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 9th 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
International Monetary Fund
On 18 September, Christine Lagarde, General Director of the International Monetary Fund, called for a better analysis and measure of corruption. The economic impact of bribes paid each year represent about 2% of the global growth direct product. « New methodologies are needed to better quantify and analyze the problem », the General Director said, yet acknowledging that corruption is by essence hidden and thus remains hardly measurable. She also highlighted the fact that the fight against corruption starts with implementing measures of transparency and accountability.
Council of Europe
On 28 September, the group of states against corruption (GRECO) published the addendum to the second compliance report in the framework of the third evaluation round with regard to incriminations and transparency of party funding. The GRECO notably welcomes the extension of the prescrption delay for corruption-related incriminations and evolutions introduced by the “Sapin II” law with regard to trading in influence in connection with foreign public officials or improving proceedings for corruption cases or trading in influence at a transnational level notably. With regard to transparency of party funding, the GRECO noted progress but regretted that reforms remain limited, notably in terms of monitoring.
During his speech on the state of the Union, on 13 September, the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, presented the new code of conduct for European commissioners, strengthening ethical rules and control of revolving doors, as announced in November 2016, following the appointment of José Manuel Barroso, his predecessor, at Goldman Sachs. Indeed, the cooling off period currently of 18 months, will be extended to two years for Commissioners and three for the President. The notion of conflict of interests is defined for the first time and the code highlights that Commissioners must avoid any situation that would place them or give the appearance to place them in a conflict of interests. The Commissioners will have to disclose any investment or asset valued above 10 000 euros. In cases of conflicts of interests, the President will be able to ask the asset or interest is abandoned or placed in a blind trust. Issue that had also been the object of several complaints to the European Ombudsman, information with regard to travel expenses will be published every two months. The Parliament is being consulted on this text that will enter into force on 1 February 2018.
On the same day, in a press release, the European ombudsman welcomed the strengthening of the ethical rules for Commissioners, in direct line with the recommendations that she had previously drafted notably on the publication of positions of the Ethical Committee, extension of the cooling off period and publication of travel expenses. On the last topic, an inquiry of the Ombudsman is still open and this new code of conduct will be considered in the analysis of the facts and answers of the Commission.
On 14 September, the European Parliament adopted in plenary session the Green member of the European Parliament Sven Giegold’s own-initiative report on “transparency, accountability and integrity in the EU institutions”. The report notably demanded that information on all procedures are accessible to the public. He also reported that if all interest representatives who meet European Commissioners must be registered on the Transparency register, the process is done on a voluntary basis at the European Parliament but the amendment suggested to align both procedures was not adopted.
On 20 September, Politico.eu published an article on Markus Ferber’s potential violation of the code of ethics of members of the European Parliament. Earlier this year, he had invited through his member of the European Parliament credentials and emails big asset management companies to present them a product able to search, compare and analyze the risk associated to different financial instruments, a tool that would satisfy the prerequisites included in the new directive on financial instruments markets (MiFID II) that will enter into force on 1 January 2018 and that he was the European Parliament lead negotiator for. This product was created by a foundation that he co-founded. He did not formally disclose involvement in its activities, asserting that he receives no benefit or payment for his activities. Following the publication of this article, Transparency International European Union called on the European Parliament to clarify this situation and sanction Mr. Ferber should a violation of the code of ethics be ascertained, the occasion for the civil society organization to recall that the committee tasked with controlling potential violations of the code of conduct adopted recommendations in 12 cases of violations, none of which resulted in sanctions for the members of the European Parliament concerned.
Open Government Partnership
On 19 September, in parallel of the United Nations General Assembly, the Open Government Partnership organized a side event on « Rebuilding trust in Government». The Chief executive officer of the OGP, Sanjay Pradhan, opened the event calling on Governments to put citizens first. The speeches of the French President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, for the outgoing co-presidency of the OGP, and of the Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, for the incoming co-presidency, highlighted the involvement and openness of the French and Georgian governments. A few hours after the end of the United Nations General Assembly, Canada announced it would take the co-presidency for 2017-2018, after Georgia, on three priorities: inclusion, participation and impact.
