The Experience Sharing Programme was launched by the European Commission in 2015 to support Member States, local NGOs and other stakeholders in addressing specific challenges identified in the EU Anti-Corruption Report.
Paris, 25 June 2018
The 10th Experience Sharing Workshop, organised by the Directorate-General Migration and Home Affairs (DG HOME) of the European Commission brought together senior prosecutors and law enforcement officials from Member States, law professionals, civil society, private sector as well as investigative journalists and representatives of international organisations and bodies involved in the fight against corruption (Europol, GRECO) and Commission experts.
The 2014 EU Anti-corruption report showed that many Member States place a high burden on law enforcement and prosecution bodies or on anti-corruption agencies which are perceived to be solely responsible for addressing corruption in the country. Corruption cannot be tackled without a comprehensive approach aiming to also effectively enhance prevention and control mechanisms throughout the public administration, at central and local levels. However prosecution remains the critical element in fighting corruption. In the absence of effective and successful prosecutions, impunity will prevail. It is essential that prosecution services are independent, have adequate capacity and resources and benefit from the necessary support.
Acts of corruption involving high-level public officials generally have significant impact on society by distorting policies or the functioning of the state at the expense of the public good. When it occurs, and particularly when it goes unsanctioned, high level corruption undermines public trust and erodes the principles of democratic governments. On the other hand, successful prosecutions of high-level corruption cases have a huge galvanizing effect in pushing back against corruption.
In opening the workshop, IRINA STEFURIUC, Head of Sector Fight against Corruption at DG HOME, presented EU initiatives supporting the fight against corruption in the Member States: analyses and recommendations in the context of the European Semester of economic governance, legislative initiatives relevant for the fight against corruption, and technical and financial support to Member States.
Access to information and the use and availability of evidence in high-level corruption cases
DAUMANTAS POCIUS, Head of the Second Department of the Special Investigation Service of the Republic of Lithuania, opened the morning session with a presentation on Evidence Gathering in the Investigation of Corruption Cases. The presentation outlined the differences between proactive and reactive investigations, with particular emphasis on the methods available to an investigator in each scenario and the reliability of evidence gathered using different investigative techniques. Discussions centred around the statistical methodologies used for data driven surveillance in Lithuania, the use of special investigation techniques, the length of the pre-trial phase before disclosure of the investigation is required and the impact of local laws and regulations on the investigative methods that can be applied during the investigation.
In the second presentation of the session, FINNIAN MCKEON, Director, Enterprise Registry Solutions (Ireland), provided a presentation and demonstration on the European Beneficial Ownership and Control Structures (EBOCS) visualisation tool. EBOCS enables access to unified business registry data on business ownership structure for financial analysis and investigation purposes. In the demonstration, Finnian used the EBOCS tool to identify and analyse the transnational companies linked to a particular individual. Discussions focused on the functionality of the tool, including the ability to identify persons of interest or political status, the use of the visualisations as evidence in court and the expected expansion of the EBOCS tools’ scope.
Inter-agency and international cooperation
BRUNO FREITAS, Police Inspector, Portuguese Judiciary Police, opened the second session with a presentation of the links between corruption, tax fraud and money laundering. The presentation emphasised the close links between corruption, tax fraud and money laundering, as well as the increasing necessity for criminals to identify a seemingly legal circuit to channel the income paid through. The speaker discussed the distinction between ‘legal’ and illegal forms of corruption, as well as the ambiguous territory between them as legal forms of corruption, e.g. unethical behaviour that undermines codes of conduct, can lead to illegal corruption. Participants emphasised that a breach of an organisations’ or institutions’ Code of Conduct, though in certain cases legal, is often the first step towards corruption.
The second presentation of the session was given by ELIAS STEPHANOU, Director of Elias A. Stephanou LLC (Cyprus). The speaker presented a case study of prosecution for high-level corruption within the magistracy, covering issues such as pre-trial preparation and the case hearing as well as media engagement. The participants discussed the influence of circumstantial evidence in corruption cases and the details of the case.
