Interior Ministry’s anti-corruption strategy gets cool reception

Radek John

Some two and a half months after calls for curbing corruption changed the Czech political landscape, the Interior Ministry unveiled its anti-corruption strategy. But the long-awaited plan has been coldly received both in and out of the coalition, and the NGO watchdog Transparency International has even quit the ministry’s anti-corruption panel.

Radek John,  photo: ČTK
The Czech Republic last year dropped to 52nd place in the Transparency International’s corruption perception index, indicating that the problem which has plagued the country for decades is not getting any better.

Strong anti-corruption rhetoric earned the Public Affairs party ten percent of the vote in May’s general election. Two and a half months later, party chair and Interior Minister Radek John presented a draft of the ministry’s anti-corruption strategy – but it immediately came under fire from all sides.

The proposed set of measures includes submitting police officers and public officials to corruption tests; anti-corruption manuals and ethic codes for the police and the public, and changing the law to allow the police to use wiretaps more extensively.

“The previous lower house made the police absolutely toothless. The police were unable to wiretap people involved in corrupt practices, and we all know that journalists disclosed many corruption cases through wiretaps.”

“We need to fix these mistakes and give the police these powers again. We also need the institute of active repentance – when someone has given a bribe four times, and has had enough, they won’t tell. But they would if we had that institute.”

This is only the first stage of the planned anti-corruption makeover but it was quickly shot down by Prime Minister Petr Nečas. He said that the Interior Ministry has yet to come up with a credible strategy. The current plan needs to undergo significant changes before it’s gets to the government for approval, according to Mr Nečas.

Václav Láska
The anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International also dismissed Mr John’s plan. Václav Láska is the head of the NGO’s Czech branch.

“I would not consider this an anti-corruption strategy of any kind. It is a mixed bag of overblown ideas, like those manuals or ethics codes that have no practical significance. It also focuses very much on repressive measures, some of them of a very controversial nature. What we expected – prevention measures, new bills and other things – none of that is in there.”

Mr Láska said the draft failed to address a number of important points such better legal protection for whistle blowers and a plan to make public procurement more transparent.

Petr Nečas and Radek John,  photo: ČTK
Transparency International also left the ministry’s anti-corruption panel saying Mr John was using them for publicity but did not really take their advice into account. They said however that they would be open to consultations with the ministry which aims to adopt a comprehensive anti-corruption strategy by 2012.