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Hungarians say our country is corrupt, and the situation is getting worse

  • 61 out of 100 Hungarians think that corruption has increased in the past two years
  • Hungarians believe that political parties are the most corrupt –the picture is the same in other European countries as well as worldwide
  • 8 out of 10 Hungarians think that the government’s actions are partly or fully influenced by the interests of particular business circles
  • 70 percent of Hungarians would not report a case of corruption – this is an exceptionally high percentage in Europe

Hungary is corrupt, and the situation has only worsened in the past few years – this is what the majority of Hungarians think about our country. Most of them is bothered by pervasive corruption, but fewer and fewer are willing to take action against it – diagnoses the Global Corruption Barometer, Transparency International’s most recent survey.

Only the government, the parties, and a few private companies benefit

According to the majority of Hungarians (61%) corruption has increased in the past two years, and governmental corruption is a serious issue. According to 82%, the actions of the state and the government are “somewhat or heavily” influenced by a few groups of firms. Thus, Hungarians don’t like the fact that certain groups of firms benefit from state decisions instead of the country itself. They estimate governmental corruption to 3.8 on a scale from 1 to 5 where 5 is the most corrupted, and only 1% of the people think that this type of corruption is “not at all problematic”. Thus, 99% believe that corruption in the public sector is a problem in Hungary.

After having investigated some areas of public life, results of the Global Corruption Barometer show that a large majority of people finds political parties the most corrupt, and that public opinion on politicians has not improved during the years. In line with the European and global tendencies, business sector appears to be the second most corrupt area after political parties in Hungary. Further similarities include the fact that in Hungary, as well as in the European Union, most bribes are paid in the healthcare sector ( i.e. parasolvency/facilitation payment paid to doctors). In Hungary 18%, while in the EU 12% of the respondents admitted to give parasolvency when using healthcare services.

The stamp is late, do you happen to know somebody in the office?

According to the results of the survey, the above question is often asked when  problematic affairs have to be arranged in a public (state or municipal) office. 85% of the Hungarian respondents report that personal relationships have a fundamental role in solving administrative issues: without these, citizens cannot access services, or cannot access them properly, e.g. fast enough.

The government’s fight against corruption is inefficient, everyone should be involved

Almost half of the Hungarians (48%) believe that the government’s fight against corruption is completely ineffective. Therefore, it is not surprising that 71 out of 100 respondents think that the role of everyday people is substantial in restraining corruption. This ratio is actually above the European average. Many would be willing to actively contribute to the fight against corruption, for example, by signing petitions or participating in protests. However, few dare to report cases of corruption to their boss, the police or a human rights organization.

“According to citizens, corruption is unfortunately very widespread in Hungary. This is related to the fact that public trust is alarmingly low and institutions do not work efficiently. Everyone’s effort is needed in order to make a change in this subject” – said József Péter Martin, executive director of Transparency International’s office in Hungary.

7 out of 10 Hungarians would not report a case of corruption. This is the worst ratio in Europe.

To the question “Would you report if you became aware of a case of corruption?” 70% of the respondents answered no. The survey showed that the majority of those who would restrain from whistleblowing (58 %) would decide so because they don’t expect any follow-up to the report. Thus, there is a considerable indifference and, in relation to that, a lack of trust among Hungarians. There are also more and more people who would not dare to take action if they experienced a case of corruption. Namely, 30% of the passive ones said that they are afraid of the consequences of a report; therefore they decide not to do anything. If we calculate for the entire population, it appears that 41 out of 100 Hungarians are completely indifferent to corruption, and 21 out of 100 are afraid to report it.

Recommendations

Taking into consideration the corruption barometer, Transparency International Hungary makes the following recommendations:

1.    We believe it is necessary to restore the autonomy of control-institutions who operate independently from the government. There is a need for an efficient system of “checks and balances” in order to enable public institutions to investigate in cases of corruption.

2.    Business groups that are close to the state, but whose interests are not aligned with those of the public, must not be able to influence public decision making.

3.     Our survey points out that the biggest corruption risks in Hungary originate from the strong links between the state and the business sector. As long as the financing of parties is corrupt, parties are overall not interested in taking action against corruption. Therefore, party and campaign financing must be made transparent. The government managed to achieve some improvement in this area, as campaign financing and the spending related to candidates have become slightly more transparent. It is a positive sign that instead of the previous one million ceiling for campaign expenses the ceiling will be set to five million Forints. However, we continue to be concerned about the fact that various NGOs who maintain close contact with political parties are able to engage in campaigning, as their campaign costs are not included in the five million limit. Furthermore, there will be no obstacle for the government to finance its own campaign from the state budget. The government is thus not interested in creating a transparent situation.

4.    We call for a more efficient regulation of whistleblowing. In our opinion it is not reasonable that corruption represents a threat to person reporting it. Therefore, we expect regulations that – contrary to the bill that has been proposed recently by the government – bring a break-through in the investigation of the corruption, and provide protection for honest citizens who report corruption cases. We consider the actions that the government has taken so far insufficient, even though the authorization of the ombudsman to control the authorities failing to act against corruption represents a small step forward. We do not understand the proposal of the government, according to which whistleblowers would be protected by the current authorities according to their current licenses. These have proven to be insufficient; therefore it is futile to expect results without a new approach.

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 About the Global Corruption Barometer:

The Global Corruption Barometer of Transparency International is a global survey that investigates the experiences of citizens confronting corruption worldwide. The 2013 Global Corruption Barometer, commissioned by Transparency International, reflects the opinion of 114 000 citizens from 107 countries – among them 20 countries of the European Union. In Hungary, the survey was conducted with a sample numbering 1000 people, between the 3rd and the 13th of November 2012.

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