ROMAIN de BEAUSSE, Liaison Officer, French Liaison Bureau, Europol, closed the session with a presentation on the support provided by Europol to corruption investigations. The presentation covered the support Europol provides to address the issues faced by and needs of anti-corruption investigations across its member states. The speaker emphasised the benefits of data sharing and analysis support for prosecutor, as well as the array of analytical tools Europol can deploy to support prosecutors. Given the transnational character of high-level corruption, Europol’s databases are well placed to balance law enforcements requirements for transnational data with national confidentiality and security concerns. Participants shared their experiences of working with Europol and discussed the frequency and depth of Europol’s support during anti-corruption cases.
Results and case studies in the prosecution of high-level corruption cases
The third session was opened by GIANLUCA ESPOSITO, Executive Secretary of the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) of the Council of Europe, with a presentation on GRECO’s experience of corruption prevention in respect of prosecutors. The presentation outlined GRECO’s fourth evaluation round, focusing on the key recommendations on corruption prevention as regards prosecutors. A number of anonymised case studies were presented to illustrate good and bad practice. Following the presentation, the participants discussed the importance of supervision and enforcement of Codes of Conduct in public bodies as the first preventive defence against corruption.
Investigative journalist NILS HANSON, former Editor-in Chief of Mission Investigate (Sweden), presented on the methods used by investigative journalists to reveal corruption with reference to a high-level corruption case. The presentation tracked the evolution of Mission Investigate’s investigation via a network of offshore shell companies and the methods used to obtain information from sources. The presentation followed the trajectory of the investigation to illustrate the methods used by investigative journalists and closed with a discussion of conflicts and complementarities between investigative journalism and prosecution.
The fourth presentation of the session was by JOŽE ŠTRUS, Policy Officer, Directorate-General Justice and Consumers, European Commission, on the 2018 EU Justice Scoreboard. The EU Justice Scoreboard provides indicators on the performance of the justice system of each member state in terms of independence, quality and efficiency. In 2018, new data was included regarding the functioning of national prosecution services, more specifically as regards management powers over the prosecution services and guidance or instructions from the executive or parliament on prosecution.
IRINA ŞTEFURIUC, Head of Sector Fight Against Corruption, Directorate-General Migration and Home Affairs, European Commission, gave the final presentation of the session on the Commission’s collection of official data on corruption offences, covering 2011-2013. The presentation outlined the challenges faced in terms of data availability and comparability across Member States. A new data collection covering 2014-2016 is currently ongoing. Discussions focused on interpretation of data and cross-country comparability challenges.
Resilience to external pressure and other challenges
LAURA STEFAN, Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption Coordinator, Expert Forum (Romania), opened the session with a presentation on ‘Resilience to Outside Pressure’. The presentation considered the benefits and vulnerabilities of judicial independence, the mechanisms for judicial accountability and the distinction between due and undue pressure on the judiciary. Due pressure is stemming from media interest in high-profile cases; public debates; political decisions in relation to justice reform; and, external evaluations. Undue pressure may be deriving from political statements that may undermine judicial independence; public pressure demanding specific solutions in highly publicised cases; interference in cases (e.g. telephone call to prosecutor or judge); tardive notifications sent to investigators; and, administrative chicanes to limit the inefficiency of the justice system. A central theme of the presentation was that due pressure may enhance the accountability of the judiciary, while undue pressure may undermine the justice system.
LAVLY PERLING, Prosecutor General of Estonia, gave the final presentation of the day on ‘The influence of the external environment and media pressure of the prosecution of high-level corruption cases’. After a brief summary of Estonian anti-corruption efforts, the speaker outlined the principles and strategy of the Estonian public prosecution office in its public relations. The priorities are to speak the truth without disclosing evidence, protect fair trials, and protect all parties involved with criminal proceedings. It is important for prosecution services to maintain some form of dialogue with both the public and the private sector about the impact of corruption in terms of economics, security and trust. Discussions centred on the different media approaches to media management employed by prosecutor’s offices in the EU and the experiences of participants in dealing with the media.
