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 February 2017 refers back to studies and efforts led to respond to such challenges, whether within international and civil society organizations or at the national level.
INTERNATIONAL AND MULTILATERAL
From 8 to 10 February 2017, the OECD 5th Parliamentary Days took place in Paris. This was an opportunity for the OECD Global Parliamentary Network to gather and discuss the role of international organizations in the formulation of norms and for the Parliamentary group on integrity and transparency, chaired by Stav Shaffir, member of the Israeli Parliament, to have its first meeting. The objective of this group is to offer an exchange platform to help members of parliaments to enhance transparency in public life, share best practices and organize conferences and meetings to promote an open and transparent government.
On 17 February, The organization also published a report on digital government strategies in Middle East and North Africa countries, in which it recommends to develop digital tools to increase transparency, transform the public sector and bring citizens closer to public policy making. Indeed, the OECD notes that in order to be effective, such strategies must rely upon an equitable deployment and inequality reduction in terms of access to digital tools, which can be implemented through the creation of open data and participative portals through which citizens can take part in public decision-making and have access to new services. Yet, the main challenge remains the development of the technical competences and necessary instruments to the creation of such tools.
The World Bank published its annual report on world development, Governance and the Law, in which it calls for doubling efforts in the fight against corruption, one of the main challenges on the field of governance today. It notably recommends rooting them not only with political will to reform but also thanks to involvement of public officials, coordination of public policies and cooperation. The report highlights the positive impact of transparency and accountability initiatives in many countries, such as the participative budget in Porto Alegre in Brazil, the social audits of the Andra Pradesh state in India, etc.
International anticorruption academy (IACA)
On 1 February, the IACA discussed possibilities of reinforced cooperation with countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Beyond anticorruption programs and trainings, the IACA and GCC countries would be able to work together on identifying links between corruption and other topics related to sustainable development.
On 7 february, the IACA and Interpol, the largest international organization of police forces, signed a memorandum of understanding to increase cooperation between both organizations in the fight against corruption at a global scale.
_ European Union
On 31 January 2017, The UE office of Transparency international published a report on revolving doors in the institutions of the European Union, « Access all areas ». This report draws on the situation of members of the European Parliament, under limited rules in terms of post-public employment regulation, and of their parliamentary assistants, under the EU staff regulation. It also builds on the measures implemented for the college of commissioners, notably after a few scandals (Mr. Barroso, Ms. Kroes, etc.).
_ Pharmaceuticals and healthcare programme
On 30 January 2017, Transparency International published a study on the positive results of open contracting in the field of health and its role in the fight against corruption.
Council of Europe
On 13 February 2017, the GRECO published an evaluation report on corruption prevention in respect of members of the Parliament, judges and prosecutors in Austria. It regrets that, despite recent progress, rules on conflict of interest management and codes of conduct have not been established.
On 15 February 2017, it also published a compliance report in the fourth evaluation cycle for Norway, on corruption prevention in respect of members of the Parliament, judges and prosecutors and a second conformity interim report on the same topic for Slovenia. In Norway, only one recommendation has not been implemented and the GRECO welcomes the adoption of guidelines on gifts to members of the Parliament and the introduction of an obligation of ad hoc disclosure of conflicts of interests. In Slovenia, it highlights important progresses and the fact that only two recommendations have not been addressed.
European Parliament: for a European whistleblowers’’ protection
In a plenary session in Strasbourg, on 14 February 2017, the members of the European parliament asked the European Commission to take measures for a European protection of whistleblowers, following a press release of the budgetary control commission in January 2017. They call for the creation of an independent European agency with national offices in order to support whistleblowers.
European Commission: towards more transparency in procedures for implementing EU law
On 14 February 2017, the European Commission proposed to amend the Comitology Regulation to introduce more transparency and responsibility. It suggests doing so by modifying voting rules, adding the participation of national ministers, making public votes of representatives of Members states and allowing the Commission to refer the matter to the Council of Ministers for an Opinion if the Appeal Committee is unable to take a position.
On 7 February 2017, the seven members of the brand new High Authority for prevention and fight against corruption and related offences took oath before the Supreme Court. Appointed in July 2016 for a three year mandate, their mission will be to fight against tax evasion and work for a change in citizens’ behaviors.
Middle East and North Africa
Following the adoption of the national anticorruption strategy in December 2016, Chawki Tabib, President of the National office for the fight against corruption (INLUCC), reminded the main recommendations of a report of the Council of Europe on this strategy.
In parallel, The Representatives of the People Assembly (ARP) started to review the bill on whistleblowing and whistleblowers’ protection, on Tuesday 21 February 2017. It remained criticized, notably by the President of the INLUCC. The amended bill was finally adopted by the ARP, on 22 February. The civil society organization Al Bawsala summarizes the work on the text.
