From 17 to 19 July, the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Global Summit was held in Tbilisi, Georgia. It was the opportunity to reflect on projects and initiatives regarding transparency and opening public data, including with regard to promoting integrity and combating corruption. This edition was the occasion to renew discussions on matters that have captured a growing importance, such as lobbying regulation which was the theme of a session on 18 July. New tools were presented, which have been implemented at local, national and supranational levels, like the Transparency Register of the European Union.
Trends of co-creation of projects between public sector and civil society and dialogue on the reuse of open public data and increased transparency of public action are core components for all OGP stakeholders. Projects implemented by consortiums of associations and journalists based on open data, such as the “Declaraciones Juradas” (content analysis of the parliamentarians’ declarations of assets and interests) in Argentina and projects such as Integrity Watch EU, Integrity Watch France and Integrity Watch Chile try to consolidate the link between citizens and their Government. The common aim of these projects and of all the initiatives that were debated on these days is to enable citizens better understand and assess public action.
During the discussions, participants often mentioned that the commitments taken by about 70 OGP Members States are crucial. However, the expectations of civil society and citizens relate to their implementation especially on some issues such as interoperability of public databases and the reuse of information transmitted by administrations. Transparency, data published and openness of public action are not ends in themselves. Strengthening citizens’ confidence towards public leaders and institutions shall remain the aim pursued by all parties involved in these projects.
INTERNATIONAL AND MULTILATERAL
On 5 July, the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), the anti-corruption body of the Council of Europe, published its second compliance report for Slovenia, in the framework of its fourth round of evaluation on corruption prevention for members of Parliament, judges and prosecutors. Fourteen out of the nineteen recommendations addressed in the evaluation report were implemented in a satisfactory manner. As far as parliamentarians are concerned, the Group stated that “limited” progress was achieved in the two chambers of the country on preventing conflicts of interests and corruption.
On 5 July, GRECO made public the interim compliance report of its fourth evaluation round for Ireland. It appears that the State correctly implemented three out of the eleven recommendations of the first report. If GRECO welcomed the discussion of a bill extending the declarative obligations for parliamentarians, the group estimated that their training on ethical issues should be improved.
On 12 July, GRECO published the second compliance report for Albania in the framework of its fourth evaluation round. Four out of the ten initial recommendations were implemented in a satisfactory manner, the others six being partly implemented. GRECO notably welcomed the adoption of a code of conduct for members of Parliament, aiming to prevent conflicts of interests and regulate secondary activities and gifts.
On 2 July, the Bureau of the European Parliament rejected several measures aiming to enhance transparency on the use of the general expenditure allowance of the Members of Parliament. They would have notably made it compulsory for them to keep expense statements and introduced audits on its use. However, the MEPs must henceforth receive the allowance on a separate bank account.
On 10 July, Transparency International EU published a report on MEPs’ outside jobs. About a third of them carry out professional activities in addition to their mandate, generating between 18 and 41 million euros of incomes. The average is higher among the Euroskeptical parliamentarians. Belgian, Austrian, Danish and French MEPs are the most involved. In its report, the non-governmental organization notably recommended to prevent MEPs from being lobbyists.
From 1 to 2 July, the 31st summit of the African Union took place in Nouakchott. Gathering about 40 delegations of African States, and attended by French President Emmanuel Macron, this event was dedicated to the fight against corruption on the continent. Interviewed by RFI, a participant regretted the absence of “firm commitments” on this matter.
Between 17 and 19 July, Georgia welcomed the 5th global summit of the Open Government Partnership. Citizen engagement, fight against corruption and transparency in public action were at the heart of the discussions which involved members of national administrations, international organizations and actors from civil society from 96 countries.
On 9 July, Duduzane Zuma, son of the former President Jacob Zuma, was placed under court supervision by the Johannesburg court for alleged cases of corruption. He would have participated in October 2015 in a meeting during which the then Vice-Minister of Finance would have received money and the promise of a ministerial post in return for his obedience to the Gupta’s brothers. The Guptas were involved in the scandal that resulted in Jacob Zuma’s resignation in February 2018.
