney general and the minister of justice. In its report, the adviser concluded that the dual roles could compromise the ability to exercise independent judgment when making decisions about specific prosecutions, and that an attorney general serving as a member of the cabinet might be influenced to exercise his or her authority in specific prosecutions so as to promote the cabinet’s policy agenda and/or improve the electoral prospects of the government. However, the adviser’s report also stated that “no further structural change” would be required […] to protect prosecutorial independence and promote public confidence in the criminal justice system.”
Citations:
Report of the Auditor General of Canada to the Senate of Canada—Senators’ Expenses, June 4, 2015, posted at http://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/English/parl_otp_201506_e_40494.html

Report of the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner- Trudeau II Report, August 4, 2019, posted at https://ciec-ccie.parl.gc.ca/en/investigations-enquetes/Pages/TrudeauIIReport-RapportTrudeauII.aspx

Honourable A. Anne McLellan, P.C., O.C., A.O.E, Review of the Roles of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada,
June 28, 2019, posted at https://pm.gc.ca/en/news/backgrounders/2019/08/14/review-roles-minister-justice-and-attorney-general-canada
Germany
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 nations, with the country ranked at 7th place out of 215 countries in 2019 (World Bank 2019).

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. Until 2013, provisions concerning the income declarations required of members of parliament were comparatively loose. For example, various NGOs had criticized the extra-income documentation requirements, which merely stipulated that lawmakers identify which of the three tax rate intervals they fall under. This procedure provided no clarity with respect to potential external influences associated with politicians’ financial interests. However, beginning with the 2013 – 2017 parliamentary term, members of the German Bundestag have had to provide additional details about their ancillary income in a 10-step income list.

A total of 202 members of parliament out of 709, or 28.5%, declared additional income in the term that ended in July 2019. Within the FDP parliamentary party, half of the lawmakers had additional income, while CDU politicians showed the highest incomes overall. The Green parliamentary party has the lowest share of members reporting additional income, at only 15%. In the AfD parliamentary party, 21% of the parliamentarians have additional income, a share is higher than that of the SPD, the Left and the Greens.

Critics argue that the current system incentivizes the declaration of auxiliary income in slices of comparatively low amounts, and remains insufficient with regard to ensuring transparency or preventing corruption or conflicts of interest in a reliable way.
Citations:
World Bank (2018): http://info.worldbank.org/governance/wgi/index.aspx#reports

https://www.abgeordnetenwatch.de/blog/nebeneinkunfte-2019
Luxembourg
In general, corruption is not tolerated in Luxembourg. However, because small gifts may be accepted in some parts of the public administration, a code of conduct for all public servants seems to be necessary. Informal conversations between individual political parties, related officials and certain economic sectors (e.g., finance and construction) are common.

Large-scale corruption cases which have in some cases developed into political issues are referred to in Luxembourg as “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.

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 such as ministers often donate a part of their salaries to their parties.
Citations:
“Luxembourg Corruption Report.” https://www.business-anti-corruption.com/country-profiles/luxembourg/ Accessed 19 Nov. 2019.

GRECO: “The Fight against Corruption: A Priority for the Council of Europe.” https://www.coe.int/en/web/greco/about-greco/priority-for-the-coe. Accessed 19 Oct. 2019.
UK
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.
Citations:
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/468255/Final_draft_ministerial_code_No_AMENDS_14_Oct.pdf
7
Australia
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 – most recently occurring after the May 2019 election.

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.
Citations:
http://www.icac.nsw.gov.au/investigations/current-investigations

http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2014/oct/23/australia-slow-to-tackle-international-corruption-with-just-one-case-in-court

http://www.transparency.org/cpi2015

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-06-17/systemic-corruption-inside-ccc-watchdog-finds/6554220
France
Up to the 1990s, corruption plagued French politics. 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. Various scandals have provoked further legislation. After a former minister of finance was accused of tax fraud and money laundering in March 2013, a new rule obliged government ministers 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 are forbidden to publish them. Only individual citizens can consult these disclosures, and only within the constituency in which 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 introduce a bill dealing with the “moralization of public affairs.” The new law contains many additional restrictions, such as a prohibition on parliamentarians employing members of their family, and the suppression of “loose money” that members of parliament had previously been able to distribute and use without constraint or control. The new legislation constitutes a major contribution with regard to reducing conflicts of interest, and may help to clean the Augean stables. As a consequence of the new rules, as well as the activism of the press on these issues, the appointment of ministers is kept secret for a few days before being officially announced. This allows an independent authority time to check and clear the legal, fiscal and financial backgrounds of potential nominees.

This persistent strengthening of the rules has been justified by recurrent corruption scandals relating to the funding of political campaigns by African states, the irregularities in the accounts of Sarkozy’s 2012 electoral campaign, and the misuse of funds provided by the European Parliament discovered in 2017, to cite a few examples. On 1 October 2019, the country’s highest court (Cour de Cassation) confirmed that former President Sarkozy should be prosecuted before a penal Court (Tribunal correctionnel).
Ireland
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 Superintendent 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.
Citations:
The 2014 Public Services Reform Plan is available here:
http://reformplan.per.gov.ie/
Mr Justice Peter Charleton, Third Interim Report of the Disclosures Tribunal, October 11, 2018
Latvia
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 office-holder 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.

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 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 charged with bribery and money laundering. His trial started in early November 2019. He has not stepped down from his position, although his six-year tenure ended on 21 December 2019. More recent cases include the investigation of a former justice minister, Baiba Broka, and a former mayor of Riga, Nils Usakovs.