In the New-Brunswick province, a bill introduced on Tuesday 7 February provides that the Commissioner on conflicts of interests will keep investigating on members of the Parliament and ministers after the end of their political functions.
The President and vice-president of the United States of America do not have to follow conflicts of interests regulations between their public functions and private assets, yet President Trump’s predecessors had chosen to avoid place their assets in a blind trust. Meanwhile, the President-in-office chose to hand the management of his company over to his sons, which the Director of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) considered unsatisfying and asked him to sell his shares. Moreover, after the President gave his support to his daughter, Ivanka, when Nordstrom decided to stop selling her fashion line, on 13 February, the OGE called on the White House to launch investigations on Ms. Conway, senior adviser to the President. She had promoted Ivanka Trump’s fashion line in the framework of her functions, which was signaled to the OGE on 9 February 2017. The President had thus had to call her to order. Nonetheless, in its letter of 13 February, the OGE judges that this reaction is not sufficient and recommends taking disciplinary sanctions against Ms. Conway.
On 26 February, Philip Bilden, Navy Secretary nominee, had to withdraw because of conflicts of interests regulations. He declared: “I have determined that I will not be able to satisfy the Office of Government Ethics requirements without undue disruption and materially adverse divestment of my family’s private financial interests”.
On 20 February, the President of the Federal Electoral Commission (FEC) sent her resignation letter to the President of the United States. Her resignation is effective on 1 March 2017. She will keep engaging in the promotion of electoral financial transparency within civil society organizations.
On 5 February, Mexico City launched a “Corruptour”: a free bus running through the city every Sunday during three months to visit emblematic sites of corruption and raise awareness in a ludic way among the population on this topic.
On 16 February 2017, after an Argentinian prosecutor’s request for carrying out an investigation, President Macri withdrew an agreement signed in June 2016 that would have allowed the debt rescheduling of his father’s group, Franco Macri, who had bought the postal services in 1997 before bankrupting in 2002 with a 296 million pesos debt. This agreement provided for a rescheduling over 15 years, at a 7% rate, which means an important tax relief for this group, considering the inflation rate since 2001.
CAR WASH AND ODEBRECHT CASES IN LATIN AMERICA
The Car Wash case now spreads over the Latin American continent, after revelations of the involvement of the Odebrecht Company whose director was arrested in June 2015 and had given, with 77 other collaborators, evidence to the Brazilian Justice. On 16 and 17 February, les prosecutors of 11 countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Dominican Republic and Venezuela) agreed to create « joint teams for investigation, bilateral and multilateral », to investigate in a coordinated way on the Odebrecht case.
As a consequence of the investigations on the construction giant, on Thursday 9 February, in Panama, the two founding members of the Mossack Fonseca law firm were arrested for money laundering in the framework of the Odebrecht case.
Moreover, in Peru, former President Alejandro Toledo have been the subject of an international arrest warrant since 10 February. First President wanted for corruption, he is accused of having received 20 million dollar bribes from the Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht in the framework of a call for tenders to build the main road between Peru and Brazil. On 13 February, he was suspected to be leaving to Israel that had assured to prevent him from entering the country before this case is solved. Peru offered a reward for any information enabling to arrest him and thousands of protesters gathered against corruption on Thursday 16 February.
On 21 February, Dragos Kos, a senior official of the OECD declared to the Figaro that the organization had addressed important injunctions to Japan that has not adopted a credible anticorruption policy but where the OECD Convention against Corruption entered into force in 1999. Fines remains derisory and results are poor, with only three condemnations by Japanese courts since 1997. This interview echoes a press release published by the OECD on 30 June 2016.
POPULAR REPUBLIC OF CHINA
In an interview to Le Monde on 19 February, Minxin Pei, expert on China and political Science Professor in the United States, spoke about his book published in October 2016, in which he highlights the rooting of corruption in China and within the Chinese Communist Party. He believes that the current anticorruption policy does not target the fundamental causes of corruption.
REPUBLIC OF KOREA
In the corruption scandal in the Republic of Korea, the Constitutional court considers the destitution by the National Assembly of the President of the Republic of Korea, Park Geun-hye, on 9 December 2016. Commentators judge that the President is trying to buy some time, to avoid a new anticipated presidential election and to be able to finish her mandate. On 27 February, she expressed “belated regret” and said she had no knowledge of any misuse of funds. Moreover, on that same day, the interim President, Hwang Kyo-ahn, announced that the special investigation on the case would not be extended.
In addition, on 15 February, the independent prosecutor in charge of the Choi Soon-sil case arrested former women’s university President Choi Kyung-hee. She is accused of favoring admission and grading of the daughter of Ms. Choi, the President Park’s close friend who is at the center of the scandal. Other professors were also charged.