On 27 July, a court decided to postpone the former President’s trial to 30 November. Accused of taking bribes from Thales group on the occasion of a contract concluded in 1999, Mr. Zuma announced, by his lawyer, that he wanted to take legal action to cancel all charges against him.
On 24 July, the Parliament waived the immunity of three deputies of the opposition. Two are prosecuted for corruption cases, breach of trust, illicit enrichment and money laundering, relating to their former activities in managing the cotton sector. The third would have participated in a traffic of fake medicines.
President Pierre Nkurunziza gave to his party, the CNDD-FDD, a three-hectare land by decree to allow it to build a place of worship and conference. Criticized by the anti-corruption non-governmental organization Observatoire de lutte contre la corruption et les malversations économiques, this decision was defended by First Vice-President Gaston Sindimwo. In a statement released on 21 July, he declared that it was a legitimate request to which the Government responded favorably.
On 6 July, a delegation of the High Authority for Good Governance (HABG) delivered an awareness raising session at the Séguéla prefecture during which the penalties for corruption cases were presented. HABG agents also contributed to the establishment of the local committee for integrity which will allow civil society to control and report corruption on the territory.
On 12 July, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) completed the third review of “Extended Credit Facility Arrangement for Madagascar” and approved a 44.25 million disbursement. Through its Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair, the international organization encouraged the country to “enhance governance” and “fight corruption” while the adoption of two anti-corruption bills have been systematically postponed since November 2017.
On the same day, Medias mentioned the publication of the investigation report made by the Independent Anti-corruption Bureau (Bianco) for the first quarter of 2018. Bianco opened 53 inquiries, among which seven involved Government officials. A former Minister of Finance was notably placed under detention warrant for alleged misuse of funds. Furthermore, sixteen deputies are suspected of corruption in the review process of the draft organic law on elections. Confronted with the fact that seven of them refused to appear before the Bianco, its Director General, Jean-Louis Andriamifidy, stated on 18 July that their persistence could result in their arrest.
On 17 July, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) published its annual report for 2016-2017. By strengthening its information collection tool, ICAC managed to get seizure orders towards 125 people suspected of money laundering. Furthermore, the Commission called for the adoption of a bill in order to protect whistleblowers and encourage corruption alerts.
On 17 July, four corruption cases were withdrawn from the Attorney General so that they will be reassessed by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACCS) which will ensure the strength of the investigations. This occurred while the 2016 anticorruption bill is under review. Furthermore, May De Silva, ACCS Director General, called for the adoption of a bill in order to protect whistleblowers and for early warning systems in each department.
On 5 July, former Vice-President Victor Bockarie Foh and former Minister of Mines Minkailu Mansaray were arrested for suspicions of corruption relating to a misuse of public funds. The day before, a report commissioned by new President Julius Maada denounced the “rampant corruption” that raged under the previous Administration.
On 19 July, former Minister of Energy Samuel Undenge was sentenced to four years in prison for breaching the public procurement procedure in awarding a contract to a company. It was the first time that an official from former President Robert Mugabe’s Government was condemned, since Mugabe’s resignation in November 2017.
In an article published on 11 July, the Jordan Times raised an inconsistency in the activity of the Integrity and Anti-Corruption Commission (JIACC). Contrary to its usual practice, the Commission did not publish the name of suspects when it reported the case of a suspicious land sale by a university to a technology company.
On 14 July, L’Orient le Jour published an article about the resignation of a judge of the Council of State. According to the revelations of journalist Salem Zahran, the magistrate would have been involved in some cases that he was working on. These suspicions fed the debate on the impunity of judges, regularly marked by corruption or wrongdoing scandals.
On 11 July, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published the “integrity diagnosis in Morocco”, notably relating to integrity in the public sector, budget transparency and corruption criminalization. The international organization recommended the adoption of a code of conduct and the implementation of training sessions on integrity for public agents. Considering that progress can be achieved to improve efficiency and integrity in the public procurement system, it called for enhance transparency in this field.
On 24 July, 106 people were condemned by the Rabat court of Appeal to sentences ranging from six-month suspended sentences to five years in prison for corruption and trade in influence. Some of them were agents of civil protection or members of auxiliary forces.
