The action of the High Authority is implemented in an international context marked with news and increasing attention to issues such as corruption, promotion of transparency in public life and integrity of public officials. The newsletter for May 2017 refers back to studies, reforms and efforts led to respond to such challenges, whether within international and civil society organizations or at the national level.
INTERNATIONAL & MULTILATERAL
Organization for economic cooperation and development
On 19 May, the OECD announced that Lithuania has completed the process to become a member of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and will become its 42nd member on 15 July. It joins 35 member countries of the OECD as well as South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Colombia and Russia.
Council of Europe
From 3 to 5 May 2017, the Group of States against corruption (GRECO) organized an evaluators’ training seminar in the framework of the fifth evaluation cycle on “preventing corruption and promoting integrity in central governments (top executive functions) and law enforcement agencies”. The approach was practical and the programme allowed covering assessment of codes of conduct, examples of conflicts of interests or incompatibilities, etc.
On 10 May, Germany ratified the Criminal law convention on corruption and its additional protocol. They will enter into force on 1 September 2017.
On 17 May, the United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, met the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland. The interview covered numerous aspects including the fight against corruption. The discussions concluded that the two organizations want to deepen and strengthen their cooperation.
The public consultation on whistleblowers’ protection opened by the Commission ended on 29 May. The objective was to collect information, points of views and experiences related to whistleblowers’ protection whether at the national level, within Member States, or at the EU level. This consultation takes place in the larger evaluation of needs at the European level, after the European parliament called, in plenary session on 14 February 2017, the Commission to take action for whistleblowers’ protection, after a press release of the Budgetary control committee in January 2017. They recommend the creation of a European independant agency with national offices in order to support whistleblowers.
EU anticorruption report
On 10 May, Carl Dolan, director of Transparency International EU, published a column on the non-publication of a second edition of the EU anticorruption report (2014), which should have gathered the reforms implemented by Member states in the field of the fight against corruption. This new edition should have been published in 2016, two years after the first report. The main criticism comes from the fact that the decision of non-publication of a new report was taken unilaterally by the Commission, without other stakeholders’ consultation.
From 23 to 25 May, experts of public procurement and fight against corruption from Europe, central Asia and Canada met in Kiev to participate in the 13th Procurement, Integrity, Management and Openness Forum (PRIMO forum), co-organized by the Ukrainian Government and the World Bank, on the following theme: “Government, Business, Civil Society: Fighting Corruption Together”. At the end of the conference, each country presented its reforms and progress over the past year and actions to be implemented. An action plan was drafted and its implementation will be monitored by the governments, the international organizations and the experts on public procurement.
On 11 May, the Sunlight Foundation published a guide to help local authorities to strengthen citizens’ participation through open data policies. If the document relies mainly on American experiences, the organization invites all users to enrich its content.
On 2 May, the High authority for good governance (HABG) met with Andrew Haviland, chargé d’affaires of the United States Embassy. The discussions covered the actions of the HABG and the support of the US Embassy on these projects. The objective was to assess progress since the interview of the HABG to present its missions to the American Embassy last year. Mr. Haviland highlighted that the action of the institution must be supported.
On 11 May, Andrew Haviland and the representative of the Ministry of Justice, Coulibaly Mahomed Vabé, launched a project for the promotion of transparency in Ivorian public spending. It aims at strengthening technical and operational capacities of the Court of Auditors and fostering cooperation with the National assembly of Côte d’Ivoire in the framework of the control of the implementation of the finance law. 375 000 dollars were allocated to this project.
On 10 May, the National office for the fight against fraud and corruption (OFNAC) launched works for the identification of risks of corruption in the field of exploitation of forest resources with the actor of the sector, in order to prevent risks of fraud and corruption in this area. The discussions will result in the production of an action plan allowing to solve a certain number of identified difficulties.
On 9 May, The United States of America suspended their 20 million dollar support to Kenyan healthcare services because of corruption and absence of control procedures in the services of the Health Ministry. This is a consequence of a scandal of embezzlement of about 50 million dollars and the strike of doctors and nurses. The Embassy will keep cooperating with the services but it will no longer financially support the services or the organization of study visits and other projects.
On 14 May, the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of South Africa, Jeff Radebe, launched a public consultation to draft the first national anticorruption strategy of the country. In his speech, he highlighted the importance of building a strong anticorruption system, strengthening accountability and responsibility of civil servants, creating a transparent and reactive civil service and strengthening governance of the Judiciary and the Rule of Law. He also reiterated the determination of the Government to fight corruption.
Middle East and North Africa
From 1 to 5 May, during the Tunisian week at the European Parliament, Federica Mogherini, High representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy, re-asserted the support of the EU to Tunisia in its democratic transition, notably in the field of reforms of the public administration, the judiciary and in the fight against corruption.
