A Diagnosis of Corruption in the Czech Republic

As the different surveys and opinion polls suggest, corruption and lack of transparency is, despite minor improvements, the longstanding problem in the Czech Republic´s public space. Perceived as the burning issue, the discourse on introduction of new anticorruption measures is high on the political parties´ list of priority agenda within the current political campaign before May 2010 general elections. How does that play out in the long run?

National Integrity System Assessment for Czech Republic Launched

Transparency International’s national chapter in the Czech Republic released recently a National Integrity System assessment showing how “healthy” the main governance institutions in the country are, considering their resources, accountability, transparency and role in fighting corruption. The study showed that corruption in public procurement remains one of the main problems to be tackled.

According to the report, the “healthiest” institutions are the Ombudsman and the Supreme Auditing Office. These are, however, like islands of integrity in a system where fundamental institutions show weaknesses. The state prosecutor’s office, for instance, received the lowest score, mainly due to its lack of independence from political parties. On a positive note, however, this institution is currently undergoing important reforms expected to bring improvements in its performance.

A cross-cutting issue identified in the report refers to the accountability of institutions, which seems to be not so clearly defined in the case of institutions such as the police and the civil service. Both the concepts of accountability and integrity are not well translated into legal provisions applicable to the public sector, and this reveals the need for a broader debate on how regulations should more clearly reflect these principles.

Read the article “Health Czech! Any surprising results from the Czech Integrity System assessment?” on blog.transparency.org. The full study is available in Czech on transparency.cz.

Prosecution of corruption and other serious economic crimes

The project activities (an analysis) aimed to initiate a debate on usefulness of the introduction of special anti-corruption institutions that were established in Slovakia to the Czech environment. A study “How effective are the Czech and Slovak law enforcement agencies”” was published and a conference on prosecution of corruption in the Czech Republic and Slovakia took place.”

Anti-Corruption Packages

The project was aimed at monitoring, archivation and presentation of the cases of corruption; and structural support of the organization.

Public Contracting – Transparent Competition for Public Funds

The ongoing project focuses on different problems related to public procurement; it involved monitoring of public procurement focused on the area of military procurement, policy paper on EU black listing standards, creation of the “Map of Clientelist Practices”” in the area of public construction contracts, seminars, concrete legislative proposals improving the transparency of the processes, participation at the international conferences, improvement of the applicant website.”

Detection of Corruption in the Czech Public Administration

The project consisted in watchdog activities; monitoring and mapping the corruption space in different public authorities and institutions; evaluation of the systemic risks. The staff members of the organization worked under cover in different institutions, only the director of the NGO was known.

Limitation of corruption and conflict of interest in the area of state incentives for foreign investments

The project aimed at increasing transparency of relations between the public administration and the foreign corporate investors via conflict of interests monitoring.

The organization became an active player within different administrative processes related to corporate investments in different parts of the country. Strategies towards big corporate business were developed, monitoring of decisions on state incentives for foreign investors was in place.

An important achievement was the Declaration of Understanding concluded with Hunday Motor Manufacturing, company that was preparing a big investment in Moravia.

The coalition of NGOs advocated the declaration that was co-signed by the representatives of the regional authorities and the Czech Invest agency and Ministry of Trade and Industry. The issue got extensive media coverage.

 

Read more about the Environmental Law Service initiatives on anti-corruption here (English).

A corruption-free Town Hall

The project included a roundtable discussion with employees of the Prague City Hall on the transparent decision-making and the problem of corruption. Before the 2002 local communal elections all the competing political parties and movements were approached and requested answers from their candidates to six questions concerning their personal position with respect to questions of transparency and corruption. The outcome is a report on this survey. The second phase of the project were the workshops in the V4 countries’ capitals entitled “Corruption-free Town Halls in the Visegrad Region”” aiming at experience sharing and comparison. The result of the first meeting that took place in 2003 in Prague was the formulation of specific plans and further elaboration of the cooperation.”

A Citizen within a Rule of Law

The project focused on watchdog activities of local anti-corruption activists; email conference for experience exchange was set up and workshops and seminars organized, focusing on real cases and practical know-how. An anti-corruption advice center for individual citizens was implemented, including the support of a lawyer.

Act on Free Access to Information

A law on free access to information that is a powerful tool for corruption control and watchdog activities has been absent in the Czech legal framework for quite a long time; this project contributed to the successful culmination of the efforts to bring it into life. The seminar was widely inclusive, convening the representatives of the civil society, deputies, journalists and civil servants. The printed outcome of the seminar was distributed to the members of Chamber of Deputies before the vote. The advocacy part and media campaign implemented by TIC targeted three main groups – deputies and senators, journalist and young people. The message was simple – allow for free access to information. Tools like free postcards with a motto “Get informed by your deputy or senator when they allow you to access the information” were used. TIC issued around 10.000 postcards and sent them to all legislators and important journalists; the postcards were also distributed freely by a chain of cinemas, cafes and restaurants. The main message of the campaign was modified and extended for each of the target groups (via press releases, letters or info brochures). The campaign managed to get the deputies and senators under pressure and made some of them to make a public commitment to support the law (43 out of the 200 deputies made the public commitment they would vote for the law). An individual approach to each and every deputy and senator proved efficient; it allowed for expression of their personal opinions and for media coverage. There was also an important role of journalist who were not only transmitting the message but took active part in the campaign. TIC supplied media actively with additional info on how the law works in different European countries or delivered the statements of the involved Czech deputies. The law was adopted in spring 1999 and went into effect as of January 2000.

