According to Law of 4 March 2022 No. 19(I)/2022 “On the Establishment and Operation of the Independent Authority against Corruption” (O περί της Σύστασης και Λειτουργίας της Ανεξάρτητης Αρχής κατά της Διαφθοράς Νόμος), the body shall not only coordinate domestic anti-corruption activities, assess the anti-corruption measures adopted by public authorities and organisations of the public and private sectors and ensure the implementation of the National Strategy against Corruption (Εθνικη Στρατηγικη Κατα Τησ Διαφθορασ), but also investigate the facts of alleged corruption offences.
In particular, the mandate of the Authority will cover:
- gathering and processing of reports of alleged corruption offences in public bodies, local government bodies, organisations regulated by public law (the entities established in line with the law and totally or partly financed by the State – editor’s note), other entities that are not legal persons established in the public interest and financed by the State, and private sector entities that interact with the State, investigation into alleged corruption offences detected by the Authority ex officio or while processing the reports of bodies (organisations), and subsequent transfer of the information gathered to the competent authorities. In the course of investigation the Authority is entitled to ask public bodies, including the Prosecutor General’s Office and the organisations involved in the case, to provide the necessary information, to subpoena the persons who may have information about the offences, to conduct searches and/or forensic analysis under the conditions provided for by the Criminal Procedure Code. Additionally, in order to gather and process the reports of corruption offences and to conduct investigations, the Authority is entitled to engage special inspectors who are not permanent staff but have the necessary qualifications, knowledge and expertise to assist the Agency in the event of an excessive caseload;
- assessment of corruption risks inherent in a certain area of activity of public bodies and organisations, definition of indicators of this assessment and provision of recommendations on how to mitigate those risks also with the support of civil society organisations, professional associations, competent authorities etc.;
- cooperation with professional associations with a view to designing and implementing internal control mechanisms in the private sector companies;
- keeping the private sector organisations informed about anti-corruption best practices and standards, as well as provision of advice on the adoption of relevant measures and their appropriate enforcement;
- adoption of the measures for preventing the duplication of functions of different public bodies and organisations in the fight against corruption;
- cooperation with international organisations, bodies and entities of the European Union and foreign countries with a view to designing and implementing anti-corruption programmes or strategic plans, exchanging best practices, and providing technical assistance;
- submission of an annual report about the work of the Authority to the President etc.
The new body will comprise five members, including the Commissioner for Transparency (Επίτροπο Διαφάνειας), who will be appointed for a non-renewable six-year term. In order to select the candidates, a special Consultative Council will be established; the body will submit for each position a triple number of candidates who:
- have not held the posts of a minister or deputy minister under the current President, and
- have not held the posts of a minister, deputy minister, member of Parliament or of the European Parliament, positions in the civil service, the police, the fire and military service, local government bodies, educational entities, the organisations established in the public interest, and have not held a party post in the past two years.
Subsequently, the list of candidates shall be forwarded to the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs for consideration; the final decision on the selection of specific candidates will be taken by the President.
A number of obligations, prohibitions and restrictions are also imposed on the members of the Authority. These include:
- maintenance of confidentiality of the information obtained in the exercise of their professional duties;
- submission of asset declarations within three months since the appointment and every three years after that;
- notification of the employee about the presence of direct or indirect personal interest with regard to the persons associated with the members of the Authority, i.e. spouses or blood relatives or in-laws of up to the fourth degree of affinity, and organisations where a member of the Authority owns/controls at least ten per cent of votes in the general meeting or where his/her spouse or other blood relative of up to the fourth degree of affinity is the director or owns/controls at least 51 per cent of the total number of shares;
- prohibition to hold any other position or undertake other remunerated activities;
- provision of a written agreement to the control of bank accounts and communication channels in the event that corruption-related criminal proceedings are initiated against the member of the Authority.
The Law also contains the provisions on the enforcement of liability measures for a failure to comply with the established requirements, in particular:
- if a member of the Authority fails to submit the notification about direct or indirect personal interest or to maintain the confidentiality of the information contained in a report, he/she can be punished with an imprisonment of up to seven years and/or a fine of up to €350,000; in similar cases, an inspector can be punished with an imprisonment of up to two years and/or a fine of up to €30,000;
- if a person knowingly reports false information about an alleged corruption crime to the Authority, he/she can be punished with an imprisonment of up to three years and/or a fine of up to €50,000;
- if a person in possession of the information necessary to investigate an alleged corruption crime refuses to testify without a valid reason, he/she can be punished with an imprisonment of up to a year and/or a fine of up to €10,000.
In spite of the fact that the establishment of a dedicated anti-corruption body could be generally considered as a positive step, some experts point to obvious difficulties that Cyprus’s approach can lead to.
Firstly, the functions of the Authority to investigate corruption offences can lead to unjustified duplication of the mandate of the existing bodies responsible for the fight against corruption at the domestic level, namely the police and the prosecution service. It seems that if the government considers the performance of the existing bodies as unsatisfactory, the situation can be redressed by adopting the measures for improving the performance of these bodies rather than by establishing new ones to fulfill the same functions, which the experts believe is Cyprus’s case.
Secondly, it is highlighted that the proposed mechanism for appointing the members of the Authority, i.e. the compilation of the list of candidates by the Consultative Council, its subsequent consideration by the Parliamentary Committee and submission of proposals to the President, is associated with a high risk of leaks and undue political influence on the procedure of selection of future members of the anti-corruption authority. The requirement to appoint a former judge of the Supreme Court as the head of the Consultative Council also raises concerns, as it can hamper the autonomy of the new authority which might be dependent to a certain extent on the judiciary.