From serious deficits in public sector accountability and inherent problems of inefficiency, malpractice and corruption, European countries' close ties between business and government have led to financial and political scandals across the continent. Calling it an "integrity health check," anti-graft group Transparency International released its latest report June 6 entitled, "Money, Politics and Power: Corruption Risks in Europe."
Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain top the list of the Western European countries found to have serious deficits in their integrity systems. The report suggests it's not only traditional forms of corruption such as bribery that are to blame, but also a failure to implement anti-corruption safeguards, excessive and undue influence of lobbyists, the lack of protection for whistleblowers, and little or false budget data published by governments that has led to a murky view of integrity in every country.
A number of trends can be seen throughout the region, especially in the insufficient way governments manage public finances and public contracts. Problems with public procurement are most serious in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Italy, Romania and Slovakia, while major corruption risks and vulnerabilities, as well as problems of inefficiency and lack of transparency in public administration is particularly evident in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Spain.
Parliaments are also not living up to transparency, accountability and integrity standards. Transparency International's assessments found that only three out of 24 national parliaments have appropriate and well-functioning integrity mechanisms for their MPs. This has led to a notable decrease in public confidence in parliament, especially in countries like Czech Republic and Bulgaria where scandals have flared.
The report also found that the business and civil society sectors in Estonia, Lithuania, Poland and Slovenia are relatively weak when it comes to anti-corruption commitments and the governments there are not fully engaged in contributing to the integrity of the overall system.
Three countries - the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia - were singled out for their drop in positive progress on anti-corruption since accession to the EU. Citizens are becoming more aware of corruption at home, with Transparency International saying the Czech Republic, Greece, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain stand out when it comes to a perception of increased corruption.
Bulgaria and Romania were designated as the EU "newcomers" with the most serious integrity deficits, a weak anti-corruption framework and still having significant problems with their electoral process systems.
Governments don't get all the blame - political parties, public administrations and the private sector are assessed as the weakest forces in the promotion of integrity across Europe.
In order to decrease their corruption risk, the watchdog group recommends regulating political party financing; implementing lobbyist controls, offering better access to public information, effectively monitor public procurement and whistleblower protection.
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