Anti-corruption watchdog says government has disappointed over action to tackle graft

Measures to tackle corruption were one of the centerpieces of the coalition agreement that paved the way for the current government. But with an anti-corruption strategy now on the government table and creating rifts between the political partners, what have been the results so far? We asked the director of the Czech branch of corruption watchdog Transparency International, David Ondráčka, how he evaluated the government’s performance so far.

Justice Minister Jiří Pospíšil, PM Petr Nečas, Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra (left to right), photo: CTK
“We score the government very poorly. For seven months of existence of this government, which called itself anti-corruption, we have not seen the implementation of an anti-corruption strategy. We see a lot of unresolved cases. We have not seen any major progress in investigation of corruption. And before Christmas, there was a major political scandal relating to the Environment Ministry which was dealt with totally improperly.”

Are there any positive aspects in ministries at all that you can identify?

“Certainly, we should not be unbalanced. We see some positive elements which we welcome very much, certain moves regarding the accountability of certain government agencies. Specifically, we see progress at the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Culture. However, the overall result is that these moves are rather individual.”

And the scandal at the Ministry of Environment, what sort of message did that send out about the government’s willingness to tackle corruption?

“Well, the signal send out was very negative since the key message is that whoever becomes a whistleblower and reports corruption or wrongdoing is afterwards punished; loses his job and is publicly discredited. The second message was that the substance of this case was of a public tender that was supposed to have been manipulated and overcharged and that part of the money should go to the financing of a political party. This was completely dismissed and abandoned and the police investigation is focusing on a very different storyline than this critical one.”

On the government table today there is a anti-corruption strategy. How do you evaluate that?

“There is no doubt that the government needs to have an anti-corruption strategy or package and that this strategy should be complex and comprehensive. However, we are seeing at this moment a huge political struggle over the contents of this package. There is a clear difference between two coalition parties about how it should be structured and what included. And it is very likely that this package will be postponed and be subject to amendments and changes. The result is that the government will still lack an anti-corruption strategy and that all the necessary reforms will be delayed and that some of them will be completely skipped.”

Foto: Barbora Kmentová
But if most of these proposed measures come into effect, is it sufficient? Is it adequate?

“Well, if all of what is proposed on paper at the moment would be adopted then the Czech Republic would become a paradise in the sense of anti-corruption measures. However, we all know that this is just a strategy and that we will need to wait for specific legislative proposals and executive changes. These can be structured in very different ways: either very efficiently or in a completely empty way. Even after the package is adopted, we shall still be a long way from real execution and enforcement.”