The paper was drafted on the initiative of the European Commission in the framework of cooperation of Ecorys and the Local Research Correspondents on Corruption network active in the EU member States.
The publication covers eight key lines of anti-corruption action:
- transparency and open data;
- citizen engagement;
- collective action;
- integrity promotion;
- conflict-of-interest management and detection;
- anti-corruption strategy;
- anti-corruption agencies;
- detection and investigation of corruption.
The Handbook provides a brief description of possible anti-corruption measures to be employed in each of these areas, including relevant international standards, mechanisms of their practical implementation, potential outcome of their implementation and related limitations, links to additional resources and specific examples of these measures adopted in EU countries.
The report covers 27 good practices (one for each European country) selected in line with the following criteria:
- implemented and/or updated in the last five years;
- has positive impact on the reduction of domestic corruption;
- can be implemented in other EU member States.
Based on the analysis of explored good, practices the authors of the report conclude that there are the following anti-corruption trends in the region:
1. Focus on enhanced transparency of public data and employment of open data to counter corruption.
The paper stresses that enhanced transparency of public bodies, officials and large corporations etc., as well as the provision of relevant quality open data is of great importance for countering corruption, including increased effectiveness of specific anti-corruption tools. Particular attention is paid to transparency of public procurement as it is an area most vulnerable to corruption.
The Czech Republic created an open register of contracts (Registru smluv) where the information on all public contracts the value of which exceeds 50,000 CZK (roughly 2,300 USD), including the customer, the contractor, the object of the contract, date of conclusion, the amount of the contract etc., must be incorporated.
In Austria, the NGO “Forum for Freedom of Information” (Forum Informationsfreiheit) launched a platform that aggregates open data on public procurement the value of which exceeds 50,000 EUR (roughly 54,000 USD).
Slovenia developed ERAR that is an application tracking all financial operations in the public sector, including the information on counterparties, recipients of funds and the legal persons associated with them, as well as the dates, amount and the purposes of operations.
Romania has the Prevent system designed to prevent conflicts of interest in public contracting. The system allows for analysing the information on procurement, decision-makers, members of the evaluation committee and external experts, bidders and measures to eliminate potential conflicts of interest, information from different public databases to cross-check and detect indicators of conflicts of interest before contracts are signed.
2. Improvement of databases that provide information to counter corruption.
The report states that many EU countries use comprehensive technological solutions ranging from creating new databases to bringing the existing information from different sources together, including:
- official documents, for example, concluded public contracts;
- information about legal and/or natural persons, for instance, registers of beneficial owners, lists of representatives of interests and the like.
Slovakia created the Register of Public Sector Partners (Register partnerov verejného sektora) that contains information on beneficial owners of the organisations interacting with the State. The accuracy of the information incorporated in the register is verified by competent officers who conduct a preliminary verification of data upon registration and thereafter repeat the procedure at least once a year.
Finland launched the Harmaa project that envisages the employment of the MS Power BI technology with a view to analysing the database of the National Enforcement Authority that contains information about all stages of law enforcement and some other public databases to provide data from disparate sources (different databases) in a uniform and illustrative format. The data produced this way can be used to enhance the effectiveness of law enforcement agencies: for example, it can be provided to inspectors at the special enforcement unit (Erityisperintäyksikkö) for automated search for cases that deviate from regular routine sentencing cases and need additional investigation, which allows for concentrating the limited time and human resources on these more complicated cases.
Luxemburg created Renow repository aimed at assisting public bodies in more easily obtaining and using their open data. In particular, the resource contains general information on the quality standards and accessibility of websites, description of UX methods for user-friendly interface creation and the check list of criteria reflecting accessibility and uniformity of websites of public bodies, and practical guidance on how to provide public information to citizens.
3. Enhanced cooperation.
Yet another anti-corruption trend in the EU countries is the focus on enhanced cooperation with different stakeholders. This is, in particular, about the engagement of citizens and other actors in the fight against corruption directly or through consultations and other forms of public debate, as well as enhanced cooperation between public bodies also in the investigation of corruption offences.
For example, Bulgaria implemented the project for independent election oversight “You Count” (Ti Broish) during the 2021 parliamentary elections promoted by the political formation “Yes Bulgaria”. 12,000 volunteers were selected and trained on the electoral procedures, the rights of observers, and the duties of the Central Electoral Commission; on election day, each volunteer was responsible for covering one polling station and reporting all detected violations.
Portugal largely relies on integrity pacts to ensure the monitoring of public procurement by civil society organisations.
A good practice in the area of cooperation between public bodies was found in the Netherlands that launched the Knowledge Platform against Subversive Crime (Kennisplatform Ondermijning) aimed, in particular, at sharing information, enriching knowledge, and exchanging experiences between government bodies, regional public bodies, police, prosecution, tax and customs authorities, as well as a number of supervisory authorities.
4. Promotion of integrity.
The authors of the Handbook highlight that the practice of establishing standards of conduct, adopting codes of ethics and other similar documents and conducting subsequent monitoring of compliance with them, as well as of creating the conditions for raising awareness of these standards and promoting the principles of integrity is widespread across the European Union.
In Sweden for instance, the Association of local authorities and regions (Sveriges Kommuner och Regioner), the Association of Private Care Providers (Vårdföretagarna) and the Employers Association Fremia concluded an Agreement to counter bribery and corruption in healthcare (Överenskommelse om samverkansformer för att förebygga mutor och korruption inom vårdsektorn) establishing ethics standards and rules of conduct for the employees of the health sector as related to non-tolerance of corruption, whistleblowing etc.
Malta introduced the post of Commissioner for Standards in Public Life empowered to investigate allegations of ethical misconduct of ministers, members of Parliament, and persons of trust and to examine declarations of assets and interests of the abovementioned individuals, make recommendations for the improvement of relevant codes of ethics and on lobbying and the acceptance of gifts.
Germany established the Integrity Alliance (Allianz für Integrität) that includes representatives of the private and public sectors and civil society. The Alliance implements initiatives and drafts documents, including legal acts, to ensure integrity at all stages of production process.
To restore trust in the prosecution authorities in Cyprus, an integrity system was established. It provides for holding liable all individuals involved in corruption, including high-ranking officials whose involvement was reported by the media and/or NGOs but who managed to escape punishment, adopting codes of conduct for prosecutors, organising training on integrity, increasing accountability, carrying out monitoring, establishing an interagency corruption investigation team etc.
5. Improvement of drafting of anti-corruption strategies and effectiveness of anti-corruption bodies.
The paper stresses that the EU countries have recently started to engage different stakeholders in drafting anti-corruption strategies as well as to generally decentralize anti-corruption activities by increasing responsibility of certain public bodies and local government bodies.
In Greece for example, the National Anti-Corruption Action Plan 2022-2025 (Εθνικού Στρατηγικού Σχεδίου για την Καταπολέμηση της Διαφθοράς (ΕΣΣΚΔ) 2022-2025) was drafted with the engagement of representatives of the private sector and civil society organisations following a public consultation.
In Spain, there is the Agency for the Prevention and Fight against Fraud and Corruption of the Valencian Region (La Agencia de Prevención y Lucha contra el Fraude y la Corrupción de la Comunitat Valenciana) with a mandate to combat systemic corruption at the local level.