On 19 September, Transparency International published its tracker for the 453 commitments of the 43 States and 6 international organizations that were present at the London anticorruption Summit in May 2016. The Heads of States had then asked to assess the reforms undertaken on the occasion of the 2017 United Nations General Assembly. The common theme for most of them, following the Panama Papers revelations, was to create a beneficial ownership registry but only 13% of such commitments have been implemented. Nonetheless, Transparency International noted that on tax transparency (30% of promises implemented) and whistleblowers’ protection (36%) more successes can be acknowledged.
On 23 September, the prosecution office of Nairobi ordered that the police and the anticorruption agency opened an investigation, to be completed within three weeks, on alleged “irregularities and illegalities” oh the Independent electoral (IEBC) in the framework of the presidential elections of August 2017, invalidated on 1 September. Considering the investigation is open, a new election has been delayed until 26 October and must take place before 31 October.
On 19 September, the new Minister for good governance and childhood protection promised to act with transparency and efficiency in her new duties. She notably stressed that she wants to “entrench the notions of transparency, accountability, efficiency, efficacy, and citizens’ participation at the core of the daily functioning” of her ministry.
On 21 September, the President of the National office for the fight against fraud and corruption (OFNAC), Seynabou Ndiaye Diakhaté, when she was receiving a delegation of evaluators of the intergovernmental group of action against money laundering in West Africa (GIABA), renewed her commitment for the cooperation of the OFNAC with sub-regional institution monitoring and fighting money laundering. This meeting was notably the occasion of share the experience and challenges that the OFNAC has been facing for five years.
After the failures of several votes of no confidence, on 5 September, several opposition parties asked the the Constitutional Court to constrain the Parliament to open an impeachment procedure against President Jacob Zuma, considering the numerous corruption allegations that he faces. During two years, Jacob Zuma refused to reimburse public expenses for modernization works in one of his private residencies in the East of the country. Following a Constitutional Court ruling declaring him guilty of violation of the Constitution in 2016, he nonetheless had to pay back half-a-million euros.
On 14 September, at the Supreme Court of Appeal of Bloemfontein, the South African prosecution office and the President’s lawyers conceded it was irrational to abandon charges against the President in a case that has been lasting for more than a decade. Both parties appealed a 2016 decision from a Court in Pretoria with regard to 783 charges of corruption, fiscal fraud, and extortion against Jacob Zuma. A decision of the Supreme Court to reinstate the charges would open the possibility of a trial against the President, who is accused of receiving bribes in 1999 in the framework of the signature of an armament contract worth 4,2 billion euros with European firms.
On 27 September, following call from the Cosatu, powerful trade unions confederation and ally of the presidential party, thousands of protestors gathered in the main cities of the country to protest against corruption and Jacob Zuma’s presidency. The succession of the President, who is finishing his last mandate and could see his ex-wife replace him, at the ANC was also targeted.
Middle East and North Africa
On 11 September, The People’s representatives Assembly (ARP) voted its confidence to Youssef Chahed’s national union government, following a reshuffle. He reasserted his commitment to fight against corruption and be surrounded by a “war government” within which no allegation of corruption can be tolerated.
On 13 September, after tensed debates, the ARP adopted an amnesty law for civil servants involved in corruption cases under the Ben Ali regime that was presented in 2015 by the President of the Republic, Béji Caïd Essebsi. Following important protests, the bill was amended to only cover civil servants charged for involvement in administrative corruption cases and who did not receive bribes, but the opposition and civil society organizations denounced such impunity, in a country where corruption is judged to be endemic.
On 31 August, the Moroccan Government decided to delay the adoption of the decrees creating a national anticorruption commission and a national commission for the monitoring of the implementation of the national anticorruption strategy.
