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European report slams Czechs over corruption

in Czech News

Transparency International: Czech anti-corruption fight sluggish, criticism justified

Prague/Strasbourg, Feb 5 (ČTK) — The Czech government is reluctant in introducing anti-corruption legislation, David Ondráčka, head of the Czech branch of Transparency International, has told the Czech News Agency in reaction to a critical report the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption body (GRECO) released today.

Government representatives have dismissed the criticism.

GRECO writes the Czech Republic has met only one of the 13 recommendations GRECO had given to it with the aim to boost the fight against corruption and transparent financing of political parties.

Another three recommendations have been accepted partly and nine not at all, GRECO wrote.

It assessed the situation in the Czech Republic as “globally unsatisfactory” in this respect.

Like in its previous two reports, it referred to a very small and insufficient progress made by Czechs.

“I believe that the government is reluctant to take anti-corruption measures,” Ondráčka said.

In his opinion, the biggest problem are the permanently postponed reforms of the judicial system and the system of political parties’ financing, and the still unfinished project of a register of public management contracts.

Dismissing the criticism, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, ČSSD) said the GRECO report mainly assesses the performance of the previous Czech cabinets that spoke much about the fight against corruption but in fact they did only little in this area.

“My government follows a different path. We take our commitments earnestly and we have been fulfilling them step by step,” Sobotka said.

Anti-corruption organizations are of a different opinion, however.

Lenka Petráková, from the Oživení NGO, said the government plans include no anti-corruption amendment to the criminal code.

She told ČTK that the Interior Ministry has prepared a bill to change the system of political parties’ financing but a debate on it has been repeatedly postponed due to inter-government disputes.

An election code introducing the GRECO-required changes is to be completed in three “We can hardly expect the GRECO’s negative assessment to improve unless the government…starts really doing something,” she said.

The Reconstruction of the State anti-corruption endowment said the plan to change the party financing system has been blocked by the government Social Democrats’ (ČSSD) unwillingness to establish an independent body to monitor party financing.

“If the ČSSD continued to block the approval of a bill drafted by its own [Interior] ministry, we might later also face criticism from the European Commission, which previously made recommendations identical with GRECO’s to the Czech Republic,” said Magdaléna Klimešová, Frank Bold organization’s expert in party financing.

According to the strongest rightist opposition party TOP 09, the GRECO report only upholds and complements other critics’ opinion that the government of the ČSSD, ANO and the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL) does not sufficiently fight against corruption in the country, in spite of what it heralded before the 2013 elections and has been heralding since.”

In its report, GRECO recommends that the Czech Republic make it clear that bribery in all civil servant categories is punishable, regardless of whether the people are able to influence crucial decision making.

Prague has met this recommendation insufficiently, GRECO wrote, calling for a remedy.

As a result of the early dissolution of the Czech Chamber of Deputies in August 2013, the country failed to change the criminal code’s paragraph concerning indirect bribery in accordance with another GRECO recommendation, GRECO wrote and added that the relevant legislation is being debated by parliament now.

Another recommendation that is being discussed now is that the Czech Republic clearly define the punishment for bribery related to foreign arbitrators and jury members, GRECO wrote.

The Council of Europe established GRECO in 1999 to monitor the observance of anti-corruption standards by countries.

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