Olivier ONIDI, Deputy Director-General, Directorate-General Migration and Home Affairs, European Commission, concluded the session with closing remarks on the importance of prosecution in the fight against corruption. Echoing the views of participants, he emphasised that prosecuting high-level corruption requires the involvement and cooperation of many authorities, often under high pressure from the public and the media. The Commission, in cooperation with Members States, GRECO, Eurojust and Europol, is looking to strengthen the legislative support required for prosecutors to work effectively.
Brussels, 12 December 2017
The 9th Experience Sharing Workshop brought together representatives from national ministries, civil society, specialised corruption prevention, integrity and ethics authorities, and national prosecution services, from a total of 13 Member States, alongside experts from the European Commission, international organisations, the private sector and academia to discuss the economic impact of corruption.
FLORIANA SIPALA, Head of Unit “Organised Crime and Drugs Policy” (Directorate General for Migration and Home Affairs), opened the workshop with an update on the work in the fight against corruption and an overview of the challenges corruption poses to economic growth, such as it acting as a barrier to investment in some Member States, by creating uncertainty in the business environment, slowing processes and potentially imposing additional costs.
Session 1: Economic impact of corruption – How and where to look for it?
The morning session was opened by FRANCISCO CABALLERO SANZ, Head of the "European Semester and Member States Competitiveness" Unit (Directorate General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs), with a presentation on “The complementarities between structural and institutional reforms and their consequences on corruption”. The presentation looked at the ways to measure the effects of corruption on various aspects such as productivity and showed the combined ‘downstream effects’ of simultaneous reforms targeting service restrictions or service regulation in the economy, and the transparency and efficiency of public institutions. The results presented suggest that control of corruption has an impact on increasing productivity and that the combined effect of removing restrictions on services and reforming institutions would enhance competitiveness. Discussion among participants focused on the major challenges to such reforms and the importance of identifying intermediary results to ensure reform maintains political capital over the long-term.
STEFAN KARABOEV, Analyst at the Center for the Study of Democracy Economic Programme, continued the session with a presentation on “The economic costs of corruption related to efficiency and the role of EU financial support for improving governance”. The presentation was based on research completed at the Centre for the Study of Democracy. The presentation opened with an assessment of the Bulgarian public procurement market, which constitutes on average 9% of GDP, and a sectoral analysis of the Bulgarian construction industry, which has become increasingly reliant on public procurement in the wake of the financial crisis. He then moved to discuss the impact of EU funds on the public procurement market in Bulgaria. Research by the Centre for the Study of Democracy indicates that EU funded procurements are more competitive and less prone to corruption than the national funded ones. However, in evaluating the effect of EU conditionality through policy and financial assistance, the speaker argued that while Bulgaria continues to experience a lot of governance changes, anti-corruption progress is fragmented and slow due to inconsistent political commitment. The follow-up discussion centred around the use of civil society organisations for monitoring public procurement, the relationship between anti-corruption spending and levels of corruption, as well as the types of conditionality that are effective in reducing corruption.
Session 2: The impact of corruption on the business environment and business decisions
IRINA STEFURIUC, Anti-Corruption Team Leader at DG HOME, and NICHOLAS BECUWE, Senior Director at Kantar Public, started the session with a presentation of results from the 2017 Eurobarometer surveys on corruption, outlining the survey methodology and the key findings of the Eurobarometer business and public surveys. The roundtable discussions focused on survey methodology as well as the key policy challenges identified in the results from the Commission’s perspective.
The second presentation of the session was given by LARS BJÖRKLUND, Senior Partner at Granit Management and board member of Transparency International Sweden, on “Case studies in ethics and compliance implementation in business” to elucidate the organisational characteristics that are conducive to minimising the incidence of corruption. The speaker discussed cases from the olive oil, road construction, and telecommunications industries and concluded that the predictability of risk and reward for preventing corruption, as well as the quality of the leadership in the business are very significant factors. In the discussion, participants asked the speaker to identify ‘best practice’ within the business environment to reduce corruption and to outline the type of anti-corruption policy or initiative that would encourage foreign investment or business expansion into a market.
