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 third number of the international newsletter gets back on news on such topics in March 2017, whether at the international level, within international organizations or civil society, or att he national level, whatever the continent.
INTERNATIONAL AND MULTILATERAL
On 27 March 2017, The OECD published a report “Trust and public policy: How Better Governance Can Help Rebuild Public Trust” (in English only). The report explores the link between trust and efficiency of public policies and provides measures that can be implemented to strengthen citizen’s confidence in their government.
The annual integrity and anticorruption Forum of the OECD will take place on 30 and 31 March. The theme of 2017 is “In Public interest: taking integrity to higher standards”. Ministers, international organizations representatives, private sector leaders and representatives from civil society will discuss during two days the cost of integrity breaches and corruption for societies and the necessity to control such phenomena.
Council of Europe: reports of the GRECO
On 2 March 2017, the GRECO released a report on transparency of party funding and criminalization of corruption in Czech Republic. If the report highlights progresses in terms of transparency of political funding, the GRECO regrets that recommendations addressed on criminalization of corruption have not been implemented.
On 10 March, the GRECO announced the launch of a fifth evaluation round during the plenary session in Strasbourg on 20 March 2017. The theme will be “Preventing corruption and promoting integrity in central governments (top executive functions) and law enforcement agencies”. This round will assess states on topics such as regulation of lobbying, control of revolving doors for high public officials, identification of functions peculiarly at risks, etc.
On 15 March, the GRECO asked Switzerland to reinforce ethical rules for members of the parliament, judges and prosecutors in its report on the fourth evaluation round, despite a high degree of citizens’ trust towards Swiss public officials. It highlights the need for developing information and prevention of conflicts of interests for members of the Parliament, which could imply the adoption a code and the implementation of financial declarations for instance.
On 17 March, 100 civil society organizations, among which Transparency international, Oxfam, the European Youth Forum, etc. signed a joint letter to call on the parliament to adopt a strong position during the negotiations of a new interinstitutional agreement on a common lobbying register to the Council, Commission and European Parliament. They voiced the desire that only registered lobbies should have access to public officials and that the common secretariat in charge of the register should get more resources in order to ensure the quality of published data.
On 21 March, the constitutional affairs commission adopted a resolution asking that only registered lobbyists on the common transparency register of the EU have access to the European Parliament. This resolution welcomes the initiative of the Bureau of the European Parliament to create a model of legislative footprint, on a voluntary basis, for members of the European Parliament to declare the lobbyists they met and at which stage of the process they were consulted. It also comes back on revolving doors measures for European Commissioners and on the need to give access to more documents related to informal negotiations between the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council of the EU.
In March 2017, The European Ombudsman opened an inquiry to determine whether the Council of the European Union gives sufficient access to ongoing negotiations on bills of the EU to citizens. 14 questions were sent to the Council, notably on registration of Member States position on bills, or on the way to treat rulings of the Court of Justice of the EU, etc. the answer is expected by the Ombudsman by June 2017. On this occasion, Transparency International EU published an article to support the Ombudsman’s initiative.
In the « LuxLeaks » affairs, two French professionals leaked confidential fiscal documents showing tax-optimization strategies via Luxembourg of numerous multinational corporations. As a consequence, they had been charged with breaches in commercial secrecy and stolen information laundering. They risked up to 5-year imprisonment sentences. The whistleblowers, Mr. Deltour and Mr. Halet, former employees of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), had respectively been sentenced to 12 and 9 months of suspended prison and a 1 500 and 1 000€ fine. In appeal, on 15 March 2017, their sentences were reduced to a six-month suspended prison time and a 1 500€ fine for Mr. Deltour and 1 000€ for Mr. Halet. The journalist Edouard Perrin was acquitted.
OPEN GOVERNMENT PARTNERSHIP
On 15 March, The Open Government Partnership published its activity report for 2016. It comes back on the actions implemented notably to deepen the partnership and collaborations and to make sure that governments serve and empower citizens. In the future, this will not only be measured by the number of countries involved but also in terms of implemented policies related to transparency, accountability, participation of citizens to public decisions, etc. The report mentions the Summit in Paris and the mechanisms and processes of independent evaluation of national action plans and notably recommends to use more co-creation between public and private sectors and civil society in the drafting process of these plans.
In Africa, many whistleblowers, such as John Githongo in Kenya, revealed integrity and corruption scandals. Considering this and the fact that very often there is no system guaranteeing protection of whistleblowers, a whistleblowers’ protection platform was officially launched on 7 March in Dakkar. Lawyers, magistrates, journalists from diverse countries will support whistleblowers via this platform by providing them with legal assistance or by orienting them towards investigative journalists, while guaranteeing the anonymization of complaints.
On 10 March, the High Authority for good governance (HABG) organized a training seminar for regional contact points in charge of managing asset disclosure forms. The organization of this seminar also aimed at enhancing the involvement of local authorities and civil society in the management of declarative obligations that public officials face. On this occasion, Mr. Achiaou, director of Outreach and Education at the HABG, declared that the institution would impulse the creation of a national coalition of fight against corruption rooted in different departments and regions of Cote d’Ivoire. Its different components, composed of volunteers, elected and non-elected officials, would be “monitoring and surveillance instruments”.
