The actions of the High Authority are carried out in an international context marked by current events and growing attention regarding issues of corruption, the promotion of transparency in public life, and the integrity of public officials. The 7th international newsletter reviews the efforts, reforms, and studies conducted to meet these challenges, both within international organizations and civil society and at the national level.
INTERNATIONAL & MULTILATERAL
Organization of economic cooperation and development
On 18 July, the directorate for public governance and territorial development (GOV) of the OECD published the 2017 edition of « Government at a Glance ». This annual publication constitutes a dashboard of indicators and performance data in the public sectors of member and partner countries of the OECD, allowing to draw international comparisons. The 2017 edition tackles public spending, employment and payments in the public sector, gender equality, institutions, their performance indicators and degree of openness to citizens, budgeting practices and processes and integrity in the public sector. In this field, the publication highlights that the vast majority of countries adopted tools to monitor integrity in the public sector, but the coherence of the national integrity system often has to be strengthened, as they do not focus enough on risk analyses and expected public policy outcomes.
Council of Europe
On 5 July, the Group of states against corruption (GRECO), entity of the Council of Europe, published a report on transparency of political parties funding in Sweden. Six out of the ten recommendations of the GRECO made in 2009 have been fully implemented and four only partially. The report notably welcomed the adoption of a new legislation in this field in 2014; nonetheless, the reports of political parties remain limited to revenues and do not include expenses, assets and liabilities of parties.
On 6 July, the GRECO published a compliance report for Germany, which was adopted in March 2017, in the framework of the fourth evaluation round on prevention of corruption for members of the Parliament, prosecutors and judges. The conclusions were that Germany implemented in a satisfying way three out of eight recommendations formulated by the GRECO. Even if ethics handbooks were drafted for prosecutors and judges, the recommendations for members of the Parliament faced a degree of resistance. Yet, the GRECO believes that Germany should adopt measures aiming at better regulating conflicts of interests and rules of conduct for members of the Parliament.
EU Ombudsman : On 17 July, the European ombudsman asked the European Commission to answer nine questions to understand how the ad hoc ethics committee regulates post-public employment for members of the Commission. If she welcomes President Juncker’s will to strengthen the code of ethics applicable to commissioners, she wants to know if it is sufficient to enforce the obligations on commissioners during and after the end of their functions and to ensure transparency of the opinions adopted by the Ethics committee.
On 17 July, Transparency International published an article during the United Nations’ High Level Political Forum on sustainable development. This forum, which took place from 10 to 19 July, was the occasion to exchange about progress and reforms in the different countries on the 17 sustainable development goals to reach by 2030. Goal number 16 includes involvement to fight corruption and increase transparency in the public sector. This objective will not be subject to review before 2019, but Transparency International stresses the importance of monitoring this goal, corruption being one of the main impediments to sustainable development.
On 6 July, in the framework of the ill-gotten gains affair, the trial of Téodorin Obiang, son of the President of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea and promoted vice-president by his father in June, ended. He is accused of laundering funds originating from assets misappropriation, embezzlement, breach of trust and corruption. The investigations were opened upon complaints from Transparency International France and Sherpa, two French NGO’s. They allowed to uncover assets that could not be financed by Téodorin Obiang’s incomes, according to the prosecutor. The Financial national prosecutor called for a 3 year-imprisonment sentence, a 30 million euros fine and seizure of assets of more than 100 million euros, on 5 July. The judgement will be delivered by the Paris Criminal Court on 27 October.
From 11 to 14 July, the High Authority for good governance (HABG) met with 8 working groups to draft projects of decrees to allow the institution to fulfill its missions more efficiently and “restore a more investment-friendly business environment”. Discussions covered issues such as codes of conduct of civil servants, income, training and transparency in relations with citizens.
On 4 July, the anticorruption independent Bureau (BIANCO) of Madagascar presented its annual report. The results for 2016 were said to be “contrasted”. Investigations have hardly been followed by convictions from courts. In a context of increasing demands for independence of judges in the criminal justice system, a law was recently passed to isolate them from orders of the executive branch and increase their efficiency in the fight against corruption, which is present at all levels.
On 17 July, the Minister of Finance, M. Rakoarimanana who had managed to earn trust of the International Monetary Fund, resigned evoking a “lack of support” in a context marked by recent scandals of corruption for close allies to the Head of State and Prime minister. Indeed, Claudine Razaimamonjy, businesswomen and advisor to the President is suspected of embezzlement in subsidies that were attributed to cities, was recently arrested by the BIANCO. The investigations on the “Claudine case” have since expanded to members of the Government who had helped her to flee to Mauritius. In this context, the Minister’s resignation was perceived in the public opinion as a missed opportunity for a larger reshuffle.
On 18 July, about a hundred South-African civil society organizations met in a conference on the fight against corruption. The organizations highlighted the recurring problems of embezzlement and disrespect for the Constitution, in a context of corruption scandals and with the upcoming vote of confidence in Parliament, on 8 August, to President Zuma notably after the publication, last month, of hundreds of emails between the Gupta, a rich family of businessmen close to President Jacob Zuma, and members of the Government.