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, while the successes of the country’s investigative and auditing bodies have remained limited, greater activity over the last 18 months has increased activists’ confidence that investigations will also soon conclude with convictions.
Citations:
1. Corruption °C (2017), Updated Statistics on Convictions for Corruption Offences (2016 Data Added), Available at: http://providus.lv/article/jaunaka-statistika-par-korupcijas-lietu-iztiesasanu-latvija, Last assessed: 25.10.2019

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: www.legislationline.org/documents/id/18945, Last assessed: 25.10.2019

3. Freedom House (2018), Nations in Transit, Country Report, Available at: https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2018/latvia, Last assessed: 25.10.2019
Portugal
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.

The Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) compliance report published in June 2019 found that Portugal had satisfactorily implemented only one of the 15 recommendations published in 2016, with eight partially implemented, while the remaining six had not been implemented. This marked a minor improvement vis-à-vis the results published in March 2018, with the conclusion being that “the current very low level of compliance with the recommendations remains ‘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 previous SGI reports, we noted a number of high-profile cases. Some of these concluded during the current review period. In the Golden Visa case, which involved a number of high-ranking civil servants and a former minister of internal affairs, Miguel Macedo (2011 – 2014), the sentence was proffered in January 2019, with the former minister being found not guilty, but with two high-ranking public officials being found guilty. In the Fizz case, a magistrate was found guilty of accepting bribes from a former vice-president of Angola in December 2018. Meanwhile, a number of other cases are ongoing, including the Lex case, involving another Portuguese judge; the Banco Esperito Santo (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 has been widely interpreted as indicative of the crucial role of leadership in prosecuting corruption in Portugal. The new attorney general, Lucília Gago, took office in October 2018 and has not shied away from controversial decisions. This was evidenced most recently when the PPS pressed charges against the former minister of defense, Azeredo Lopes (who was in office until October 2018 and served in the first António Costa government). The charges (involving the covering up of information relating to the robbery of arms in Tancos) were submitted on 25 September 2019, in the middle of campaigning for the 6 October 2019 election, which was criticized by the incumbent Socialist Party.
Citations:
Conselho de Prevenção da Corrupção (2018). “Prevenção da corrupção na gestão pública: mapeamento de áreas e fatores de risco,” available online at: http://www.cpc.tcontas.pt/documentos/outros/relatorio_mapeamento_riscos_2018.pdf

GRECO (2019), “Fourth Evaluation Round – Interim Compliance Report Portugal,” available online at: https://rm.coe.int/fourth-evaluation-round-corruption-prevention-in-respect-of-members-of/1680954185

Público (2019), “MP diz que Azeredo soube com antecedência da recuperação das armas. Ex-ministro fala de acusação ‘eminentemente política’,” available online at: https://www.publico.pt/2019/09/26/sociedade/noticia/azeredo-lopes-admitiu-sms-soube-antecedencia-recuperacao-armas-1887986
South Korea
Following massive corruption scandals involving the two previous governments, the situation in South Korea has improved in this area. Nevertheless, the abuse of power for private gain remains a major problem. 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. The Me Too movement has also brought many abuse-of-power cases to light. Courts have been tough on former public officials involved in corruption scandals, handing down prison sentences to many involved, including the two previous presidents. President Moon has promised to strengthen anti-corruption initiatives further, announcing that members of the elite involved in corruption scandals would not be granted pardons. However, the recent scandals surrounding former Justice Minister Cho Kuk showed that the current government too has been subjected to abuse-of-office accusations. On the other hand, the case also showed that checks and balances have improved as there appears to be increasing readiness to investigate serving high-level officials. In the past, public officials were usually investigated and prosecuted only after they left office, as prosecutors have considerable discretion with regard to deciding who to prosecute. President Moon has proposed an institutional reform that would shift the power to investigate and prosecute corruption among high-level officials from the prosecutor’s office to a new agency. While this could theoretically make the new agency less opportunistic and more independent from political meddling, it remains to be seen how such independence would be institutionally guaranteed. Positive institutional changes made in past years, such as the “improper solicitation and graft” act (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 limited success in curbing corruption and influence peddling by big business groups, and courts are much more lenient toward businessmen than toward public officials.
Citations:
ACRC (2019), 2018 Annual Report, http://www.acrc.go.kr/en/board.do?command=searchDetail&method=searchDetailViewInc&menuId=020504&confId=64&conConfId=64&conTabId=0&currPageNo=1&boardNum=79760
Spain
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. The fact is that – political-party funding aside –few corruption cases have involved career civil servants. Everyday interactions between citizens and public administration are typically characterized by a high level of integrity. In 2019, Spain’s score in Transparency International’s CPI marked a slight improvement, although Spain continues to rank 41 out of 183 countries.

During 2018, the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Corruption started 678 judicial proceedings compared to 609 in 2017 and 524 in 2016. However, these figures do not represent a real increase in corruption cases, but are rather a consequence of the separation of criminal proceedings in order to facilitate their processing.

Several measures for preventing corruption have been put in place in recent years. 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.
Netherlands
The Netherlands is considered a relatively corruption-free country. This may well explain why its anti-corruption policy is relatively underdeveloped. The Dutch prefer to talk about “committing fraud” rather than “corrupt practices,” and about improving “integrity” and “transparency” rather than 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 prosecute 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, healthcare 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 whistleblowers entered into force. Experts consider the law to be largely symbolic, with real legal protection remaining minimal despite high administrative costs. A “house for whistleblowers,” intended to protect whistleblowers and facilitate their activities, proved to be a failure. The increasing amount of public sector corruption cases i ndicates either confusion or a political unwillingness to tackle the issue effectively.
Citations:
Transparency International Nederland (2018), Nationaal Integriteitssysteem Landenstudie Nederland.