On 13 September, Justin Trudeau, prime Minister of Canada, ended a preparatory meeting to the new parliamentary session of his cabinet by answering to journalists with regard to his Christmas holidays expenses in Bahamas that are currently being investigated by the Commissioner on conflicts of interests and ethics. CBC news, under the Access to information Act, was allowed to consult a document disclosing 215 000$ expenses for the services of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the directorate for National defense, Global Affairs Canada and the Privy Council. The Government recalled that this expenses cover mostly security costs that would have been paid whatever the destination.
In April, the Federal office of the Conflicts of interest and ethics Commissioner stated that former Minister Vic Toews violated twice the Conflict of Interest Act. Now he is a Manitoba Judge, the Canadian Judicial Council had opened an investigation on him. It was suspended until the Constitutional court pronounce its decision as Mr. Toews challenges Ms. Dawson’s procedure. Indeed, according to his lawyer, “[Ms. Dawson] denied my client basic civil rights or rights under what lawyers call natural justice laws.” The hearing should not be scheduled before January 2018.
In Quebec, on 13 September, the new Ethics Commissioner of the National Assembly renounced to three investigations to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest, notably as in her former position as a head of legal of the National Assembly, she sat in management committees that could be related to the considered cases. She asked her predecessor, Jacques Saint-Laurent, to lead the investigations on these cases of potential use of Assembly agents by elected officials for partisan purposes.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
On 6 September, the corruption trial of Democrat Senator Robert Menendez started. The prosecutor defined 14 charges against the senator over a period from 2006 to 2013. Against awarding a contract and other advantages to Dr. Salomon Melgen, he would have benefitted from private jet flights, stays in luxury hotels and a 750 000 dollar campaign contribution. The trial could last six months. If he is convicted, considering the current Senate composition, there would be high political pressure for his resignation.
On 13 September, the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) published its special report on ethics waivers and authorizations granted in the executive branch, including at the White House, between 1 May 2016 and 30 April 2017. This report followed demands for access to information addressed to agencies and administrations on 28 April. Some cases were the object of complementary requests for information or recommendations with regard to abstention or prevention of conflicts of interests.
On 24 September, Politico published an article on the fact that Jared Kushner, President Trump’s advisor and son-in-law, used a private messenger account in the framework of some his official functions, as other public officials of the Trump administration. The use of a private messenger service has cast doubt on his correspondence, about a hundred emails according to his lawyer that could be subtracted to the usual archive rules applicable to public officials. On 28 September, an internal inquiry of the White House was opened to verify Ivanka Trump’s and Jared Kushner’s private accounts, both in the framework of investigations on potential links with Russia and to establish if confidential information have been exposed.
On 27 September, the Center for responsive politics published an update of the positions of former members of the 113th Congress of the United States of America. Out of the 75 members who did not regain their seat in 2014, 41 have a new position. The results highlight that the majority of them is now employed by lobbying firms, about a quarter by private companies. 7% joined federal agencies.
On 31 August, the American Justice gave its green light to the extradition of the former President of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli, accused of corruption and spying on 150 political opponents in his home country and now living in Florida since 2015. His extradition to Panama now depends on the American administration. This decision was welcomed by Transparency international, which additionally called for an extension of the scope of the investigations.
On 4 September, the former Finance Minister of President Lula, Antonio Palocci, declared to the judge Sergio Moro that Lula concluded a “blood pact” between his party and the Odebrecht company that would have resulted in more than 150 million dollar bribes. This ex-minister was already condemned to more than twelve years of imprisonment for corruption. He stated that he recommended that the President did not accept the offer of Odebrecht but the latter met the managers of the company with Dilma Rousseff, to whom he advised to keep the relations with Odebrecht whether they are legal or illegal, once she got elected. Lula rejected these accusations, at a moment when he is also facing allegations of corruption in five other cases.
On 14 September, the Brazilian police searched the house of the Minister for Agriculture, Blairo Maggi, in the framework of a vast anticorruption operation (64 searches), on the basis of a Supreme Court warrant. He is accused of obstruction to justice in a corruption and money laundering probe in which President Temer was also accused, but managed to avoid a trial at the beginning of August, by securing a majority in a vote at the Chamber of Deputies. The Minister denied any obstruction or involvement.