On 10 May, the civil society organization International Crisis Group published a report on the situation in Tunisia: “Blocked Transition: Corruption and Regionalism in Tunisia.” It concluded that clientelism is still frequent and undermines the economic development of the country. For the organization, the pursuit of the democratic transition and the economic recovery of the country rely upon deepening the dialogue and reforms undertaken with political and trade union leaders, but also with influential personalities in business, including from marginalized regions that gain power in the political and social local life. Indeed, deepening regional inequalities tends to democratize corruption and paralyze reforms. Taking into account these actors could allow equilibrating the situation.
On 11 May, the commission for the organization of the administration and armed forces of the People’s representatives assembly adopted an organic bill on the institution for good governance and fight against corruption (IBOGOLUCC). Chawki Tabib, president of the current national institution for the fight against corruption (INLUCC), stressed that this project limits the prerogatives of the future institution, as well as its independence and means.
On 13 May, more than two thousand people protested against a draft corruption facts amnesty law mentioned by President Béji Caïd Essebsi during a speech, on Wednesday 10 May. This reconciliation project would have aimed at pardoning businesspersons and former leaders against reimbursement to the State of the unduly earned amounts and an additional financial penalty.
On 15 and 16 May, the INLUCC and the French Embassy, with the support of the French development agency and the French institute, organized the first French-Tunisian days against corruption. These two days of discussions constituted a forum to share experiences and good practices, in the field of risk management as well as detection, repression and prevention of corruption facts.
On Monday 22 May, the Head of Government, Youssef Chahed, launched a vast operation « clean hands », notably with the arrest of the businessman Chafik Jarraya. On 29 May, a dozen of persons were under house arrest and the assets of seven of them were frozen. On 26 May, in a survey, about 92% of the population was in favor of the action launched by the Head of Government.
On 15 May, in a press release, the prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, stated that Minister Bardish Chagger would be tasked with nominating the next Conflicts of interests and Ethics Commissioner of Canada, in order for the procedure to remain neutral. Indeed, Mary Dawson, the current commissioner whose mandate will end on 8 July, opened investigations on the Prime Minister’s Christmas holidays on the Aga Khan’s private island in the Bahamas.
On 18 May, in a document transmitted to the federal court, Vic Toews, former federal Minister of Canada and now judge at the Court of Queen’s Bench Manitoba, challenged the conclusions in the report of the Federal commissioner for conflicts of interest and ethics. He asked that they are annulled for being inaccurate and because he was not able to answer them. Last month, Ms. Dawson concluded in her report that the former Minister had breached the law on conflicts of interests twice.
In Québec, on 18 May, the National assembly chose its new Ethics and deontology commissioner to succeed Jacques Saint-Laurent. He had been the first to occupy such functions since 2010 and his five-year mandate had already ended in 2016. Ariane Mignolet, who was the Head of Legal at the National assembly, will succeed him and will be tasked with upholding the Code of Ethics and deontology to the members of the Assembly.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
On 6 May, during a presentation of the familial real estate company Kushner Companies, Nicole Kushner Mayer, the sister of Jared Kushner, the President of the United States’ son-in-law, mentioned her brother in front of Chinese investors when she was asking a 150-million dollars investment from them. The New York Times and the Washington Post perceived it as an infringement to the dispositions taken by Jared Kushner when he left the familial enterprise to avoid any conflict of interests with his functions at the White House. After a potential conflict of interests was mentioned, the company apologized in a press release on 8 May.
On 16 May, the Office of congressional ethics opened investigations on the role of the representative Chris Collin in the solicitation of investments for an Australian biotech company. Indeed, he is the major shareholder of the group and was the object of several complaints to this independent office in charge with controlling ethics of the members of the Congress. According to the complaints, he would have used information gained in the exercise of his public mandate for private purposes.
In a column of 18 May, and following the publication of the annual report of the organization, Global Integrity executive director, Alan Hudson, got back on the four first months of Donald Trump’s Presidency and on the last events in the United States – such as the dismissal of the director of the FBI – in the field of transparency and good governance. He highlighted the need to give answers to current challenges on the American soil in the field of governance. Even if he did not pretend to have all the solutions, the tools that have been developed by Global Integrity at the national and local levels may bring some answers: integrity assessments, treasure hunts for fiscal governance, the “Money in Politics” project, led notably with the Sunlight foundation and which included the United States in its 2015 edition, etc. He asked for an open dialogue and cooperation of all on these issues.