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

Algemeen Dagblad, 19 December 2018. Onderzoek naar misstanden in Huis voor Klokkenluiders. (ad.nl., accessed 4 November 2019)

NRC Next, 26 March 2019. Bestuurlijke chaos bij Huis voor Klokkenluiders. (NRC.nl, accessed 4 November 2019)

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

https://tradingeconomics.com/netherlands/corruption-index
6
Chile
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. No matter what their ideological position, political and economic elites overlap significantly, thus reinforcing privilege. However, this connection has tended to be more evident in the current Piñera government, 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 mandating transparency for potential conflicts of interest among high-ranking politicians (e.g., the president or government ministers). The corruption scandals revealed in recent years have shown that such questionable practices are more common than the country’s scores on international transparency indexes might suggest.

In response to the corruption scandals earlier in the decade, 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. Restrictions on private campaign funding (Ley sobre Fortalecimiento y Transparencia de la Democracia) and the creation of a public register for all lobbyists were subsequently implemented in 2016. In August 2018, President Piñera announced a draft law on transparency (Ley de Transparencia 2.0) aimed at improving the existing regulation.
Citations:
http://consejoanticorrupcion.cl/

http://consejoanticorrupcion.cl/lanzamiento-final/

https://www.leylobby.gob.cl/

http://www.latercera.com/noticia/estas-son-las-normas-que-fija-la-nueva-ley-para-regular-el-financiamiento-de-campanas-politicas/

https://www.cooperativa.cl/noticias/pais/politica/transparencia/pinera-anuncio-ley-de-transparencia-2-0-que-incluira-al-congreso-al-tc/2018-08-24/121235.html
Israel
A survey of the Israeli legal framework identifies three primary channels of a corruption-prevention strategy. These include maintaining popular trust in public management, including trust in bank managers and owners of large public-oriented corporations; ensuring the proper conduct of public servants; and 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 to ensure 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.

Criminal inquiries into politicians are common. In November 2019, Israel’s attorney general charged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with bribery, fraud and breach of trust. It is the first time in Israel’s history that a serving prime minister has faced a criminal indictment. Earlier in 2019, the attorney general indicted the minister for welfare and social services, Haim Katz, for fraud and breach of trust. Also in 2019, Israel’s state attorney recommended to the attorney general that the minister of the interior, Aryeh Deri, be indicted for tax crimes, fraud and money laundering. These recent cases join an extensive list of past corruption cases. 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. Former tourism minister Stas Misezhnikov, of the Yisrael Beytenu party, was also sentenced to 15 months in prison for fraud and breach of trust.
Citations:
Aliasuf, Itzak, “Ethics of public servants in Israel,” 1991 (Hebrew) https://bit.ly/3dNefmG

Ariel, Omri, New poll shows 72% view Israel as a corrupt country, 08.01.2016, http://www.jerusalemonline.com/news/in-israel/local/poll-72-see-israel-as-corrupt-18361

Bob, Yonah Jeremy. “AG moves to indict Haim Katz for fraud; Drops IAI charges,” The Jerusalem Post, 15.8.2019: https://www.jpost.com/Breaking-News/Mandelblit-Haim-Katz-will-be-indicted-for-breach-of-trust-598601

Bob, Yonah Jeremy. “State Attorney to Attorney General: Indict Arye Deri,” The Jerusalem Post, 15.8.2019:
https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/State-Attorney-to-Attorny-General-Indict-Deri-598752

Holmes, Oliver. “Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu indicted for bribery and fraud.” The Guardian, 21.11.2019: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/nov/21/israeli-prime-minister-benjamin-netanyahu-indicted-for-bribery-and

”Massive scope of Yisrael Beiteinu corruption scandal revealed,” Ynet 25.12.2014:http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4607728,00.html

Ma’anit, Chen, Former tourism minister Stas Misezhnikov signs plea bargain, Globes, 31/10/2017: http://www.globes.co.il/en/article-former-tourism-minister-stas-misezhnikov-signs-plea-bargain-1001209817

Transparency International: Corruption Perceptions Index 2018: http://www.ti-israel.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/CPI-2018-Executive-summary-PRINT.pdf

Transparency International, Corruption Perception Index 2019, 2020, https://www.transparency.org/cpi2019
Wootliff, Raoul, and ToI, “Liberman opposes forming Knesset committee just to reject Netanyahu immunity,” ToI, 26.11.2019, https://www.timesofisrael.com/liberman-opposes-forming-knesset-committee-just-to-reject-netanyahu-immunity/
Italy
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 first Conte government introduced a new bill on corruption (the so-called Spazza-Corrotti bill; Legge 9 gennaio 2019, n. 3l) that increased punishments for corrupt activities. For instance, individuals or firms convicted of corruption will be prevented from participating in public contracts or procurement processes.

In general, the ongoing reform of public administration should contribute further to a reduction of administrative abuses.
Citations:
https://www.anticorruzione.it/portal/rest/jcr/repository/collaboration/Digital%20Assets/anacdocs/Attivita/Pubblicazioni/RelazioniAnnuali/2017/rel.anac.2016.doc.06.07.2017_.pdf
https://www.gazzettaufficiale.it/eli/id/2019/01/16/18G00170/sg
Lithuania
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. In the Transparency International Corruption Perception index, Lithuania scored 59 out of 100, and was ranked 38th out of 180 countries in 2018, down from 32nd in 2015. In the new Index of Public Integrity, Lithuania was ranked 25th out of 105 countries overall, but only 85th out of 105 countries on the issue of 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. The Special Investigation Service has also launched a high-profile corruption probe into the alleged illegal activities of 48 people (mostly judges and lawyers) suspected of various crimes involving around 110 individual criminal acts. Based on evidence collected during the pretrial investigation, judges may have both offered and been paid bribes ranging from €1,000 to €100,000 in exchange for favorable rulings, with the total amount of bribes amounting to €400,000 .

According to a 2019 World Economic Forum report, Lithuanian firms still perceive corruption as one of the most important problems for doing business in the country (with the country ranked 36th out of 141 counties in terms of the incidence of corruption). 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 healthcare and improve the control of conflicts of interest declarations made by public officials.