On 6 July, Chawki Tabib, President of the Tunisian National Instance for the Fight against Corruption (INLUCC) stated that his staff referred 245 corruption cases to courts. He pointed out that most of the cases covered public procurement and recruitment of public agents.
On 17 July, the Assembly of the Representatives of the People adopted a bill on assets disclosure, fight against illicit enrichment and conflicts of interests in public sector. Head of Government Youssef Chahed referred to it as a “legislative revolution”.
While a judge of Porto Alegre court of appeal had ordered to free Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (also known as Lula) on 8 July, another magistrate of this court cancelled his decision four hours later. The former Head of State was eventually kept in the Curitiba prison.
On 22 July, RFI published an article on the political situation in Brazil, a few months before the presidential election which will occur next October. Scandals such as “Mensalão”, “Lava-Jato” or Odebrecht deeply shook the country and revealed an almost endemic corruption. While current President Michel Temer, under investigation of the Supreme Court, renounced to be a candidate to his own succession, Lula was ahead in opinion polls despite his imprisonment.
On 5 July, the Permanent Anti-corruption unit arrested three persons in the framework of an investigation on corruption cases relating to the awarding of information technologies contracts by the Ministry of Justice. Citizens’ alerts helped in the investigations.
On 16 July, Federal Lobbying Commissioner Nancy Bélanger rejected the complaints against Nathalie Provost, Vice-Chair of the Federal Firearms Advisory Committee. Survivor of the Polytechnique massacre in 1989, she was part of an association advocating for stricter rules on firearms. Some opponents considered that this activity should be considered as lobbying, conflicting with her presence in the Committee. The Lobbying Commissioner recalled that only individuals paid to make representations of interests had to register, which was not the case of Mrs. Provost.
On 29 July, Mario Dion, the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, suggested that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will perhaps not be able to keep the gifts received on the occasion of the G7 meeting hosted in Malbaie in June. While Mr. Dion’s predecessor allowed certain officials to keep some gifts if they repaid part of their value, the Commissioner said that he would not be likely to do the same.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
On 5 July, Scott Pruitt, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, resigned after “months of ethics controversies”. Blamed for excessive spending, he was under at least thirteen federal investigations partly related to compromising relationships with lobbyists.
On 9 July, President Donald Trump appointed Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. This decision was contested by the Democrats who considered that it created a situation of conflict of interests. Indeed, before his nomination, Mr. Kavanaugh said that he was opposed to the judgment of a President-in-Office, while special counsel Robert Mueller was investigating the links between Russia and Mr. Trump’s campaign. In this affair, Donald Trump reiterated and clarified its allegations of conflicts of interest against Mr. Mueller through a series of tweets posted on 30 July. The President stated that he had a “very nasty and contentious business relationship” with him and that he had refused to appoint him as the Head of the FBI, questioning his impartiality.
On 24 July, Donald Trump’s daughter and adviser, Ivanka Trump, decided to shut down her fashion brand. While she placed her participation in a trust in order to prevent any conflict of interests after the election, several decisions favorable to the company raised concerns among officials and civil society actors.
On 25 July, a Maryland court accepted to maintain corruption complaints against Donald Trump. The President of the United States was accused to violate the Constitution by receiving emoluments from foreign powers. The complaints targeted the revenues from the Trump International Hotel, located near the White House and regularly chosen by foreign delegations for official visits.
On 1 July, Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador won the presidential election with 53% of the votes. The new President stated that he wanted to wind corruption up, and referred to this phenomenon as “the main issue in Mexico”. The mandate of his predecessor, Enrique Peña Nieto, was marked by several scandals, including the purchase of a 7 million euro house by his wife to a land developer benefiting from Government contracts. On 11 July, during the presentation of the main legislative reforms that he wants to carry out, Mr. Obrador informed of his intention to put an end to the presidential immunity in case of corruption or infringements of electoral liberties. He also announced that he will reduce his indemnity by half and decrease senior officials’ wages.
