A bill for the creation of an independent anti-corruption authority is expected to go to the plenum on February 3 with discussions at the House legal committee due to wrap up the day before, Justice Minister Stephie Dracou said on Wednesday.
A recent raft of unexpected amendments at the start of the year had delayed the process somewhat but MPs on Wednesday managed to smooth almost everything out, they said.
One suggestion was to create a specific team within the state legal service to deal specifically with complaints forwarded by the Independent Authority against Corruption. Another was to create an advisory council to deal with appointments to the authority and the need for parliament to have a say in the appointments.
Barring any more unexpected developments, the bill, which has been under discussion for four years, is expected to go to a vote on February 3.
“The discussion was completed, and I hope the bill will go to the plenary as soon as possible,” Dracou said.
Dracou said the bill allowing for the creation of an independent anti-corruption body forms one part of a three-pronged approach to stamping out corruption. The authority will be able to refer possible disciplinary offences to the relevant body. If it finds that a criminal offence may have been committed, then it will submit a report to the attorney general.
The other two relate to the protection of whistleblowers, which passed into law a week ago, while discussions are still under way on the third anti-corruption arm; transparency in public decision making, which was also discussed at committee on Wednesday.
“The debate on the issue of transparency is one of the bills that completes the legal framework against corruption,” Dracou said.
Chairman of the House legal affairs committee, Nicos Tornaritis said the goal was for the anti-corruption authority to start work on April 1.
“Next Wednesday, the legislation will be in place, once more before the committee for a final discussion and position and the hope is to pass this powerful piece of legislation that sends multiple messages that we are changing,” he said.
Tornaritis commented on a report that came out on Tuesday showing that Cyprus had slipped further in the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) compiled by Transparency International.
In 2021, the island ranked 52 among 180 countries, falling from 42nd spot in 2020 (lower is better).
In addition to rankings, countries also receive a score on a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 means highly corrupt and 100 means very clean.
Cyprus’ 2021 score was 53, dropping from 57 in 2020.
In 2019, Cyprus ranked 41, with a score of 58.
“It is time to join the modern world and to proceed with actions that shows we are serious when it comes to our citizens and to international institutions,” Tornaritis said.