At the end of 2018, the Lithuanian government created a new Commission for the Coordination of the Fight Against Corruption, which will provide a cross-institution forum to steer implementation and monitoring of the National Anti-Corruption Program. Lithuanian authorities also increased penalties for corruption-related crimes, linking these to the damage caused or benefits obtained from the illegal activities. The government recently approved the establishment of an institute for civil confiscation of assets as a means of preventing illegal enrichment (however, as of the time of writing, this controversial decision had yet to be approved by the parliament). President Nausėda devoted attention to the reduction of corruption by bringing public attention to the new initiatives and to good practices.
Citations:
TThe Worldwide Governance Indicators of World Bank are available at http://info.worldbank.org/governance/wgi/#home
The Lithuanian Corruption Map is available at http://www.stt.lt/lt/menu/tyrimai-ir-analizes/?print=1
The 2019 Global Competitiveness Report of the World Economic Forum: http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_TheGlobalCompetitivenessReport2019.pdf
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 for Lithuania is available at https://www.transparency.org/country/LTU
The Index of Public Integrity is available at http://integrity-index.org/
The European Commission. Annex 15 to the EU Anti-Corruption Report: Lithuania. Brussels, 3.2.2014. COM (2014) 38 final.
USA
The first two years of the Trump presidency have brought an unprecedented disregard of established practices to prevent conflicts 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. Thanks to 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 conflicts 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 the abuse of public resources, for example, the use of military aircraft for vacation travel.

Trump has demonstrated a lack of respect for laws, constitutional provisions and established practices in order to profit personally from the presidency. His hotels have received millions of dollars in payments from foreign governments (in apparent violation of the Constitution’s “emolument’s clause”), American military personnel, and his own travel and security staff. In 2019, uncontroverted testimony emerged showing that Trump used the threat of withholding $400 million of military aid from Ukraine to coerce Ukraine to investigate one of Trump’s likely 2020 election rivals, former Vice President Joe Biden.

In December 2019, the House voted on and approved two Articles of Impeachment against Trump. One of them concerned the abuse of power in the Ukraine affair, and one concerned the obstruction of Congress. The House had considered including various additional articles, including Trump’s violation of the emoluments clause (i.e., financial corruption) and the obstruction of justice in the Mueller investigation, but decided to focus on the two articles whose evidence and importance were most readily demonstrable.
 
Some integrity mechanisms function, but do not effectively prevent public officeholders from abusing their positions.
5
Greece
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) and has remained in prison awaiting trial.

However, the Syriza-ANEL’s February 2018 drive to open criminal investigations against two former prime ministers and eight ministers who had served in governments prior to Syriza’s rise backfired. The criminal investigation was not based on adequate evidence, and quickly ran into legal obstacles. Ultimately it was abandoned altogether. After the elections of July 2019, a several of the politicians accused of wrongdoing sought to clear their names, and further asked that Syriza government officials and public prosecutors who had worked under their instructions themselves be investigated by a parliamentary committee put in place in October 2019.

Generally, Greece’s system of anti-corruption policies and mechanisms has not been stabilized. According to a July 2017 report by the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV), the state has shown a fragmentary approach, as well as a lack of determination in 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. Moreover, most institutions tasked with combating corruption are not furnished with sufficient resources to accomplish their tasks.
Citations:
For the ranking of Greece by Transparency International in 2016 and 2017, see https://www.transparency.org/country/GRC and https://www.transparency.org/news/feature/corruption_perceptions_index_2016#table
For the SEV report, see
http://www.sev.org.gr/Uploads/Documents/50462/Special_Report_25_7_2017.pdf
Japan
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 those with genuine membership-based organizations (i.e., the Japanese Communist Party and the Komeito).

Financial and office-abuse scandals involving bureaucrats have been rare in recent years. This may be a consequence of stricter accountability rules devised after a string of ethics-related scandals 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 so-called Moritomo Gakuen scandal of 2017, a private school close to the prime minister and his wife was able to buy a plot of land at a reduced price. The Finance Ministry was later found to have manipulated documentation about the proceedings. No officials were charged by prosecutors despite an independent judicial panel’s request to review the case. This high-profile case sends a worrying message.

In 2017, Japan joined the UN Convention against Transnational Crime and the UN Convention against Corruption, which have respectively existed since 2000 and 2005. Still, a 2019 OECD report found the enforcement of Japan’s foreign bribery law to be lacking.
Citations:
UNODC Chief welcomes Japan’s decision to join crime and corruption conventions, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 12 July 2017, https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/press/releases/2017/July/unodc-chief-welcomes-japans-decision-to-join-crime-and-corruption-conventions.html

OECD, Japan must urgently address long-standing concerns over forein bribery enforcement, 3 July 2019, https://www.oecd.org/newsroom/japan-must-urgently-address-long-standing-concerns-over-foreign-bribery-enforcement.htm

Build public trust in the plea bargaining system (Opinion), The Japan Times, 1 June 2018, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2018/06/01/editorials/build-public-trust-plea-bargain-system/

Osaka prosecutors close Moritomo Gakuen case after reconfirming no bureaucrats will be indicted over scandal, The Japan times, 10 August 2019, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/08/10/national/crime-legal/osaka-prosecutors-close-moritomo-gakuen-case-reconfirming-no-bureaucrats-will-indicted-scandal/
Malta
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. Malta has faced various calls for reform in this sector, and the government continues to heed these calls through changes in legislation and strategic plans.

A number of institutions and processes work to prevent corruption. These include 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.” In 2019 the government appointed a Police Governing Board to assist in reform of the corps, and to extend oversight more generally.

There is a separate Code of Ethics that applies to ministers, members of parliament and public servants, and a recently appointed Commissioner for Standards in Public Life, whose officeholder is selected by a two-thirds majority vote in parliament, has already produced results. 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. However, the functioning of this committee requires review in order to ensure it is satisfying its remit. Internal audit systems can also be found in every department and ministry, but it is difficult to assess their effectiveness.

