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EU: corruption hindering business

92 per cent of Cypriots say that bribery and the use of connections is often the easiest way to obtain certain public services

By Jean Christou

Around 55 per cent of companies in Cyprus who took part in a public tender over the last three years claim that corruption prevented them from winning the contract, the highest percentage in the EU, according to the Commission’s anti-corruption report published on Monday.

Conflicts of interest in bid evaluation were reported in 76 per cent of cases, collusive bidding in 68 per cent, abuse of negotiated procedures in 62 per cent, unclear selection or evaluation criteria in 61 per cent, and amendment of contract terms after the contract is concluded stood at 55 per cent.

Under the law, tender boards, evaluation committees and contracting authorities are required to keep minutes of every meeting.

“However, no specific mechanism is in place within contracting authorities to help detect potentially corrupt practices at different stages of the procurement process,” said the Commission. “The Auditor-general may review public procurement contracts but the financial independence of the Auditor-general remains in need of further enhancement.”

On the recommendation of the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), Cyprus established the Coordinating Body against Corruption in 2003, which has a mandate to develop an anti-corruption strategy, “which does not yet exist”, said the EU report, which added that the body has no full-time staff.

Following GRECO recommendations, Cyprus took steps to harmonise provisions on corruption across the criminal code but while recognising such improvements, GRECO called for further efforts to apply in practice laws ratifying the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption, which have not yet been invoked in a criminal case of corruption.

Similarly, Cyprus does not have general legislation on access to information, despite a GRECO recommendation. In a 2010 test, public agencies supplied a complete answer to 8.0 per cent of a total of 220 information requests received, and provided no reply to 73 per cent. On top of that, the websites of government bodies do not generally contain up-to-date details on budgets or procurement contracts signed.

Neither is lobbying regulated in Cyprus. A law on the illicit enrichment of certain public officials, dating from the early years of the Republic, created the offence of illegal acquisition of property by ministers, MPs, mayors and other senior officials. Amended in 2004 and 2008, the law provides for the confiscation of assets acquired in breach of its provisions but “no cases have been reported under this law,” said the Commission.

“There is currently no legislation obliging politicians or high-level officials to disclose their assets. A law adopted for that purpose did not enter into force because it was found to contradict constitutional provisions on privacy.”

Corruption poll results
57 per cent of 2013 Eurobarometer respondents in Cyprus report that corruption affects their daily lives – EU average 26 per cent
92 per cent of Cypriots say that bribery and the use of connections is often the easiest way to obtain certain public services – EU average 73 per cent.
83 per cent of Cypriots – the highest in the EU – say that the only way to succeed in business is through political connections.

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