On 28 April, the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), an independent agency monitoring ethics within the American executive branch and chaired by Walter M. Shaub Jr., sent to all executive agencies a communication request to obtain copies of waivers granted to lobbyists to allow them to work at the White House or in Government agencies. On 17 May, the White House sent a letter to the OGE director to ask him to withdraw his request, questioning the legal basis for such request and the prerogatives of the office. The director asserted that he would not withdraw his demand facing such an unprecedented move from the White House.
On 10 May, four days after new accusations from Petrobras former manager who pretends the ex-President of Brazil was fully aware of the existence of a vast corruption Network, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was heard at the Curitiba Court for corruption during more than five hours by the Judge Sergio Moro. He is accused of received bribes under the form of a triplex flat in a Brazilian seaside resort. After the audience, he gave a speech, in front of a few thousands protesters who gathered in support of the ex-President, in which he denied soliciting or receiving any flat. Beyond the triplex, prosecutors suspect him of receiving 3,6 million reais (about a million euros) from a construction company, OAS. The verdict will fall around 20 June. He is targeted in five cases, in the framework of the « Car Wash » scandal that revealed the existence of a vast corruption and public procurement manipulation network. A few days before, his former Chief of staff, Jose Dirceu, was also prosecuted again for receiving 2,4 million reais from two engineering companies, after being condemned over the past year to 32 years in jail for corruption.
On 17 May, President Temer was also embroiled in the “Car Wash” scandal following the diffusion of secret recordings that involved him, one year after he took office after Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment. The recordings were the property of top executives of a company that is also involved in this scandal and seemed to demonstrate that the President bought Eduardo Cunha’s silence, after the latter was condemned to a 15-year imprisonment sentence in March. The opposition immediately asked for his impeachment or resignation. He denied the information in a press release and refused to resign. The Supreme Court gave its authorization to open investigations on the Chief of State who asked for the suspension of the probe on 20 May. Protests tool place on 18 May and the following days urging him to resign. On 19 May, Jean-Jacques Kourliandsky, researcher at the Institut de Relations internationales et stratégiques (IRIS), published a column analyzing the situation.
In parallel, an article dated 12 May of Transparency International, got back on the launch of a new online tool in April 2017. Indeed, the whole documentation related to the “Car Wash” (Lava jato) scandal was made easily accessible thanks to a new instrument developed by a Brazilian data-journalism start-up: “Lava JOTA ”. It was already visited 150 000 times in a month. The objective is to allow all citizens, not only experts, lawyers and journalists, to know who is involved in this scandal and how.
On 8 May, the Malaysian anticorruption commission launched a new operation aiming at changing citizens’ attitude in order to make corruption their number one enemy. In order to do so, 2 000 agents of the commission will go and meet citizens (about 20 000 persons a month) to inform them about its missions. Indeed, without citizens’ alerts, the commission cannot open investigations.
PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA
On 17 May, The Conversation published an article of Zhiqiong June Wang, associate dean and senior lecturer at the Western Sidney University on the fight against corruption and the Rule of Law in China. The article highlighted the role of the Communist Party of China Disciplinary Inspection Commissions, the most powerful institution in the field of the fight against corruption in the country. Recently, there was an initiative to create a new authority, a supervising commission in parallel of the executive and judiciary powers, to merge all authorities that have missions related to the fight against corruption. Nonetheless, the prerogatives that would be given to this commission are redundant with some of the missions implemented by other authorities, which, for the author, could lead to inconsistencies.
On 22 May, China announced the launch of a project to strengthen transparency in local authorities in 100 districts and counties in 15 regions of the country. These districts will create to make local government documents accessible.
REPUBLIC OF KOREA
On 2 May, during a preliminary hearing, Park Geun-hye’s lawyers denied all accusations about the former President of the Republic of Korea who was impeached in December 2016 following a scandal of corruption and influence peddling in the center of which was her confident, Choi Soon-sil. Ms. Choi is accused to have benefited from her relations with the President to ask for large amounts to Korean conglomerates. The heir of the Samsung group, Lee Jae-Yong, and the President of Lotte, Shin Dong-Bin, were also prosecuted in this scandal. Ms. Park and Ms. Choi are suspected of receiving more than 7 billion wons (5,5 million euros) in 2016 from Mr. Shin. The ex-president was charged in April with 18 counts and is currently being detained. On 23 May, she appeared for the first time in the Seoul Central District Court, in a trial that should last several months.
On 9 May, the presidential election following her destitution took place and allowed Moon Jae-in, former Human rights lawyer, to be elected. During the campaign, corruption appeared as a major concern for Korean citizens. During his campaign, Moon, who knows the Blue House as a chief of staff of a former President, Roh Moo-Hyun, from 2003 to 2008, promised to reduce the influence of big conglomerates such as Samsung in the public life of the country.