On 17 February, after a first arrest warrant was rejected in January 2017, the heir of the Samsung group, Lee Jae-yong, was accused of bribery and perjure, taken into custody and interrogated. He was suspected to have paid or promised about 40 million euro bribes to foundations managed by the President’s confidant to obtain political favors. On 28 February, he was officially convicted with bribery, embezzlement, hiding assets overseas and perjury.
Hundreds of thousands protesters have gathered each evening, since 27 January, against a decree published on 1 February and decriminalizing some graft offences. The European Commission strongly criticized this decree given that Romania joined the Union in 2007 and had intensified its fight against corruption lately, notably with the creation of the National anticorruption directorate, led by Laura Codruta Kövesi.
On 4 February, the Head of the Government finally announced the abrogation of the decree. However, Romanians have kept gathering but Gorin Grindeanu rejected the hypothesis of a resignation of the Government, which escaped a no-confidence vote on 6 February. Nonetheless, he asked the Minister of Justice to resign, on 7 February, blaming him for “bad communication” on this case, a solution that is not sufficient according to the Head of State, Klaus Iohannis, who joined the protests. After 14 days of protest, on 13 February, The Romanian Parliament unanimously agreed to hold a referendum on the fight against corruption, on a text proposed by the President Klaus Iohannis. He has to propose a date and precise question to organize this referendum.
In January, the Publifin scandal resulted in the resignation of the deputy head of cabinet of the Minister of local governments, because of suspicions of conflicts of interests as an administrator, in his private capacity, for Nethys, an operating subsidiary of Publifin, a financial holding in Liège (medias and communication, production et distribution of energy). A few days after, the Walloon Minister himself resigned as well. On 31 January, following this scandal notably, the Belgian Prime minister, Charles Michel, highlighted Belgian public officials’ duty to act in an exemplary way. More precisely, in the Publifin affair that has shaken Wallonia since January, the Socialist party that was opposed at first, agreed, on 6 February, that the special commission dedicated to the functioning of Publifin of the Parliament of Wallonia became an investigation commission, in order “to be fully transparent on the case”, with complete independency (Elio Di Rupo, PS).
In response to this scandal, a focus group was created at the Parliament of Brussels and political formations have started formulating proposals. On the model of what has been settled at the Belgian federal level, the reform movement (MR) proposes the creation of a commission of deontology, ethics, control and sanction for instance.
The Mayor of Barcelona launched a website, the Buzón ético, which allows denouncing anonymously corruption, a pioneer experience in Spain, after the creation, in November 2015, the transparency and best practices bureau and the creation of a code of ethics and good conduct in March 2016.
The 3% case has been lasting for more than ten years. Since 2005, the CiU party and the Catalan Government cashed in a commission of a 3% rate on numerous public works in Barcelona and all Catalonia and all towns held by Mayors of the CiU. This party has since been dissolved and replaced by the Partit Demòcrata Europeu Català (PDeCAT), to mitigate its corrupted image. On 2 February, new searches took place and Artur Mas’ right-hand man, Francesc Sánchez, as well as the former treasurer of the party, Andreu Viloca, were taken into custody. Sixte Cambra, President of the Port, former CiU senator and friend of Artur Mas, was also taken into custody after the searches, a few days before Artur Mas’ trial for the organization of a referendum judged as unconstitutional by Madrid.
On 10 February, the first sentences were passed by the Justice in « Gürtel » case, a vast scandal of corruption and embezzlement in the autonomous community of Valencia from 1999 to 2005. In the trial in Valencia, 11 out of 13 defendants were found guilty of corruption, misuse of public resources and influence peddling and sentenced with 3 to 13 year imprisonment. A second trial, in Madrid, will take place in October. 37 defendants are concerned in this affair, and among them, two former treasurers of the Partido Popular, which is the party of the Head of the Government, Mariano Rajoy.
On 30 January, Justice summoned Virginia Raggi, the Mayor of Rome in a corruption affair. Her hearing took place on 2 February. She is suspected of influence peddling and lie regarding activities of her former head of cabinet, Raffaele Mara, who was arrested in December 2016 for corruption. There are also suspicions of favoritism on some recruitments without criteria.
25 years after the «Mani pulite» operation, that allowed the dismantlement of a vast scandal of corruption, commentators present a mixed assessment of the fight against corruption in Italy. They highlight progresses such as the creation of the National anticorruption agency (ANAC) and the Severino Law that allows to suspend the mandate of a local public official who has been condemned or to prevent any person who has been condemned to a 2-year or more jail sentence to become a candidate for the legislative elections. Yet, the ANAC President, Raffaele Cantone, underlines that the task remains gigantic, especially in cases concerning large public works.
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