HUNGARY IS CORRUPT – AND IT IS NOT THE ONLY ONE
As every year, Transparency International conducted one of the world’s most comprehensive corruption surveys, the Corruption Perceptions Index – CPI. Results concerning Hungary were presented on 3 December 2013 in Budapest.
In the 2013 CPI ranking, 123 out of 177 countries (that is, 70% of the examined countries) scored below 50 on the scale from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). These are very poor results, stressed Huguette Labelle, Chair of Transparency International. Corruption penetrates almost all levels of government in most countries, infecting legislation and the exercise of public power’, said Labelle at the international anti-corruption organisation’s headquarters in Berlin.
Besides the Corruption Perceptions Index, other surveys carried out by Transparency International in 2013 also underline that public sector corruption is a serious issue all around the world. In many places, financing of political parties involves corruption, thus parties are inevitably linked to business and investor circles that are not transparent in their decision-making. Once parties come to power, these interest groups become government beneficiaries. The situation is further aggravated when independent control bodies turn a blind eye to governments providing conspicuous advantages to certain business groups.
The best and worst performing countries remain the same
As in 2012, Denmark and New Zealand tie for first place with scores of 91. They are followed by Finland and Sweden (89 points), while Norway caught up to the fifth position alongside Singapore (86 points). Switzerland fell back from 5th to the 7th place, and the Netherlands, which was among the top ten last year as well, came in 8th.
In these countries, public authorities are transparent and accountable in their work while advancing the common good is a real priority for the state. Information of public interest such as contracts paid from taxpayers’ money or the spending of public institutions is easily accessible for a wide range of citizens and NGOs.
Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia remain at the end of the list, each scoring 8 points. In these countries, there is absolutely no accountable and responsible administration, and public institutions are not serving the common good.
Hungary: no palpable change, still in the most corrupt third of EU member states
In 2013 Hungary scored 54 points in the CPI survey, thus ranking 47th out of the 177 surveyed countries. Among the European Union’s 28 member states, Hungary ranked 20th (last year 19th out of 27 member states); therefore, its ranking remains unchanged in the bottom third. In regional comparison, Hungary is in the mid-range, following Estonia, Poland, Lithuania and Slovenia.
There are several reasons for these poor results. In Hungary, state institutions responsible for supervising the power exercised by the government are headed by government loyals. The almost complete elimination of checks and balances poses a serious risk of corruption in itself.
Legislation often serves momentary political interests instead of the common good. Where replacing leaders was not enough, the competence of control bodies has been weakened through legislative amendments; civil control has been hindered by laws; or certain economic interest groups have been favoured.
‘The transparent functioning of public authority is of utmost importance in the combat against corruption’, underlines József Péter Martin, Managing Director of Transparency International in Hungary. Regrettably, access to data on public spending, which has never been completely unlimited, has become even more restricted due to the amendment of the Act on the freedom of information, passed in 2013. In this respect, rather then making progress, Hungary has stepped back.
Hungary is likely to remain in the most corrupt bottom third
It seems as though Hungarian society is becoming insensitive to corruption. 70% of the population would not report corruption either because they do not trust authorities or they are afraid of repercussions. Mistrust penetrates public life more than ever, which is the hotbed for sidestepping rules, corruption and apathy.
According to Transparency International, the government does not encourage citizens to stand up against corruption, as it does not provide adequate protection for whistleblowers, nor does it enforce the fast and effective investigation of announcements of corruption. The new law on complaints and announcements of general interest, soon coming into force, falls short of delivering substantive solutions. If the government does not change the situation, state organs will continue to handle announcements in the same way as the National Tax and Customs Administration is dealing with the tax fraud case uncovered by a former tax inspector: following a 48-hour alibi investigation, charges were pressed against the whistleblower. This case is being handled in a way that is completely contrary to how whistleblowers should be treated.
Research conducted by TI and other international organisations reveals a connection between competitiveness and the level of corruption. ‘Without transparent and predictable state institutions, the economy cannot be competitive’, added József Péter Martin, the head of the anti-corruption organisation. In Hungary, legislation has become unpredictable; business climate has deteriorated over the years, and the investment-to-GDP ratio is very low in regional comparison. Hungary’s competitiveness stands at a low level, which can greatly be attributed to the inadequate functioning of institutions and the lack of transparency in government politics.
About the Corruption Perceptions Index
The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) draws on 13 surveys which assess the level of public sector corruption as perceived by experts and businessmen. Countries must be assessed by at least three background surveys in order to appear in the Corruption Perceptions Index. In 2013 the ranking was established based on the scores of 177 countries. Transparency International projects the scores of background indices to a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 equals to the highest and 100 to the lowest level of perceived corruption. The TI Secretariat based in Berlin calculates the CPI by using a methodology that was developed for this specific purpose.