Session 3: Social impact of corruption - Inequality and fairness
NASTASSIA LESZCZYNSKA, a PhD candidate at the European Center for Advanced Research in Economics and Statistics (Université libre de Bruxelles) and a FNRS research fellow, presented the results of her research on “Fairness concerns in corrupt decisions”. Starting from the premise that corruption leads to unfairness, she made reference to recent research in the fields of behavioural and experimental economics, to show that poor citizens disproportionately bear the burdens of corruption. Building from this, the speaker argued that even people with corrupt behaviour display a preference for fairness and that fairness preferences could be used as a policy tool to deter corrupt behaviour.
Session 4: New ideas for integrity policy incentives
SERGEJUS MUROVJOVAS, Executive Director of Transparency International Lithuania, opened the final session of the day with a presentation on the importance of concrete, measurable and achievable anti-corruption programmes which trigger an incremental shift in organisational culture. Citing the development of the Lithuanian anti-corruption programme in 2002 and its subsequent implementation, the speaker identified the failings of large-scale anti-corruption programmes that are not absorbed into the culture of an organisation and do not have measurable results. By developing result-based programmes it is possible to track the effectiveness of policies and to identify unexpected benefits of policy initiatives. The discussion echoed the key points of the presentation on the use of insights from behavioural economics in policymaking and participants from the private sector related the presentation to a wider shift away from a ‘rulebook’ based compliance system towards one focused on organisational culture and behaviour in business.
LEVKE JESSEN-THIESEN, Junior Policy Analyst at the OECD Public Sector Integrity Division, presented on “The role of governance for the economic impact of corruption and the challenges in developing actionable measurements of corruption and integrity”. The speaker outlined the impact of corrupt activities on productivity, innovation and resource allocation before discussing the key factors in the OECD’s approach to public integrity policy: integrity systems (i.e. the structure of responsibilities allocated between participants), national or organisational culture, and accountability. At the core of the presentation was an emphasis on the monitoring and evaluation of interventions to determine their suitability and effectiveness. Participants discussed the importance of contextualising statistics and indicators in the wider reform setting to ensure an approach that incorporates the complementary elements of statistical analysis and stakeholder engagement.
Barcelona, 15 june 2017
The 8th Experience Sharing Workshop, organised by the European Commission (DG HOME), brought together representatives from national ministries, civil society, specialised corruption prevention, integrity and ethics authorities, national parliaments and national prosecution services, from a total of 21 Member States, alongside experts from the European Commission.
UTE STIEGEL (European Commission) opened the workshop by presenting the Commission’s efforts in the fight against corruption, the role of monitoring and evaluation and updated on the most recent legislative and policy initiatives that include anti-corruption at EU level.
LAURA STEFAN (Expertforum, RO) gave an overview of the most challenging aspects of setting up an efficient regime to prevent conflicts of interests at national level. The temptation to include overly restrictive rules, needs to be balanced by the capacity of the states to manage such rules as well as the importance of attracting high level professionals to jobs in the public sector. She pointed to the need to adapt rules across various categories of officials, as blanket restrictions are not readily enforceable. While conflicts of interest cannot be entirely ruled out, the capacity for early detection is paramount for their effective containment. Any set of legislative rules regulating conflicts of interest need to be accompanied by targeted awareness-raising and training, availability of advisory support for civil servants, including guidance for handling sensitive questions as well as a climate of safe reporting on ethical concerns. Creating the right environment for making rules enforceable also depends on setting up effective and deterrent sanctions.
Session 1: Managing conflicts of interests – what tools are available for public authorities?