Transparency for the Police

The first project phase consisted of survey of the state of affairs within the police force with the results published in May 2000. The second project phase consisted of comparison of anti-corruption strategies in the police forces in 25 countries with the publication “Crossing the Thin Blue Line”” as the output. With the help of the study, a “”Framework for an Anti-corruption Strategy for the Czech Police”” was designed in cooperation with representatives of the Ministry of Interior; Ministry of Justice; Police Presidium; Czech Police; Bureau of the Attorney General; judges; Office of the President; Ombudsman; Government Commissioner for Human Rights; non-profit organisations – Czech Helsinki Committee, People in Need, Civil Legal Observers. Another project activity was the introduction of regular integrity and ethics training for police and students of police schools; TIC initiated a pilot “Integrity and Ethics Course“ for police school teachers.”

Conflict of Interests and Corruption in the Public Administration

Monitoring of the implementation of the law on conflict of interest focusing on particular cases including publishing the cases, taking part in the administrative procedures, court rulings and involving media into the coverage of the issues and cases. Monitoring targeted mainly deputies and senators – how they comply with the obligaton to publish all gainful activities and incomes. A substantial part was cooperation with the media (assisting them with publishing a list of those who did not comply every year). The organization also provided support to the media and background information on the interpretation of the law. Regular press conferences took place, later on in the Senate. The project changed the culture connected to the publishing of the incomes, related to the law on the conflict of interests and raised awareness of the media on the issue; after the termination of the project, the media keep continuing monitoring the obligation to comply. In the third year of running project (2004), all deputies and senators complied. The only shortcomming would be the focus on the parliamentary level only due to the capacity of the organization.

Anti-Corruption Legal Advice Center

The anti-corruption counselling center was established. A publication (cookbook) “How to face a corruption”” was one of the project outputs as well as the special internet section and the anti-corruption library. A workshop for the NNO representatives was organised durign the first year of the project implementation. The number of clients (individuals, companies, public authorities) and cases assited by the Center (available at Center’s Activity Report of 2006 and 2008) amounts to several hundreds every year. Lawyers employed by the TIC assist the individuals at the court if necessary and the TIC also organises public debates in the municipailities where particular case takes place with good results and impacts on transparency of the local governments´processes. The project is ongoing. There has been different funding every year. The anti-corruption number 199, operated by TIC (outsourcing), is funded by the Ministry of Interior. Some of the clients of the anticorruption line 199 are consequently assisted by the Center.”

Transparency through Awareness/Threats and Opportunities of EU Structural Funds I and II

During the first phase, the project focused on monitoring and analyzing the areas of distribution and use of funds, especially on areas related to institutional conflict of interest, influence of political representation on project selection, access to information, structure of institutions involved in the process and their relationships, selection and execution of projects, financial management, evaluation and monitoring. The first phase of the project concentrated on building local capacity to deal with the issue. The project was implemented in cooperation with six international chapters of Transparency International from new EU member states (Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia).The second phase aimed at raising awareness on the transparency and implementation of the anti-corruption tools during the process of distribution of the funds to the public administration. It also focused on the role of media and their capacity in the area of SF monitoring. The target area was NUTS III – city of Prague.

Anti-Corruption Education

Training project with the goal of reducing the scope of corruption in the public administration in the territorial self-governing units (municipalities and regions); it aimed at increasing the capacity of local government officials in detecting individual cases of corruption, applying suitable anti-corruption tools to cases of corruption, evaluating the effectiveness of anti-corruption measures in local government authorities and training on law on conflict of interest by tailored trainings.

Transparency within the communication of the cities and municipalities

A questionnaire survey of 250 town halls and municipal offices was carried out and meetings of representatives of municipal offices with the public, local experts and interest groups in three localities were organised, analyzing the way how the town halls communicate with the citizens. The conclusions of the debate were embodied into recommednations for the town halls on how to improve the communication. The results of the project contributed to the creation of a Communication Manual for Local Municipalities that is available online at www.komunikujici-mesto.cz.

Dissemination of the anti-corruption know-how among NGOs and citizens

Workshops for the activist and organisations interested in anti-corruption and watchdog know-how were organised; specific educational and networking activity aimed especially at voluntary activists. Dozens of activists took part in the seminars. The organisation is running a community web where the newcomers can register only when recommended by a members; the members of the web group are sharing local cases and know-how and provide advice to those who ask for them. A web forum – both with open and restricted access is planned as a follow up.

Arms Trade Control

The project focused on establishing regular contact and communication with relevant Czech parliamentarians and other relevant parties and on monitoring and analysing the existing legislation and documents. It also helped increase the information value of regular publication of detailed reports on arms and military material exports from the Czech Republic.