ANN CAHILL: Report finds corruption still widespread in Europe

Close to two thirds of businesses believe they need to bribe and use connections to get the public services they need to do business in Ireland, while the vast majority of citizens believe corruption is widespread in the country.

Corruption is widespread also when it comes to companies winning contracts from national, regional and local authorities and more than a quarter of businesses say that corruption had prevented them winning a public tender contract in Ireland.

But despite these figures, the country is among the least corrupt when people are asked for their first hand experience with just 3% saying they had been asked for a bribe, while only 16% of businesses say that corruption is an obstacle to doing business in the country.

Corruption costs an estimated €120 billion a year and while countries have taken steps over the past few years, the results are uneven and more should be done to root out corruption especially in public service.

The government is praised for its “ambitious programme” of laws to improve transparency and accountability, mostly as a result of recommendation in the Mahon Tribunal report.

Commissioner Cecilia Malstrom who presented the report said the findings were based on perceptions but while these may not be fact based, perceptions are real and the trend in countries remain the same.

“There are no corruption free zones in Europe - and citizens are worried about this with 76% of citizens is widespread and more than half believe it has increased in the last few years and four out of ten companies believe it is an obstacle to doing business in the EU”, said Cecile Malmstrom.

Many countries have set up anti-corruption agencies but the results are not sufficient in all member states with policies not enforced enough and the political will to root out corruption is missing.

Political party financing is a problem in some countries, while in others patients have to make payments under the table to receive care while public procurement is an issue in other countries.

One fifth of the EU’s GDP is spent on public procurement of goods and services making it an essential part of our economy and up to a fifth is lost in bribery, the Commissioner said.

The Commission recommends some new steps that must be taken to tackle this issue in particular and this will be followed up in two years time with another report that hopefully will show progress.


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