MARISA MIRALLES, from the Anti-Fraud Office of Catalonia (Spain) presented the results of a study commissioned by the Parliament of the Autonomous Community of Catalonia aiming to identify weaknesses in the Catalan public sector and seek inspiration from existing systems in the EU. In the framework of the study, the office also conducted a survey for getting an overview of compliance with existing rules. While rules need to be designed taking into account the specificities of each professional group in the public sector (as regards responsibility, risks of conflicts of interest and severity of consequences), a common catalogue of tools for detecting and managing conflicts of interests before, during and upon leaving office. The role of transparency at all stages was highlighted, including as regards the publicity of sanctions as a deterring mechanism as well as a tool to repair institutional reputational damage. The presentation sparked a lively exchange mostly around setting up an efficient advisory role, where a combination of having ethics advisors at the level of each public institution as well as horizontal support by a central authority were highlighted. Of particular note were discussions on the independence of the integrity advisory role as well as on the challenges in creating a climate that fosters the confidence to ask for guidance. Most experts indicated an increased focus on issuing guidelines, including by publishing inquiries in an organised way, and continuous training for civil servants on ethical matters. Experts agreed that media plays an increasingly important role in putting integrity incidents in the spotlight and turning the public debate from “is it legal” to “is it ethical” questions. At the same time, experts pointed to the need to clarify the relationship and interactions between media owners and politicians.
Session 2: Prevention, detection and verifications of conflict of interest situations
JURE SKRBEC, presented the work of the Corruption Prevention Commission of Slovenia, having extensive competencies to prevention, detection and verifications of conflicts of interests. Of particular note were the system in place for early detection of situations of conflicts of interest, Erar (formerly known as Supervizor), a webtool for identifying all financial transactions between public authorities and private actors. This publicly available tool is accompanied by a system of red flags that is available for Commission inspectors, who are also enabled to cross-check information from asset declarations with information contained in other databases (e.g. business register, population register, real estate, etc.). The Commission also plays an advisory role, including as regards helping institutions to minimize risks of conflicts of interest in their individual integrity plans. During the discussion, workshop participants inquired about the availability of data on financial transactions to enable cross checks as well as data protection issues. The independence of the institutions responsible for verification, as well as their ability to carry out inquiries and impose sanctions and good cooperation with other bodies, such as tax authorities, were reiterated as crucial elements.
Session 3: Incompatibilities and post-employment situations
DAVID GINOCCHI, from the High Authority for Transparency in Public Life (HATPV) presented the French approach to regulating revolving doors (fr pantouflage) between the public and the private sector. Unlike the Ethics Commission on Public Service, which is responsible for all French civil servants and political advisors, the HATPV has a narrower field of competence, covering about 1000 officials (government members, local elected officials, independent agencies members) and can conduct in depth verifications. HATPV uses an intelligence software to monitor the post-mandate activities of these categories of officials to ensure they are carried out in line with the reservations issued upon seeking authorisation.
SHERRY PERREAULT, from the Standards Commission (Ireland), presented the fairly recent Irish Lobbying Act (2015) which regulates the mandatory registration of lobbying activities, resulting in a quite high level of compliance on behalf of the private sector and contains post-employment provisions for the public sector. At the same time, restrictions with regards to the conduct of public officials are stipulated across a variety of Codes of Conduct. This leads to important differences across categories, with clear restrictions for civil servants, no rules for legislative office holders and relatively little guidance for political office holders.
The two presentations prompted reflection on striking the right balance between the need to regulate the mobility of labour between the public and the private sector and maintaining the attractiveness of the public sector and the right to work. It was noted that the general approach is to include obligations for civil servants, not always matched by obligations for private employers. At the same time, experts pointed that for private companies, publicity and transparency are efficient measures to dissuade the breach of rules – examples were given of companies that requested the opinion of central ethics advisory bodies to clarify obligations upon hiring former high-level officials. In many contexts, peer pressure for overt ethical behaviour and the ability of companies to keep competitors in check appears to elicit compliance with ethical rules.
Section 4: Sanctions and enforcement – typology and dissuasiveness
SILVIU POPA, from the National Integrity Agency (Romania), -focused on sanctions for incompatibilities and conflicts of interests. While disciplinary sanctions and the temporary ban on holding public office are more easily enforceable, cancelling public procurement processes when these are affected by conflicts of interest is more challenging. This prompted the Agency to invest more heavily in preventive measures: a system of red flags in public procurement was set in place to avoid the signature of contracts in absence of credible mitigation measures taken by the contracting authorities if a conflict of interest is detected. An unstable legal framework, prescription period that are too short and legislative loopholes were identified as major threats to any integrity system. On the other hand, the conditions that appear to lead to a better dissuasive regime of sanctions were, in the Romanian case, a solid and diverse track record of solved cases, consistent jurisprudence, training and permanent guidance.