Middle East and North Africa
After the adoption in February by the National assembly of a law on whistleblowing and whistleblowers’ protection and after the Council of Minister started discussing a bill on the creation of a constitutional agency for good governance and fight against corruption, on 8 March 2017, the National instance against corruption launched an awareness raising campaign on dangers of corruption.
After developments in January and February 2017, new suspicions of conflicts of interests for the President of the United States have arisen in March 2017. On 9 March, the Wall Street Journal revealed that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner’s rented house is Andrónico Luksic’s property, a Chilean billionaire managing a mining, banking and financial empire. This billionaire notably counts on the Trump administration to come back on one of President Obama’s decisions to block one of his projects of a giant mine in the desert of Minnesota.
Moreover, at the beginning of March, China validated 38 Trump commercial licenses (golf, hotels, advertising company, insurances, etc.). Democrats declared these represent “crystal clear conflicts of interests” that are incompatible with the President’s functions and result in a potential bias in American foreign policy. The lawyers of the Trump family argue that some were formulated years ago and that the President handed over the management of his group to his sons, an option that was not satisfying for the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) that recommended selling his shares. On 16 March, the Center for Public Integrity summarized all exchanges since January 2017 between the OGE and the Trump administration on ethics topics.
On 6 March, the judicial authorities heard former President Cristina Kirchner’s two children in the framework of a presumed corruption affaire. The Kirchner are suspected to have received bribes against attribution of public procurements through a real estate company between 2003 and 2015. Cristina Kirchner, who was heard in the same affair on the day after, is involved in several ongoing cases for illicit enrichment.
President Macri is once again suspected of influence peddling. On 1 March, an Argentinian prosecutor opened an inquiry for influence peddling after the Avianca company got exploitation authorization for 14 internal and international lines. A short time ago this company repurchased Macair, which belonged to the President’s father. Confronted with these suspicions, the President denied any kind of favouritism and promised new laws in order to strengthen transparency.
On 6 March, the special prosecutor in charge of the Odebrecht case opened investigations on an “alleged suspicious operations and supposed contributions from Odebrecht Latinvest to Latin America Enterprise Fund, which would be linked to the president [Pedro Pablo Kuczynski]”. The investigations now cover the four former presidents of Peru since the return to democracy. Former President Alejandro Toledo was already subject to an international arrest warrant for receiving 20 million dollars in bribes for a vast works between Brazil and Peru. His successor, Alan Garcia, was involved a short time ago for undue influence on a call for tenders on metro line n°1 in Lima. Last, investigators also suspect Ollanta Humala’s (President from 2011 to 2016) presidential electoral campaign to have benefitted from 3 million dollars from Odebrecht. Under his presidency, the company had gained construction works related to a main gas pipeline.
On 14 March, In the Car Wash case and on the bases of revelations from 77 managers of the construction giant Odebrecht, the Brazilian general prosecutor Rodrigo Janot asked the opening of 83 new investigations to the Supreme Court, the only one to be able to investigate on members of the parliament, ministers, etc. On the list, there are six current ministers, under Temer’s presidency, and former Presidents Lula and Rousseff. The latter was impeached last year for massaging public accounts. Beyond the 83 new investigations, more than 200 other requests were sent to other jurisdictions. In parallel, over the last few days, the Brazilian parliament discussed projects of reforms to pardon crimes related to electoral campaigns financing.
Confronted with the scope of corruption of Brazilian public officials, a citizens movement, « Vem Pra Rua » (Get out in the street), called Brazilians to demonstrate against « impunity » on 26 March. This collective had already called to demonstrations in December 2016, when the President of the Senate was subject to a dozen anticorruption proceedings, and had gathered 200 000 persons in Sao Paulo and 1 million demonstrators across the country.
On 6 March, when the « Car wash » case has already reached public officials and main works in 12 Latin American countries, Global Risk Insights published an analysis questioning the risk of rise of populism in these countries.
On 7 March, Transparency International published a report on corruption in the Asia-Pacific zone. The results highlighted that out of the 20 000 interrogated persons in 16 countries, one in four Asian inhabitant had to pay bribes in 2016, i.e. more than 900 million people. The report underlines that the two most affected countries were India and Vietnam where the phenomena reached two third of the population, in fields such as access to education or health services.
On 9 March, a major probe in a corruption case started, involving former and current ministers and Indonesian high public officials. The special anticorruption prosecution office of Jakarta notably indicated that it concerned the current Minister of Justice and the former Minister of the Interior. They are accused of receiving bribes in the misuse of Government funds that had been allocated to a project of creation of new identity cards for the country.
PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA
On 9 March, the Supreme People’s Procuracy published a press release highlighting that 1 892 cases of corruption in the only field of fight against pauverty had been investigated in 2016, i.e. a rise of 102% compared to the year before. This Procuracy involved launching actions of prevention of such cases of corruption and pursuing a zero-tolerance policy for this phenomenon. These figures were followed, on 12 March, by the report of the Supreme Court President who announced a rise of one third of all cases of corruption (45 000 affairs, for 63 000 defendants) that were prosecuted by Chinese jurisdictions in comparison with 2015, with a conviction rate close to 93%.