In this context, on 18 September, Raquel Dodge, appointed by President Temer, became the first women to be appointed at the head of the General Prosecutor’s office of Brazil. She inherited numerous corruption cases at the highest levels of the State, including against the current President as her predecessor, Rodrigo Janot, charged again the President on 14 September, for obstruction to justice and involvement in a criminal organization. The targeted corruption network would have allowed involved officials within the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party to receive a total of 160 million euros in bribes. These charges have to be analyzed by the Federal Supreme Court. In addition, on 12 September, in another case that he faces, the Supreme Court gave its green light to the opening of an investigation on President Temer for allegations of corruption in the implementation of a decree regulating port activities.
REPUBLIC OF KOREA
On 26 September, in the framework of the scandal that led to her impeachment, the ex-President of the Republic of Korea, Park Geun-hye, was the object of a request for extension of her preventive detention from the Prosecutor’s office, which is not able to proceed to all hearings before the deadline that was fixed on 16 October. In this case, pivotal to the corruption and trading in influence scandal that has been ongoing in the country since December 2016, the investigations upon complementary evidence is deemed necessary by the Prosecutor as the ex-President remains silent.
PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA
On 25 September, the Chinese Government announced the upcoming creation of a new anticorruption agency, notably in order to better cooperate at the international level with the other agencies that had been reluctant so far to cooperate with the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Chinese Communist Party. The Law establishing a National Supervisory commission should be adopted during the 19th National People’s Congress, on 18 October.
On 26 September, The ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appeared for the first time before the Pakistan National Accountability Bureau after the Panama Papers revelations and corruption allegations that he faces. The anticorruption court will decide whether or not to charge and condemn him to a prison sentence.
On 26 September, The National Integrity Agency published the first results of the PREVENT system. Between June and September 2017, The National Integrity Agency, analyzed 2995 public procurement procedures for a total amount of 6,1 billion LEI (about 1,3 billion euros) thanks to the PREVENT IT system. Three alerts were sent to contracting authorities that eliminated the causes of conflict of interests. In seven other cases, the ANI notified potential irregularities in procedures to the Public Procurement National Agency (ANAP).
On 6 September, the suspended Mayor of Chisinau, was charged with abuse of position in a new corruption case. The damages caused to the local administration would amount to 3 209 400 euros.
On 20 September, the National Anticorruption Center (NAC), with the support of the United Natins Development Program and the Government of Norway, launched an information campaign « integrity is freedom », based on the provisions of the Integrity Law and the new National Integrity and Anticorruption Strategy 2017-2020. The campaign is organized around « integrity lessons », each lesson being based on an example of perception or behavior to help citizens to understand that corruption should no longer be tolerated, what are the rules applicable to the considered situation and what attitude to adopt.
On 20 September, Transparency international published a press release encouraging Ukraine to create an independent national anticorruption court, in line with its commitments towards the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. For the 26 pre-trial investigations closed and referred to Justice by the National Anticorruption Bureau (NABU) out of 86 ongoing investigations within the institution, none led the Ukrainian competent judiciary authorities to open procedures.
On 19 September, following the publication of asset declarations of the 150 members of the Parliament of Georgia, Transparency International Georgia published the results of its analyses. Nine members of the Parliament would have private activities or would be participating in public procurement procedures which is forbidden to them according to the Constitution. In 30 other cases, the declarations published are incomplete. Members of the majority as well as from the opposition are targeted.
On 27 September, after a one-year investigation, seven university professors have been placed under house arrest in the framework of a probe for fraud and examinations rigging. 59 persons, including a former Minister, are subject to investigations. 22 persons have already been suspended for a year. The Current University and research Minister supported the investigation, led by the National Anticorruption Authority (ANAC) and declared that a code of conduct would be published in October in order to end corruption and nepotism in Italian universities.
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