On 19 May, the Law on the creation of the Criminal Asset Recovery Office was published. It creates an autonomous specialized agency within the National anticorruption center (NAC) of Moldova. It will be able to track, freeze and recover assets that were illegally obtained, notably from corruption facts or money laundering. It will also rely upon international cooperation with agencies with similar missions abroad.
On 26 May, the mayor of Chisinau was detained by the anticorruption prosecutors and NAC officers over suspicions of influence peddling in a paid parking affair, an offence punishable with a 3 to 7-year imprisonment sentence. After the hearings, it was found that the mayor would have given directions to the deputy mayor, who at that time was chairman of the Commission for the selection of the companies that would implement the parking project in Chisinau, to sign the contract with an Austrian firm without the approval of the municipal council. Moreover, the mayor illegally endorsed the urban design certificates of the project and the head of the Urban Transport and Communications Directorate had confidential meetings with the company that later won the tender in which the tender was discussed, as well as the mayor’s participation in the contract and a “bonus” for the provided services.
On 3 May, a commission of the Romanian Senate had adopted an amendment to pardon a few persons convicted for influence peddling or accepting bribes, only three months after large protests that led to the resignation of the Minister of Justice and to the revocation of a law decriminalizing certain corruption facts. The Prime Minister immediately reacted to assert that the Government did not support the amendment. Several hundreds of protestors gathered in the streets of Bucharest in the evening. On the day after, the Senate finally decided that corruption could not be subject to an amnesty.
On 10 May and after months of negotiations, the majority PS-CdH members of the Parliament and the opposition (Reformist movement) of the Wallonia-Brussels federation find an agreement for the adoption of a decree to strengthen transparency in the composition and functioning of Ministers’ cabinets. The Reformist movement was at the initiative of the text, which will oblige the government to annex to the initial budget the list of members of cabinets, detailing their names, functions, date of entry and end of functions, their status (appointed or seconded by their administration), the number of persons that are employed and the total wage cost. The Court of Auditors will monitor annually the accounts of the cabinets, and twice during each legislature the legality and regularity of their expenses.
On 17 May, after a controversy rooted in a situation in which the President of the Assembly, Mr. Bracke, was, the Federal ethics commission issued an opinion. Members of the Parliament must declare all the revenues from their secondary activities and ask for prior authorization before undertaking a new one. The commission also recommends limiting the amount of authorized revenues from annex activities: holding more than one office must remain the exception. Last, with regard to the situation of the President of the Assembly, it called on the president to withdraw from the session in which a conflict of interest has been signaled on the topics to be discussed.
In May 2017, the global law firm Norton Rose Fulbright published an analysis on the changing anticorruption landscape in the country. If it started from the OECD concerns in 2012 and 2014 in the field, it highlighted nonetheless the progress over the last years with the first foreign bribery convictions in February 2017 notably, and with the laws of 2013 and 2015. The latter brought a significant contribution by exempting from criminal prosecutions legal persons justifying the existence of a prevention or compliance program within the organization.
Nonetheless, on 18 May, Transparency international published an article on the need for Spain to put an end to the systemic corruption in the country, notably considering the number of scandals over the last years. Indeed, Spain suffered from one of the most important downgrading in the corruption perceptions index (with a loss of 7 points since 2012). It called for the appointment of a fully independent anticorruption prosecutor. It recommended that political parties stop considering that corruption is part of the political and electoral battle. More broadly speaking, the legal framework for the fight against corruption remains to be strengthened according to the civil society organization.
A few weeks ahead of the general elections, Transparency International United Kingdom published a manifesto for the future government: “Fighting corruption: a manifesto for a more secure, prosperous and resilient UK”. It is articulated around 5 priorities. The first one, related to the anticorruption framework, called for the adoption of the first national anticorruption strategy and the appointment of Minister in charge of monitoring its implementation. The second got back on the creation of an ultimate beneficiary register. The third one called for the strengthening of the control of political life financing and the fourth one for the generalization of practices of publication of public procurement data. Last, the British chapter of the organization calls on the Government to be a leader on the international stage in the field of the fight against corruption.
On 19 May, the European Investigative Collaboration (EIC), a network in which cooperate Médiapart and a dozen other European news media, published documents: the « Malta files ». They reveal the Maltese fiscal practices. Two distinct sets of documents were published: on the one hand, internal documents of an office specialized in registering and managing societies and on the other hand, the Excel sheet of the Maltese trade registry on 20 September 2016. One can find the names of directors of companies, multinationals or Heads of State as in the Panama Papers. Médiapart assessed the loss at 2 billion euros a year for European fiscal administrations because of the fiscal optimization allowed by the Maltese system, which should be reviewed by 2021.
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