The government has introduced a number of reform. In 2013, it reduced elected political figures’ ability to evade corruption charges by removing statutes of limitation on such cases, and introduced a more effective Whistleblower Act, although this needs further reforms; in 2016, it passed a law on standards in public life; and in 2018, the government and the opposition agreed on the appointment of the person who will 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. Whether they should or not is a debatable issue. In 2018, the NAO launched a five-year plan to improve governance across the public service and reduce levels of non-compliance. 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, though the minister for environment has committed his ministry to setting up a register where all meetings with lobbyists would be registered. The Permanent Commission Against Corruption, established in 1988, has proved ineffective despite having investigated some 300 cases of alleged corruption; none of these cases have been prosecuted. The Public Service Commission, which is tasked with ensuring fairness in recruitment and promotions in the public service, remains underresourced. However, these institutions along with the recent FOI act allow for greater exposure of corruption.

Conflicts of interest remain common across both parties. 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. In 2020, the prime minster appointed a committee to review the Vitals hospital deal, which involved the leasing of three government hospitals by an international consortium, in order to ensure it fulfilled public-procurement regulations. Malta’s Planning Authority (MEPA) has been under scrutiny for decades 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. Many also sit on government boards, a practice which the new commissioner for public standards has deemed to contravene the spirit of the constitution. 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’s score in the 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index was 54% (with 100% being the best possible score), reflecting such issues as politically exposed persons’ (PEPs) involvement in the Panama papers, the collapse of a Malta-based bank and recent findings linked to the murder of a Maltese journalist. The 2019 GRECO report notes that opinion polls show perceptions of a high level of corruption, and that to date, there has been no visible disciplinary or criminal-justice response to a number of allegations, even though some have been confirmed by subsequent audits by the National Audit Office. The senior officials who have been accused of criminal or ethical misbehavior are still in their positions. Malta clearly lacks an overall strategy and coherent risk-based approach when it comes to integrity standards for government officials. The GRECO report also recommended that measures resolving the legal situation of persons of trust be implemented, that the number of such discretionarily appointed officials be limited to an absolute minimum, that robust and systematic awareness-raising measures be introduced, that the outcomes of public consultations be published, that new procedures for lobbying be introduced, and that the FOI Act be improved.
Citations:
Audit office finds lack of adherence to procurement regulations by the office of the prime minister 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
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160503/local/minister-to-keep-pressure-on-mfsa-independent-regulator.610814
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160928/local/government-statement-pm-has-no-clue-if-chief-of-staff-will-benefit.626373
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160510/local/zammit-dimech-cachia-caruana-deny-panama-papers-links.611633
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20151129/local/minister-tells-his-business-partners-to-obey-the-law.593836
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160407/local/konrad-mizzi-to-address-labor-conference-as-pressure-over-panama.608123
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20161008/local/does-keith-schembris-opm-contract-contain-conflict-of-interest-rules.627308
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 2018
https://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20181008/local/audit-office-adopts-new-strategy-to-improve-governance.691098
GAN Business anti-corruption Portal 2018 Malta Corruption Report
The Cost of Corruption across the EU. The Greens/EFA Group 2018
https://tradingeconomics.com/malta/corruption-index
https://www.mfsa.mt/firms/anti-money-laundering/about-aml/ includes risk assessments
GRECO Report on Malta 2019 https://rm.coe.int/grecoeval5rep-2018-6-fifth-evaluation-round-preventing-corruption-and-/168093bda3
https://www.islesoftheleft.org/digging-deeper-into-the-root-cause-of-clientelism-in-malta/
Slovenia
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 healthcare 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. A survey commissioned by the Greens in the European Parliament suggests that systemic corruption costs Slovenia €3.5 billion each year, or 8.5% of GDP.
Citations:
The Greens/EFA in the European Parliament (2018): The Costs of Corruption Across the European Union. Brussels (https://www.greens-efa.eu/en/article/document/the-costs-of-corruption-across-the-european-union/).
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Bulgaria
Bulgaria’s formal legal anti-corruption framework is quite extensive, but has not proven very effective. Measurements of corruption have remained stable over the last five years at levels indicating that corruption is a serious problem. While the number of criminal prosecutions of high-profile political actors has been high from a comparative perspective, no actual convictions of such persons can be reported.

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. However, new agency has not been very effective either in bringing cases of high-level corruption to court or in confiscating illegally acquired property. During the period under review, investigative journalists uncovered highly dubious practices (personal-property construction in violation of municipal regulations) by the head of the agency, who was forced to resign as a result. Meanwhile, well-documented allegations of conflicts of interest and illicit enrichment through real-estate deals on the part of members of the governing elite, including the deputy chair of the senior ruling-coalition party and the minister of justice, were glossed over and exonerated. No corruption charges were ever pursued, and the only consequences were ultimately political, as both individuals had to resign their party and ministerial positions.
Citations:
Popova, M., V. Post (2018): Prosecuting high-level corruption in Eastern Europe., in: Communist and Post-Communist Studies 51(3), 231-244.
Croatia
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, final sentences have been conspicuously absent. In the nine years since Sanader was arrested, only one out of six indictments raised against him received a final sentence. The Constitutional Court’s repeal of the final verdict against Sanader in the case of INA-MOL in 2017 has proven to be highly controversial and many criminal code experts deem the court’s decision to constitute a serious legal mandate overreach. In 2019, four ministers (G. Marić, G. Žalac, T. Tolušić and L. Kuščević) resigned due to inconsistencies or irregularities in their publicly available personal asset list, which raised suspicions of corrupt practices. However, swift, impartial and transparent judicial investigations have been lacking in the aftermath. All of this has additionally shaken citizens’ confidence in the judicial system and the government’s ability to fight corruption.
Czechia
Successive governments have emphasized a commitment to fighting corruption, but in fact have done little of substance to address the issue. Two significant changes were implemented in 2017, with amendments passed to the law on party finances and the law on conflicts 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 main issue concerns the use of EU funds, intended for SME support, to finance a business that was temporarily detached from his conglomerate but returned to his control after the subsidy had been received. It later emerged that nominal ownership had simply been transferred to members of his family, but police investigations reached no definite conclusions.