On 7 July, investigative reporters broadcasted conversation recordings which revealed practices of trade in influence from high-ranking magistrates. On 15 July, the Official Journal announced that the judiciary was in a state of emergency for 90 days. On 19 July, thousands of demonstrators, supported by President Martin Vizcarra, marched in several cities to protest against corruption in the judiciary. On the same day, the President of the Supreme Court as well as the President and several members of the National Council of the Magistrature resigned. The next day, deputies unanimously approved the dismissal of the Council’s members, at the request of Mr. Vizcarra. On 28 July, the President stated that the judicial reform project, which would provide for the creation of an anti-corruption department, will be submitted to people’s approval through a referendum. It would also include limitations of the number of parliamentary terms, coming back to a two-chamber Parliament and strengthening transparency in judiciary.
On 3 July, former Prime Minister Rajib Razak was arrested by the anti-corruption agency (MACC). On the next day, he was formally indicted for misusing public funds, in the framework of the affair of the 1MDB sovereign fund. Mr. Najib denied any involvement. When he took office on 10 May, new Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad stated that he wanted to recover the undue paid amounts.
On 6 July, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, dismissed one year ago by the Supreme Court, was sentenced to ten years in prison and a 6.8 million euro fine for corruption relating to luxurious London flats detained through off-shore holding arrangements. His daughter, Maryam Sharif, was sentenced to seven years in prison for documents falsification. In London when the sentences were pronounced, they were arrested on 13 July, when they landed in Pakistan.
On 25 July, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), led by former cricket champion Imran Khan, won the legislative elections over the Nawaz Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N). Considered by observers as the likely winner, Mr. Khan benefited from the reject of historic parties shaken by corruption scandals. While admitting its loss, the opposition however denounced “blatant” electoral frauds.
The 25th session of the National Assembly Standing Committee took place from 11 to 13 July. Deputies discussed the anti-corruption bill, including issues related to assets and revenues mandatory disclosure. President of National Assembly Nguyên Thi Kim Ngân asked the relevant authorities to pay special attention to international anti-corruption instruments.
On 5 July, La Croix published an article on major corruption cases that were recently revealed in the country. Courts opened inquiries on political, military and customs officials. In June, former Republican deputy and retired General Manvel Grigorian was accused of misusing public funds and owning illegal weapons. Responsible for delivering humanitarian assistance to soldiers as he was President of the Veterans Association of Armenia, Mr. Grigorian diverted food rations – offered by pupils – to feed animals of his private zoo. In an article published on 28 July, Le Monde reported the first outcomes generated by new Prime Minister Nikol Pachinian’s anti-corruption policy. Inquiries were opened on people close to former President Serzh Sargsyan, including his nephew who would have been responsible for a 500 000 euro tax fraud. Suspected of financial fraud, Mayor of Erevan Taron Margarian was forced to resign. Prime Minister Pachinian, who stated that he wanted to make anti-corruption “his priority”, was however criticized because he bypassed mainstream media using social networks.
On 5 July, the Parliament dismissed Vanja Ćalović Marković from the Council of the Agency for the Prevention of Corruption due to alleged conflict of interests. As the Executive Director of the Montenegro chapter of Transparency International, she benefited from the international organization’s support which regretted that this decision was made before her trial, preventing her from arranging for her defense.
On 2 July, Euractiv reported a statement jointly issued on 28 June by twelve Western countries to denounce the judicial reforms proposed by Romania parliamentarians. Indeed, the Parliament adopted a variety of measures which increase the risk of obstructing the operation of the justice system and allow the leader of the governing party, Liviu Dragnea, to avoid a prison sentence that was recently pronounced against him.
On 9 July, President Klaus Iohannis signed a decree to dismiss Laura Codruta Kovesi, the Chief Prosecutor of Romania’s National Anticorruption Directorate, from a position she was occupying since 2013. Following a Constitutional Court decision, the decree was issued five months after the first requests of resignation directed at Mrs. Kovesi, who regularly protested against Romania’s judiciary lack of independence. Blaming the Government for the “brutal method” used to remove her, she called on Romanian people for being proactive against corruption. On 11 July, the President stated that he was attached to the respect of the Constitution and committed to combating corruption.
On 3 July, the Committee on Standards in Public Life sent a report to the Prime Minister, relating to the interests held by British parliamentarians. While taking up a side job is not prohibited, the Committee called for a regulation of these activities. It notably recommended to enhance transparency and mandatory disclosure of interests and to clarify the rules on lobbying.