The discussion that followed was focused on the challenge of maintaining a wide array of administrative and financial sanctions. Experts were also interested in learning about Romanian legislation that includes a criminal component of conflicts of interests.
Brussels, 31 March 2017
The Seventh Experience Sharing Workshop, organised by the European Commission (DG HOME), brought together representatives from national ministries, anti-corruption bodies, national statistical institutes, the judiciary, and academia from 22 Member States, alongside experts from the European Commission, to discuss using indicators to inform policy and measure progress on anti-corruption.
Participants were given food for thought alongside the informal dinner on the preceding evening, with a presentation by Mari-Liis SÖÖT, Ministry of Justice, Estonia, on the demand for indicators from the policy side. This covered both policymaking and evaluating policies, as well as the role of performance indicators in the policy environment. This sparked a good discussion of both theoretical and practical aspects of developing and using indicators in a policy environment.
The topic of anti-corruption indicators covers a broad range of quantitative sources, including: experience and perception surveys; expert-based indices; "red-flag" indicators of corruption risks; official administrative statistics on corruption cases. The focus can range from the international to the regional level, and may vary considerably depending on the institutions or sectors under consideration. For many years, policymakers have recognised the benefits of good indicators, and there have been a number of calls at political level to improve the quality of indicators available.
Luigi SORECA, Director for Security, DG HOME, opened the workshop by talking about the Commission's efforts in the fight against corruption, the role of monitoring and evaluation, the wide range of policy initiatives which involve anti-corruption elements, and the importance of data and quantitative indicators to inform all of these.
Vienna, 16 June 2016
The Sixth Experience Sharing Workshop, organised by DG Migration & Home Affairs (HOME), brought together representatives national ministries, parliaments, judiciary, think-thanks, anti-corruption bodies, academia and non-governmental organisations from 17 Member States, alongside experts from the European Commission, the European Parliament, the UNODC, and the Council of Europe, to discuss anti-corruption initiatives and best practices on political immunities.
The subject of political immunities goes well beyond the sphere of corruption. Nevertheless, the issue was pointed out in a number of country chapters of the first EU Anti-Corruption Report. Immunities play a significant role whenever the abuse of power for private gain is at stake.
The workshop was structured around three modules: an introduction and overview of political immunities in Europe; some case studies from the Member States; and initiatives at the EU and international level.
Prague, 21 April 2016
The Fifth Experience Sharing Workshop, organised by DG Migration & Home Affairs, brought together representatives from ministries, law firms, judiciary, think-thanks, anti-corruption bodies, academia and non-governmental organisations from 17 Member States to discuss anti-corruption initiatives and best practices in the private sector. The workshop was composed of five sessions focusing on specific issues concerning the fight against corruption in the private sector.
Corruption in the private sector is one of the challenges identified in Europe. The integrity of the companies plays an important role for the success of anti-corruption policies. The dedicated sessions in the workshop tackled the issue from different angles and explored the experience and best practices from different Member States.
Athens, 25 February 2016
The fourth Experience Sharing Workshop brought together representatives from ministries, expert centres, think-thanks, anti-corruption and public procurement bodies, academia and non-governmental organisations from 17 Member States to discuss anti-corruption initiatives and best practices in public procurement. Organised by DG Migration & Home Affairs (HOME), the workshop also included representatives of DG Regional & Urban Policy (REGIO), DG Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship & SMEs (GROW) and the European Court of Auditors. The discussions were held under the Chatham House Rule to encourage open sharing of information.
The first EU Anti-Corruption Report pointed out public procurement, especially at the local level, as an area of great concern. Public procurement in general was identified as an area particularly prone to corruption. Corruption risks are higher at the local and regional levels where authorities benefit from wide discretionary powers, insufficiently matched by checks and balances. The workshop was structured around five different sessions.