REPUBLIC OF KOREA
On 10 March, and following the vote in Parliament on 9 December 2016, the Constitutional Court validated the President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment in a corruption and influence peddling scandal with Ms. Choi, the President’s confident, as the main defendant who is judged for receiving from big Japanese companies about 70 million dollars through foundations, diverted for private use. The President is now accused of corruption, influence peddling and abuse of power, for helping her confident to obtain the amounts, notably with the heir of the Samsung empire, currently in preventive detention. Incidents took place after the Court decision, during demonstrations in support of the ex-president. Three persons died and a dozen were injured.
On 15 March, the Prosecutor of the Republic of Korea announced the summons of the ex-president, on 21 March, in the framework of the investigations. Now deprived of her immunity, her lawyers asserted that she would cooperate. On that same day, the Prime Minister, Hwang Kyo-ahn, who holds the Presidency by interim, announced that he would not be candidate to the next presidential election on 9 May.
On 21 March, the ex-president was heard by two prosecutors and an investigator. Before her audition, she apologized to citizens and asserted that she would cooperate with the judicial authorities. After five hours of audition, she was not charged and the special prosecutor did not say whether she would be summoned again. Ms. Park risks more than 10 years of imprisonment if she is convicted for receiving bribes in exchange for favors notably to Mr. Lee, director of the Samsung group.
On 2 March, following several scandals of breaches of integrity of a few public officials at the beginning of the year, the ecologist group of the House proposed that each member declares, on the website of the House, his or her mandates and public revenues, as well as all private interests and associated revenues. So far, members of the Parliament have to submit a declaration of assets to the Court of Auditors. A website managed by volunteers, Cumuleo, diffuses certain pieces of information on them, but not revenues.
On 7 March, the Reform Movement (MR) also proposed the creation of a website based on the model of Cumuleo, which would be managed by the Court of Auditors and would be freely accessible, allowing citizens to access all mandates held by public officials. Bills were tabled in that sense in order to implment such a new system, ensuring both transparency to citizens and privacy of public officials. The MR does not want declarations of assets to published, notably in order to preserve privacy of municipal councillors.
On 1 March, le the trial in the « Palau case » opened in Barcelona. The Democratic convergence Party is suspected of illegal financing on bribes paid by the “Palau”, the Catalan Music Palace. This case covers 16 defendants accused of embezzlement of 24 million euros between 1999 and 2009, among which 6,6 million euros for the Democratic convergence party, according to the Prosecutor’s office. On 9 March, Jordi Montull, Former Palau President’s right hand, revealed he brought money to the former treasurer of the party and that commissions on public works rose from 3 to 4% over the years. This trial is held in parallel of the “Gurtel case” of presumed illegal financing of the Popular party, Mariano Rajoy’s party, and occurs when the coalition in the Catalan Government wishes to propose a new consultation on independency of Catalonia. On 13 March, Former Catalan independentist president, Artur Mas, was sentenced with a two-year ineligibility time and a 36 500€ fine for organizing such a referendum on independence in Catalonia, in November 2014, whereas the Constitutional Court had forbidden it.
On 15 March, Italian Justice launched a vast anticorruption operation, « La Regina », in the region of Naples and emitted about 70 arrest warrants. Employees, municipal administrators and entrepreneurs are concerned and suspected of corruption or manipulation of calls for tenders, etc. Mr. La Regina, an engineer close to the Neapolitan mafia, and his accomplices are suspected to have paid bribes to municipal employees in order to obtain public procurements through about 15 rigged calls for tenders.
On 16 March, confronted with Mr. Fillon’s situation, and in order to avoid problems in the United Kingdom the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority announced a change in the handbook on members of the Parliament’s expenses. British members of the Parliament will no longer be able to employ their spouse, a member of their family or an associate from the private sector. This rule will apply from the next general elections onwards, in 2020, and do not affect currently employed persons. It is worth noting that, since 2010, members of the British parliament cannot employ more than one relative. Another change occurred. If staff begins a relationship with a member of the Parliament, his or her contract will terminate two years after.
On 7 March, the General assembly of the Swiss society of public affairs (SSPA) call on the Chambers for more transparency, drawing positive conclusions from their auto-declaration regime, installed during summer 2016. Indeed, each member of the Society publishes its list of clients. Nonetheless, this SSPA initiative is voluntary and not all lobbyists proceed this way. This is the reason why the SSPA calls for the creation of a mandatory lobbying register to the Chambers. The Parliament will discuss the issue.
On 2 March, the Head of the State Tax service was arrested for abuse of power. The National anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) suspects him of fraud and embezzlement. It is a major first inquiry in the fight against corruption highlight the evolutions of the national anticorruption system. Mr. Nasirov was placed in preventive detention. The investigations of the NABU will notably have to identify whether or not Mr. Nasirov had correctly declared his properties in London and the revenues he got from them.
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