Corruption costing State €3bn, report claims

 

Corruption could still be costing the Irish economy as much as €3 billion each year in lost revenue and foreign investment, according to a report published this morning.

Launchings its National Integrity System Study, Transparency International Ireland called for the introduction of “comprehensive legal safeguards for whistleblowers” and said a register of lobbyists was needed to improve transparency between government and business.

The report, funded by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, examines the risk of corruption and the abuse of power in government, politics, business, civil society and the media.

It says that local government, political parties and the public contracting system remain vulnerable to fraud, corruption and the abuse of power.

In addition to calling for legislation to protect whistleblowers and a register of lobbyings, the report wants the Government to ratify international conventions against corruption, the establishment of a Garda Anti Corruption Unit and reform of the Freedom of Information system.

It also wants all appointments to the boards of State bodies to be opened to public competition and the publication of clear no bribe and conflict of interest policies by newspaper organisations and journalist unions.

The chief executive of Transparency International Ireland John Devitt said the public and private sectors had opposed the introduction of legislation which would protect whistle blowers. He said that less than one third of Irish companies supported such moves, compared with over 90 per cent in the UK.

He said whistle-blowing had been “entirely disincentived” by the Government and called for a register of lobbyist to “allow us to track exchanges between vested interests and policy makers and restore some confidence in the system”.

He also accused the Government of dragging its heels over the ratification of the UN convention against corruption.

Mr Devitt that while the Republic had one of the lowest levels of “petty corruption” and “grand corruption” was  not seen as a threat to the integrity of the State, corruption needed a broader definition and one which did not just focus on acts which were defined by law.

He said that the report indicated that the Republic was regarded as having “a high level of legal corruption”. “The more accountability and transparency that exists the lower the risk of an abuse of power,”

Mr Devitt questioned why political parties did not publish detailed financial statements each year and he said less than ten per cent the amount spent on the last general election was accounted for by the Standards In Public Office Commission.

He also said that significant amounts of waste had been uncovered in issuing of public contracts and said that where safeguards are put in place “the economic benefits are significant”.

He said that while the Government was willing to introduce legislation protecting whistle blowers in certain sectors, “a patchwork approach” left many who may have been anxious to lift the lid on corruption where they worked unsure of their legal rights. “If these safeguards had been in place in the financial sector we may not have witnessed events unfold as they did over recent months,” he claimed.