Corruption in the European Union is alive and well

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Transparency International’s work and its Corruption Perception Index are both important and necessary, but they are just a small contribution to trying to restore ethics and integrity into public life. It mainly addresses the public sector and takes little account of the lack of ethics in the commercial world. Another problem with the CPI is that is skewed and as a perception index tends to be overly representative of the petty but widespread corruption (the so-called “facilitation fees”) in public services and among government employees. These are more common in developing countries and newly “democratised” countries where wage levels are low and institutional processes are still under evolution. But what the CPI does not address properly is the high level of corruption and fraud among politicians and bureaucrats in the developed world (Europe, the US, Japan, Korea for example) – which are not as numerous as in developing countries  but where the monetary values involved are huge. If we distinguish between petty bribery and corruption on the one hand and “grand” fraud and corruption on the other, I have little doubt that the US, Europe and Japan continue not only to lead the “grand” fraud and corruption stakes by a long way but are also the most innovative in finding new ways of being corrupt.

Politicians in the European Parliament and bureaucrats in the European Union are particularly venal and are subject to even less scrutiny than the national parliaments of the member countries (where padding expenses, influence peddling and basic corruption are also well established). The latest example of institutionalised corruption in Europe comes from The Telegraph:

The EU’s financial watchdog has systemically “sabotaged” investigations and caved into intimidation from countries including France and Italy to cover up fraud, according to a senior official.

Maarten Engwirda, a former Dutch member of European Court of Auditors for 15 years, who retired 10 days ago, has alleged that abuse of EU funds was swept under the carpet by an auditing body that was supposed to expose wrongdoing.

“There was a practice of watering down if not completely removing criticism,” he told the Dutch Volkskrant newspaper yesterday.

Slim Kallas, the European Commission’s vice-president, who was responsible for anti-fraud measures from 2004 to 2010 and who is now the EU transport chief, is accused of putting “heavy pressure” on investigators to tone down findings of abuse.

Mr Kallas also clashed with the Court of Auditors over its use of strict accounting standards which meant that the EU’s annual accounts have embarrassingly never been given a clean bill of health. Mr Engwirda, 67, also described an endemic “cover-up culture” within the court and wider EU institutions that had prevented the true extent of fraud from being disclosed.

Marta Andreasen, a Ukip MEP and a member of the European Parliament’s budgetary control committee, that she had come under “huge pressure to conceal the truth about EU expenditure” before being sacked as the commission’s chief accountant for whistle-blowing in 2002. “I witnessed the arm twisting of the Auditors each time they attempted to reveal the failures in the EU accounting and control systems. They came under huge pressure to keep the accountancy fraud hushed up,” she said. “Sadly the auditors did not support me when I stood up in defence of European taxpayers. In my opinion the court is not an independent body.”

Pieter Cleppe, the Brussels spokesman of the Open Europe pressure group said: “This insider story should serve as a warning not to give in to EU demands for more money until the culture of financial irresponsibility is being dealt with more fundamentally.”

There is little doubt that European politicians have received their pay-offs whenever a “fraud” investigation has been “sabotaged”.


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One Response to “Corruption in the European Union is alive and well”

  1. Reward for fraud: $285 billion in Pentagon contracts « The k2p blog Says:

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