Despite demands from the opposition for his resignation and public demonstrations in Prague and other cities, Babiš has been emboldened by the sympathetic treatment he has received from the media outlets he controls. In March 2019, he appointed Marie Benešová, a friend of President Zeman, as minister of justice, triggering significant protests across the country. The move was seen as an attempt to curtail the independence of the judiciary. In September 2019, Prague prosecutor Jaroslav Saroch decided to drop the case and thus avoid charging the prime minister and his family on fraud charges, but was overruled by Prosecutor General Pavel Zeman in December 2019.
Iceland
Rightly or wrongly, 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 clearly 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, remains a serious concern. Other, subtle forms of in-kind corruption, which are hard to quantify, also exist. Erlingsson and Kristinsson (2016) write 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 2018, which measures business corruption, Iceland scored 76 out of 100, where a score of 100 means absolutely no corruption. Iceland is well behind the other Nordic countries with scores 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 a 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.
Citations:
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. http://www.irpa.is/article/view/a.2016.12.2.2/pdf. 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. http://fel.hi.is/stjornmalamenn_spilling_2018. Accessed 20 December 2018.

Hagsmunaskrá Alþingismanna: https://www.althingi.is/altext/cv/is/hagsmunaskra/. 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, http://www.transparency.org/cpi2014/results and http://www.libertadciudadana.org/archivos/IPC2017/CPI%202017%20Global%20Report%20English.pdf.. Accessed 22 December 2018.

Gallup (2013), Government Corruption Viewed as Pervasive Worldwide, http://www.gallup.com/poll/165476/government-corruption-viewed-pervasive-worldwide.aspx. Accessed 22 December 2018.

Gylfason, Thorvaldur (2015), “Social Capital, Inequality, and Economic Crisis,” Challenge 58, No. 4, July, 326-342.
Mexico
Corruption is widespread in Mexican politics, the judiciary and the police. Anti-corruption efforts so far have failed. During his presidential campaign, AMLO promised to prioritize the fight against corruption. So far, it is unclear how that could happen. According to Transparency Mexico, the president is widely considered to be honest by the public, while a majority of 61% of Mexicans believe he is doing a good job in fighting corruption.
Corruption was a key topic in the 2018 elections following widespread corruption scandals that are shaken the political arena. At the same time, efforts to implement the National Anti-Corruption System (SNA), which had been signed into law by President Nieto in 2016, floundered. 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 138 out of 180 countries in 2018, a significantly deterioration in the country’s ranking compared to 2012.

The AMLO administration has intensified the fight against corruption. Nonetheless, the SPA, which is filled with MORENA allies, features only one position that has been subject to a proper nomination process: the head of the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Combatting Corruption. The SNA is currently developing an inclusive consultative process involving citizens, institutions, businesses, academia and subnational governments to improve national anti-corruption policies. A national SNA digital platform will provide information and improve coordination. In addition, the government has further integrated corruption into the criminal law system, increasing punishments and detention while awaiting trial. The Unidad de Inteligencia Financiera (UIF), a government agency focused on detecting and preventing financial crimes, has been the central actor in fighting corruption to date. High-ranking politicians, like the former Pemex CEO or the head of Pemex’s workers’ union, are the target of corruption charges related to the Odebrecht corruption scandal in Latin America.
Citations:
Latin American Regional Report: Mexico & NAFTA (August 2017) “Anti-corruption reform fails to convince.”
Transparencia Mexicana 2019: Barómetro Global de la Corrupción, https://www.tm.org.mx/barometro-al-2019/
Poland
Corruption has remained a major political issue in the period under review. On the one hand, the PiS government has continued to accuse the opposition, especially representatives of 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. As many PiS members and followers have been placed in management positions, a widespread clientelistic network has emerged, and some high-rank politicians (e.g., the new minister of the interior and the director of the State Audit Office) have been convicted of abuse of office or investigated for failing to declare income from dubious economic activities.

A law on transparency in public life, which was introduced in March 2018, was supposed to tackle corruption, but has been widely criticized. The law 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.
Citations:
Citizens Network Watchdog Poland et al. (2018): Major Challenges Regarding the Draft Law on ‘Transparency’ in Public Life. Warsaw (http://citizensobservatory.pl/ustawa/major-challenges-regarding-the-draft-law-on-transparency-in-public-life-communique-of-the-5-ngos/).

Council of Europe, Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) (2019): Evaluation Report Poland. GrecoEval5Rep(2018)1. Strasbourg (https://rm.coe.int/fifth-evaluation-round-preventing-corruption-and-promoting-integrity-i/168092005c).
Romania
Romania continued to face scrutiny from the European Commission on corruption prevention. In July 2019, a Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) report criticized Romania’s lack of progress in adopting measures to prevent corruption among lawmakers, judges and prosecutors and addressing concerns about its controversial reform of the judiciary. The November 2018 Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) report recommended Romania immediately suspend the justice laws and emergency ordinances, revise them in light of the recommendations of the Venice Commission and GRECO, suspend all ongoing appointments and dismissals for senior prosecutors, appoint a new head of the National Anti-corruption Directorate (DNA), and annul amendments to the Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Code. The European Commission’s First Vice-President Frans Timmermans lamented the recent “regrettable regress related to amending the laws on justice, the magistrates’ independence, and the fight against corruption.” Justice Minister Teodor Toader criticized the report for containing double standards and political undertones.