North Africa and Middle East
On 5 July, the members of the Assembly of the People’s representatives (ARP) adopted the fundamental law on common dispositions to all independent constitutional authorities, a provision that was criticized by the President of the National office for the fight against corruption (INLUCC), Chawki Tabib, in a press release on 13 July. He notably points at the fact that the law imposes a heavy control from the executive and legislative powers upon these independent institutions.
On 6 July, the members of the ARP also began the general debate of the bill on the constitutional instance for good governance and the fight against corruption. Several members of the ARP highlighted that the institution should not be linked in any way to the ARP in order to avoid any political exploitation from the parliamentary majority. The debate highlighted that it must be independent, but also that it must have mission and means to fulfill them.
On 18 July, The Prime Minister, Youssef Chahed, and the President of the INLUCC met to discuss this bill, an occasion for Chawki Tabib to stress that the constitutional instance for good governance and the fight against corruption must be fully independent to comply with the Constitution. The bill was adopted on 19 July, and heavily criticized by Chawki Tabib, who believes the new institution will be deprived from important missions and far from what was provided for in the Constitution.
The prime Minister intervened in front of the ARP, on 20 July, in the framework of the « clean hands » operation, launched at the end of May by the Tunisian government and which allowed numerous arrests and seizures. On this occasion, he re-stated his involvement to fight corruption, in the long run and at all levels, responding to his detractors that this « war » against corruption “is not and will never be selective”. On this occasion, he announced that the INLUCC would benefit from a supplementary 3 million dinars budget for the end of 2017.
On 14 July, La Presse published an article analyzing the data of the federal lobbying register in Canada. Registrations and reports are currently strongly increasing. On average 29 communications were declared daily under the Harper Government (but the obligation to declare them entered into force in August 2008). Today, it reaches 53 per day with the Trudeau Government. The figures of the lobbying Commissariat also highlight an increasing number of communications towards the majority of federal institutions, stressing a raising lobbying towards public officials.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
On 6 July, Walter Shaub, director of the Office of Government Ethics, resigned one year before the end of his mandate and after six months of exchanges with the President of the United States to try to avoid any conflict of interests at the White House. In his resignation letter, he stressed the necessary “public trust” and regrets the insufficiencies of the legislation regulating conflicts of interests in the United States.
On 17 July, a New York Court asked the President to publish the list of visitors at his Mar-a-Lago residency by 8 September. This decision follows an action led by the organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), concerned by the continuous flow of visits at Mar-a-Lago. This organization already announced that it would publish this list and would launch similar actions for the President’s golf club.
On 18 July, during a press conference, The House minority leader declared that Democrats are currently working on a series of legislative proposals to strengthen ethics in the public sector and elections transparency. Once more, this initiative aims at highlighting the ethics issues and potential conflicts of interests at the White House. The minority has consistently used instruments to force the Trump administration to make public a certain number of information and documents (Russia, President’s tax returns, etc.).
When Donald Trump Jr. was at the heart of controversy following the publication, on 11 July, of his exchanges with a Russian lawyer in order to act transparently, on 21 July, the advisor and son-in-law of President Trump, Jared Kushner, updated his financial interests’ disclosure. The new disclosure highlighted that he omitted to disclose dozens of financial holdings, inadvertently according to his lawyer. He also updated his questionnaire on national security, in which he had forgotten to declare a hundred calls and meetings with foreign representatives, a few days before his meeting behind closed doors with the Senate Intelligence Committee. The Washington Post took that opportunity to get back on measures adopted to prevent conflicts of interests and on gains generated by the past activities of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, including during their first months in office at the White House.
On 20 July, the Jamaican Senate approved the Integrity Commission bill, more than five years after the creation of a special committee on setting up a single anticorruption authority for the public sector. The bill was approved by the House on 31 January. The current Commission for prevention of corruption, Integrity Commission and the Office of the general controller will merge to create this commission.
On 3 July, the spokesperson of the Interior Ministry in Argentine announced that the Brazilian group Odebrecht will not be allowed to respond to call for tenders in the country during one year, considering its involvement in major corruption scandals spreading over Latin America.
On 6 July, the federal Brazilian Police announced shutting down the task force that was in charge of investigations in the vast operation « Car Wash », the most important corruption scandal that Brazil has ever known and that spread across 12 Latin-American countries. This decision intervened when President Temer himself faced charges for corruption in this vast affair. The prosecutors in charge of the operation published a press release stressing that this decision is a “clear setback”.
On 12 July, the anticorruption judge Sergio Moro sentenced the ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, known as Lula, to a 9 and a half-year jail time for money laundering and corruption. He was notably charged for accepting 3,7 million reals (about 1 million euros), including a triplex flat, from the company OAS in return of his action for the award of contracts with the oil company Petrobras. Lula, who has always denied receiving bribes, appealed the decision.
