7 June 2012

Money, Politics and Power – Corruption Risks in Europe  is a compilation of research for Transparency International, published yesterday.  The date may be symbolic, being the 68th anniversary of the D Day landings, as “democratic” forces made their big assault against the corruption then dominating Europe.

National Integrity Surveys were conducted in each of the 25 European nations during 2011.  (The New Zealand NIS completed in 2003 is long overdue for a refresh). An assessment of the strengths and weaknesses shown by these surveys gives a convincing picture of the threats to good government.   A conclusion is that even the countries generally regarded as “clean” face challenges, that political complacency about corruption creates widespread risks, and that there are many experiences that should be shared.

Interestingly, the strengths identified in Europe reflect the New Zealand experience – as one of the “cleanest of the clean” – but the five areas of weakness, to some degree, reflect the New Zealand circumstance also. These include:

  • Parliaments are not living up to ethical standards – integrity standards for MPs, such as mandatory codes, conflict regulations, and rules on disclosure of interests are often found wanting.
  • Lobbying remains veiled in secrecy – influence of lobbyists is shrouded in secrecy, to the benefit of the few at the expense of the many, and the implementation of lobbyist registers is lacking.
  • Access to information is limited in practice – freedom of information is affected by poor implementation, institutionalised delays, and lack of public awareness.
  • High corruption risks remain in public procurement – rules are systematically circumvented and done so with impunity.
  • Protection for whistleblowers is lacking – insufficient protection creates real fear of reprisals.
  • Political party financing is inadequately regulated – democratic processes face high risks of being corrupted by loopholes and weak enforcement mechanisms.

Six pages of recommendations to address these concerns will have universal relevance.