Anti-corruption efforts were also hindered by the ad interim leadership of top anti-corruption agencies – the DNA and the Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT). After the dismissal of its top prosecutor Laura Kovesi in 2018, deputy chief prosecutors became DNA interim top leaders. While the DNA continued to work, these temporary appointments added uncertainty and vulnerability to the Directorate. Similarly, the DIICOT operated without a chief prosecutor several months until President Iohannis appointed Felix Banila, although DIICOT prosecutors criticized Banila for an “inexcusable and superficial knowledge” of the DIICOT’s activity. President Iohannis dismissed Banila on October 1, 2019 for lack of professionalism and credibility in a high-profile case.

Despite the uncertainty at top levels and lack of independence, the judiciary continued to prosecute high-level corruption-related offenses. The DNA focused primarily on recovering damages, with criminal files focused on high-ranking officials of the state, magistrates, policy officers, company managers, and officials in the education and health systems. The DNA sent to the courts case files with total estimated damages at €412 million, which was more than double that of 2017. The DNA received just 1,513 complaints from citizens, about half of the previous year. The number of yet unsolved files fell by 19% to 9,191. Further, in the first half of 2019, the High Court of Cassation solved three high-level corruption cases at first instance and settled four high-level corruption cases by final decision. The Public Ministry solved 2,065 corruption cases, and the DIICOT seized more than €1 billion in provisional measures related to tax evasion, €24 million in money laundering, and €10 million in smuggling.

The PREVENT system is an important deterrent to corruption in the public procurement process. It has analyzed 33,384 public procurement procedures and issued over 100 integrity warnings that amount to over €243 million.

The anti-corruption effort was partly derailed by the continued hounding of former DNA Chief Prosecutor Laura Kovesi, who was appointed as the first Chief Prosecutor of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office. Complaints against her included corruption-related offenses, accepting bribes and abuse of offices. Kovesi rejected the charges as intimidation attempts. The Superior Council of Magistrates president took issue with the “continuous and aggressive way” the allegations were pursued which serve to “intimidate and seriously affect” the independence of the prosecutors involved in solving a case which implicates Kovesi.
Citations:
Council of Europe, Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO)(2019): Follow-up Report to the Ad hoc Report on Romania (Rule 34). Greco-AdHocRep(2019)1, Strasbourg.

European Commission (2019): Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on Progress in Romania under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism. COM(2019) 499 final, Brussels (https://ec.europa.eu/info/files/progress-report-romania-2019-com-2019-393_en).
Slovakia
Corruption has been the most sensitive political problem undermining political stability and quality of democracy in Slovakia for some time. The revelations that have followed the murder of Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová have confirmed the prevalence of corruption in the country. Despite widespread public dissatisfaction with corruption, as evidenced by the mass demonstrations in 2018 and the election of Zuzana Čaputová as president in March 2019, the Pellegrini government has been slow to improve integrity mechanisms. The government has not embraced the comprehensive recommendations proposed early on by the new initiative Chceme Veriť (We Want to Believe), which was launched by several leading NGOs (Fair-Play Alliance, VIA IURIS, Slovak Governance Institute, Human Rights League, Open Society Foundation, Pontis Foundation and Stop Corruption foundation). Instead, the government has largely confined itself to updating its anti-corruption strategy in a routine manner. Its anti-corruption strategy for 2019 – 2023, as approved in December 2018, has remained rather vague.
Citations:
Council of Europe, Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) (2019): Evaluation Report Slovak Republic. GrecoEval5Rep(2018)9. Strasbourg (https://rm.coe.int/grecoeval5rep-2018-9-final-eng-slovakrep-public/168096d061).

OECD (2019): Tackling Fraud and Corruption Risks in the Slovak Republic: A Strategy with Key Actions for the European Structural and Investment Funds. Paris.
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Cyprus
Numerous cases of corruption resulted in the conviction of officials and others since 2014. However, the EU urged Cyprus in 2019 to accelerate the pace of reforms and strengthen the capacity of law enforcement, as provided in an 2017 anti-corruption national plan.

GRECO observed in 2018 that only two out of 16 anti-corruption recommendations from 2016 were implemented. Cyprus tops the list of countries regarding non-compliance to recommendations on issues relating to parliamentarians and holds a poor record of overall compliance. On issues in which GRECO considered implementation satisfactory, such as party financing, practice revealed loopholes and problems in policies that seriously affect efficiency.

In 2019, the European Commission observed that the adoption of laws for an independent anti-corruption agency and whistleblower protection were still pending. Though introduced years ago, we note that no evaluation mechanisms or reports exist on the implementation of codes of conduct for the public service and ministers.

The credibility of anti-corruption efforts was severely tarnished when convicted politicians were freed before completing half of their sentences. Also, official reactions to criticism on the citizenship-by-investment scheme and other issues tend to deflect attention from the substance of the problem and its potential to induce corruption.
Citations:
1. Cyprus amongst worst offenders in corruption report, 26 June 2019, https://www.news.cyprus-property-buyers.com/2019/06/26/cyprus-amongst-worst-offenders-corruption-report/id=00156859
2. ‘Unfair for Cyprus to be singled out for golden visa criticism,’ Cyprus Mail, 1 December 2018, https://cyprus-mail.com/2018/12/18/unfair-for-cyprus-to-be-singled-out-for-golden-visa-criticism/
Hungary
Corruption is one of the central problems of Hungary. 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 large-scale 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). By 2019, Mészáros, a close friend of Orbán, has become the richest man in Hungary. In the period under review, the case of Zsolt Borkai, the mayor of Győr, attracted a lot of attention. 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. 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 European Union. 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 collected signatures to join the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, refused by the Hungarian government.
Citations:
Szűcs, Á. (2019): Hungary at the top of OLAF’s fraud statistics, in: Index, September 3 (https://index.hu/english/2019/09/03/hungary_at_the_top_of_olaf_fraud_statistics/).
 