Further useful resources:
Rome, 12 November 2015
The third experience sharing workshop brought together representatives from ministries of health and justice, anti-corruption and prosecution bodies, academia and civil society from 19 EU Member States to discuss anti-corruption initiatives in the healthcare sector.
Corruption in healthcare has a particularly salient impact on human lives. The sector was highlighted by the first EU Anti-Corruption Report as a risk area affecting all Member States in different ways, from informal payments by patients, to approval of medicines for reimbursement, to procurement at hospitals, to contacts between doctors and pharmaceutical companies. The EU market has implications for efforts to reform national health systems, as underpaid medical professionals and re-exported medicines cross borders freely, while national governments negotiate prices individually.
The Hague, 2 July 2015
The second experience sharing workshop brought together representatives from 18 EU Member States, the Commission and other anti-corruption experts to discuss whistleblowing as a means to prevent and detect corruption. Reflecting the cross-cutting nature of the topic and the diversity of national arrangements, participants included prosecutors, police officers, officials from anti-corruption agencies and ministries of interior, justice, finance and labour.
To encourage the disclosure of information in the public interest, whistleblowers require not only legal protection from reprisal, but also advice and support. The workshop was organised in two sections:
Budapest, 29 April 2015
Representatives from 20 EU Member States, the Commission and other anti-corruption experts discussed asset declaration systems as an effective means to prevent corruption. The discussions were held under the Chatham House rule to encourage open sharing of information.
Asset declarations are an important element of successful anti-corruption programmes, contributing to a culture of integrity in public service. An effective asset declaration system helps prevent conflicts of interest, detect breaches of integrity rules, and build a public service that is transparent and enjoys higher levels of citizen trust.
A variety of models exist, as documented by the first EU Anti-Corruption Report. The models differ with respect to:
The workshop, organised in two sessions, discussed:
1: Effective format of asset declarations
The session kicked off with a presentation by Michael Kubiciel, University of Cologne, titled Income declaration as an alternative to asset declaration in Germany.The German model of secondary income declaration for Members of Parliament served as a basis for the roundtable discussion. One participant noted that income offenses have often been easier to identify and prosecute than corruption. Other interventions pointed to the possibility of mixed systems (assets and income) and of covering secondary income above a certain threshold, shares, bonds, board memberships and contracts. The degree to which a mandatory versus voluntary system is desirable was also raised. Another thread in the discussion concerned declaration of activities, to address the practice of revolving doors.
The level of public disclosure varies across Member States – with some countries publishing the entire content of declarations, depending on the category of officials concerned (government members, elected officials, appointed officials, etc.) and others making a distinction between information that is public and information that is recorded and hence subject to verification but not publicly available, again, depending on the category of officials concerned. Some systems extend the obligation to close family members, but only part of the information declared is made public because of privacy concerns.
2: Effective monitoring verification and sanctioning
The presentation by Ruslan Stefanov from the Centre for the Study of Democracy, focused on minimum standards for disclosure, how to better monitor and verify asset declarations, the need for better cooperation between administrative and law-enforcement institutions, and the use of electronic tools, and dissuasive sanctions.
Asset disclosure was discussed as a tool in deterring corruption by increasing its costs. Participants pointed to the usefulness of asset declarations as evidence in court proceedings. An extension of the asset and interest declarations verification can detect conflict of interest in public procurement.
Verification was discussed in detail, including the independence, powers and tools available to the bodies in charge. Checks may concern conformity with the obligation and consistency of the information. Some national bodies use specialised software. Cross-verification with other registries (business, population, tax, etc.) is essential to detect inconsistencies, which can lead to further verification and investigation.
The limits of asset disclosure for detecting corruption were also discussed, with participants pointing to the practice of concealing assets under the name of a spouse or child. Where asset declarations are not accompanied by effective tools to address the revolving-doors phenomenon, the power of the system to prevent corruption may be limited.