REPUBLIC OF KOREA
On 19 July, and as she is also subject to a distinct trial, the ex-president, Park Geun-hye, who was impeached following a scandal of influence peddling and corruption, refused again to testify for health reasons, in the corruption trial for Lee Jae-Yong, vice-president of Samsung Electronics. Mr. Lee is suspected of having paid about 40 million dollars in bribes to the ex-president’s confident, to get political favors. Four other managers are also being prosecuted. The judgement of this trial is expected at the end of August.
PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA
On 15 July, after four years in jail, the academic and anticorruption activist Xu Zhiyong, who was a founding member of the movement calling for more transparency on assets of public officials, was released after serving his sentence. He was convicted for “gathering a crowd to disturb public order” in 2013. The Head of Amnesty International China stressed in a press release that “the authorities must stop harassing or intimidating Xu Zhiyong and his family, and allow him to enjoy a freedom he was unfairly deprived of”.
On 10 July, la the Joint investigation team created by the Supreme Court released its report concluding that there are important disparities between declared incomes and Nawaz Sharif’s, Pakistani Prime Minister, standards of living. These investigations followed revelations on the prime Minister and his family in the framework of the Panama Papers (London luxury flats financed through offshore companies managed by the Mossack Fonseca office). The party of the Prime Minister as well as his daughter and political heir heavily criticized the conclusions of the report.
In this affair, on 21 July, the Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Zafar Hijazi, was arrested. He is suspected of tampering with documents in favor of the Prime Minister. Mr. Hijazi is the first person detained in the framework of this case, a few days after the investigation team found out undeclared assets to the tax administration by the Prime Minister.
On 28 July, the Pakistan Prime Minister was disqualified by the Supreme Court in the framework of the investigations that followed the Panama papers revelations. The ex-Petroleum Minister is now interim Prime Minister before Nawaz Sharif’s brother, Shahbaz Sharif, who has not been subject to corruption investigations and currently sits in a provincial Parliament of the center of Pakistan, may be appointed by the Parliament of Pakistan that will gather on 1 August.
On 18 July, the Commission for the eradication of corruption named the Speaker of the Indonesian Parliament, Setya Novanto, as a suspect of corruption in a bribe scandal involving several high-ranking public officials. This followed the embezzlement of about 150 million euros that had been allocated to the creation of a new electronic identity card system.
On 7 July, the law on integrity in the public sector entered into force in Moldova. The new law aims at anchoring a culture of integrity in the country and a zero-tolerance policy against corruption in the institutions. It aims at restoring citizens’ trust by showing them that public action is led in the general interest, including in the relations between public officials and representatives of the public sector.
Following the Publifin scandal, on 3 July, the investigative commission of the Parliament of Wallonia sent its report to the General prosecutor in Liège. It highlighted 15 pieces of evidence for criminal offences in the activities of Publifin, the inter-municipal group of Liège. A judicial investigation is already open. The Commission highlights that some facts could fall under the offences of illegal acquisitions of interests, breach of trust and misuse of assets, and concealment.
On 26 July, Mariano Rajoy, Spain Prime Minister , was called to court as a witness in a long-running graft trial, known as the Gurtel case. He had asked to testify by videoconference, but the Court rejected this request. The trial follows long investigations into several city councils led by the Partido Popular which allegedly received illegal financing from a network of companies. Mariano Rajoy has always denied receiving any illegal funds.
On 5 July, the Free International University for social studies (LUISS) the National Anticorruption Authority (ANAC) signed a memorandum of understanding to create a master’s program in compliance and prevention of corruption in the public and private sectors. This program is part of a broader involvement of the LUISS and the ANAC to anchor a culture of responsibility and civic sense. Inscriptions will open in September and the program will start in December 2017.
On 20 July, the Court in Rome condemned the 46 defendants of a major corruption trial known as “Mafia Capitale” that lasted two years and a half. It allowed to uncover a vast criminal network related to the City of Rome. In total, the defendants were condemned to some 250 years in prison for bribery, embezzlement, corruption, manipulation of public procurements, among others.
On 11 and 12 July, the General secretariat against corruption (GSAC) co-organized with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development the Greece Public Integrity Forum. This forum was the occasion to discuss current reforms in Greece, from prevention and management of conflicts of interests to whistleblowers’ protection, including political parties funding and open government, from a national and international point of view.
Mid-July, a new corruption scandal shook Ukraine. A member of President Petro Porochenko’s party, accused of receiving bribes, was protected from proceedings by the Rada, the Ukrainian Parliament, which voted to uphold his immunity. Boryslav Rosenblatt had been subject to investigations of the NABU, the national anticorruption bureau, for several months, upon suspicions of illegal taking of interests in the amber trafficking. At the end of 2016, an investigator from the NABU passed herself off as an intermediary and asked that amber extraction be regulated by law. The member of the Rada promised the law would be amended in this sense. In exchange, he asked the investigator to give 250 000 dollars in cash to his bodyguard, which she did and recorded. The videos were then made public. Despite such evidence, the members of the Rada voted to uphold his immunity.