Public officeholders can exploit their offices for private gain as they see fit without fear of legal consequences or adverse publicity.
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Turkey
Both the legal framework and the institutional structure continues to allow undue executive influence in the investigation and prosecution of high-profile corruption cases, and need to be improved in line with international standards. The limited accountability and transparency of public institutions remains a matter of concern. The absence of a robust anti-corruption strategy and action plan is a sign of the lack of political will to decisively tackle corruption. The Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) recommendations have not been implemented.

An amendment to legislation relating to the audit court has limited the degree to which state expenditures can be audited. Public-procurement safeguards have been undermined by legislation that allows 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 or appointed public officials.

Law No. 657 on Civil Servants and Law No. 5393 on Municipalities, among other laws, include principles and rules of integrity. The asset-declaration system was established in 1990 by Law No. 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.

There is a high risk of corruption in public procurement. Tender notices and business opportunities are published on the website of the Public Procurement Authority. Companies are recommended to use a specialized public procurement due diligence tool to mitigate corruption risks related to public procurement in Turkey. Procurement legislation has been amended 186 times since 2002.

Impunity for corrupt officials is widespread. Turkey’s land administration has made progress in terms of reducing 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.

Turkey’s Financial Crimes Investigation Board (MASAK), established in 1996, is a main service unit of the Ministry of Finance within the scope of Law No. 5549 on Prevention of Laundering Proceeds of Crime and Financing of Terrorism. In 2018, based on suspicious transaction reports, 35,649 financial transactions with a total value of approximately TRY 800 million were suspended. The National Risk Assessment Report was prepared in compliance with Financial Action Task Force (FATF) methodology and submitted to FATF Secretariat at the end of 2018.

Turkey is a signatory to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, and the Council of Europe’s Criminal Law Convention on Corruption and Civil Law Convention on Corruption. The UNCAC and the Council of Europe conventions are not effectively used. Turkey is a member of GRECO, but its recommendations are not fully implemented. Turkey’s authorities do not have an established track record of successfully prosecuting high-level corruption. Turkey needs to adopt an anti-corruption strategy, which reflects the political will to effectively address corruption, and is underpinned by a credible and realistic action plan.
Citations:
European Commission, Turkey 2019 Report, Brussels, 29.5.2019, https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/files/20190529-turkey- report.pdf (accessed 1 November 2019)

TC Hazine ve Maliye Bakanlığı MASAK Faaliyet Raporu 2018, https://ms.hmb.gov.tr/uploads/2019/09/FAAL%C4%B0YET-RAPORU-v7.pdf (accessed 1 November 2019)

World Justice Project, Rule of Law Index 2019, https://worldjusticeproject.org/sites/default/files/documents/ROLI-2019-Reduced. pdf (accessed 1 November 2019)

Transparency International, Corruption Perception Index 2018, https://www.transparency.org/country/TUR (accessed 1 November 2019)

HSK Kararı, Türk Yargı Etiği Bildirgesi, https://www.resmigazete.gov.tr/eskiler/2019/03/20190314-4.pdf (accessed 1 November 2019)

Business Anti Corruption Portal, Turkey Corruption Report, https://www.ganintegrity.com/portal/country-profiles/turkey/ (accessed 1 November 2019)

The Global Competitiveness Report 2019, http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_TheGlobalCompetitivenessReport2019.pdf (accessed 1 November 2019)

TBMM Yolsuzluk Soruşturma Komisyonu Raporu’nun tam metni, 12 January 2015, http://odatv.com/tbmm-yolsuzluk-sorusturma-komisyonu-raporunun-tam-metni-1201151200.html (accessed 1 November 2017)

Sayıştay’ın yayınladığı rapor AKP’li belediyelerin borçlarını ortaya çıkardı, 10 October 2017, http://siyasihaber3.org/sayistay-in-yayinladigi-rapor-akp-li-belediyelerin-borclarini-ortaya-cikardi (1 November 2018)

GRECO, Third Evaluation Round Fourth Interim Compliance Report on Turkey ”Incriminations (ETS 173 and 191, GPC 2)” ”Transparency of Party Funding 4-8 December 2017,” https://rm.coe.int/third-evaluation-round-fourth-interim-compliance-report-on-turkey-incr/1680792e28 (1 November 2018)

T.C. Başbakanlık Kamu Görevlileri Etik Kurulu, 2017 Yılı Faaliyet Raporu, http://etik.gov.tr/faaliyetraporu_2017.pdf (1 November 2019)

Ö. F. Gençkaya, Conflict of Interest in Turkish Public Administration, 2009, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/304332439_Conflict_of_Interest (1 November 2019)

Ö.F. Gençkaya, “New Public Management Approach and Ethical Issues in Local Administrations in Turkey,” in New Public Management in Turkey: Local Government Reform, Y. Demirkaya (ed.), New York
&London, 2016, 157-76.

“The new scandal in Isle of Man’s documents: The court, unable to say ‘fake,’ decided ‘no evidence’,” http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/turkiye/1032616/Man_Adasi_belgelerinde_yeni_skandal___Sahte__diyemeyen_mahkeme__delil_olmaz__karari_verdi.html (accessed 1 November 2018)

“Turkey’s Halkbank Faces U.S. Charges as Tensions Mount,” 16 October 2019, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-10-15/halkbank-charged-in-six-count-indictment-with-fraud-laundering (1 November 2019)

“Kamu İhale Yasası 16 yılda 186 kez değişti, yasaya göre mi ihale, ihaleye göre mi yasa!” 18 May 2018, http://t24.com.tr/haber/kamu-ihale-yasasi-16-yilda-186-kez-degisti-yasaya-gore-mi-ihale-ihaleye-gore-mi-yasa,638392 (accessed 1 November 2018)
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