Corruption is turning into a cancer that affects the economy, hurts the credibility of companies and entrepreneurs, discourages the attraction of investment and talent and weakens any attempt to project the battered "Spain" brand internationally. We must be aware of the importance of creating a culture of zero tolerance for corruption and its complexity, its social roots ...
Is there something more serious for a country than a Vice President of the Government and the head of tax fraud control, perhaps it is proven that he is one of the biggest fraudsters in the country? Or that an Autonomous Community fraudulently administer millions of euros in aid? Or that the Treasurer of the Party in Government has millions without justification in tax havens and his B accounting is the official one? in the end, the media personalize corruption in their own names: Rodrigo Rato, Bárcenas, Urdangarín ...
Almost everyone is ready to cheer and make media noise about corruption. Few are willing to actually fight it effectively. I am sure that if the procedures were carried out diligently 12 measures (finally 14, after rich contributions in the comments) that I propose, corruption in Spain or in any country would be reduced to irrelevant levels. I do not like to go into these issues with too many political edges. I agree to this after being told by a group of young entrepreneurs that Spanish society should prioritize war on corruption and urge me to write something on the subject. Fighting her is undoubtedly an absolute economic and social priority. The following graph clearly shows their interference when doing business in Spain.
World Economic Forum. Data referring to Spain. In 2008, corruption only accounted for 1.4 percentage points in Spain among "The most problematic factors for doing business in Spain". As reflected in this graph, in the 2004 Report, corruption has already reached 9 percentage points.
Corruption has relevant social roots
I am well aware that corruption in Spain is a very complex phenomenon. It is much more than a political problem. Have relevant social roots that have been forging during the more than fourteen years that the housing bubble has developed, budget waste and electoral support for permissive and tolerant politicians. The fight against corruption involves education, a lot of education, and the creation of a citizen culture of zero tolerance for corruption.
12 + 2 Lines of work to fight corruption The severity of the problem requires concrete measures. Go ahead, I am not an expert on the subject, much less this exercise should be interpreted as a claim to give ethics lessons to anyone.
1. Modify the State / Public Sector Contract Law
It is a key and extraordinarily important issue. In my opinion, the root of a very high percentage of cases where corruption is present and also not emerging. The reform should be aimed at:
- Transparency and digital advertising of documents and non-restrictive public tenders of the largest concurrence.
- Legal possibility that if documents with unnecessary restrictive conditions were given, a crime and compensation could be incurred to those affected by lack of actual concurrence. In short: a public tender that encourages the greatest real competition.
- The absolute expansion and greater transparency in the widely constituted adjudication commissions with strong social representation, presence of members of the opposition and justified reasons for the decisions. Open sessions.
- The reductions in the bidding prices presented by the companies must be binding and immovable for the companies and administrations. Suppression -in works and similar- of refurbishments, price reviews or additional liquidations.
- Penalty to companies for not identifying vagueness of projects that imply a higher cost and lead to the infeasibility of the execution of the project or work.
- Quality control of works and services through companies and / or officials with the highest qualifications.
- Very severe penalties for companies that have committed crimes that violate transparency and good practices in the execution of public contracts.
- Possibility for citizens to easily submit complaints in case the bidding documents have not been complied with.
- Awards and recognitions for good company practices.
- There have been some questions in the comments at the end of this post. I explain in a little more detail this point taking advantage of these comments, (at the bottom).
2. Radical, total and digital transparency of public information
All contracts. bids, regulations, resolutions, etc. of Public Administrations should be public and accessible to the entire public via the Internet. Everything on the net. Of course, if a government agency denies access to any contract, information, etc. (with the exception of those in which the security of the state may be affected) should incur a serious crime. Currently there are governments that do not provide the parliamentary opposition with public procurement documents !!
3. Incentives for serious legal complaints, without parallel media trials
Substantiated reporting of an indication of corruption should be further encouraged and supported even more. Not only protection and anonymity. Guarantees, clear and publicized procedures must be provided so that citizens can make use of it. The proposals of a Legal protection law to all those citizens who report possible cases of corruption. At the same time, gratuitous and demagogic parallel media trials should be limited, or complaints with little or no basis should be penalized. In the end, corruption is ending up in a media circus that damages the image of the country and of society in general.
4. Independence and empowerment of the public audit
De-politicization and professionalization. Total independence for the Court of Accounts not subject to the influence of political parties; It should be given legal responsibility for not identifying punishable acts that were present in the audited documentation. Same status and responsibility for similar autonomous bodies. Relevant responsibilities for private audits that do not identify fraud and corruption in the audited accounts when crimes of this nature are identified in them. Digital and public dissemination of reports and audits. Encourage the best professional auditing and standard control practices due diligence.
5. More judges and more judicial resources against corruption
More specialized judicial means to improve responses. Minimum resource endowment in the European Union average. Indexing with corruption indexes for the provision of new resources. Radical reduction of the time in the processes and application of sentences after the provision of means. Judicial diligence and effectiveness.
6. Fiscal-labor inspection and total war on the underground economy
More means of tax inspection and a specific plan to end the high levels of the shadow economy in the Spanish economy. The goal would be to eliminate social complicity of corruption through the widespread fraud of a large mass of freelancers and professionals whose control escapes from the Administrations.
7. Real financing of political parties
New funding bases for political parties, realistically expanding the channels of transparent funding. Private donations from third parties should be public in a web space, limited in their amount and motivated in any case. Control of deferred financing to foundations or third parties in general. Organic regulation and very severe penalties for parties that incur in falsehood, fraud or illegal financing. The simple violation of the principles of exemplarity, in terms of economic, financial and accounting transparency of a political party should be subject to very relevant sanctions established by law. Prohibition of debt forgiveness.
8. Fewer public offices, higher pay and assumption of greater responsibility.
Substantial reduction in irrelevant political positions and substantial increase in public salaries with important responsibilities. Make the real incompatibilities compatible with access for a certain time to public positions that provide security. Severely penalize unjustified charges by law. Strengthening of the public function and equal opportunities in its access. The fact that a Prime Minister or other high political positions have the maximum power and the greatest responsibilities, obtaining much lower remuneration than the private sector has many perverse effects, among them the attempt to access supplementary extra income outside the law.
9. Promote and reward good public administration practices
With the aim that citizens value and reward good practices; and politicians and public managers find a political return to their good management. Awards, frequent recognitions and granted by institutions and bodies that have the highest reputation ...
10. Stop autonomous public bodies without control
Provide the same public audit, publicity, inspection, regulatory control and transparency requirements for autonomous bodies with public investment.
11. Education, education and education
Education at school, high school, university, in society ... of ethical values that strengthen social cohesion, equal opportunities and social coexistence. Radical rejection of corruption in all its manifestations. Strengthening of professional ethical codes in schools and associations. Ensure the professional and institutional reputation, and in general in all kinds of good governance and corporate responsibility policies in companies and institutions. It is about building a solid citizen CULTURE against corruption, comparable to that of other countries such as the Nordics. An additional international character:
12. Total war on tax havens
And very especially to his opacity. Spain must find international allies to fight in a true, vehement and real way against these paradises through all the international bodies in which it is represented (European Union, G-20, UN ...). Two additional derived from contributions in comments:
13. Town planning and town councils: legislation, control, transparency and publicity
The re-qualifications of land, the development of urban planning plans, the management of the land itself, and urban control are as key to fighting corruption, as is the Law that regulates State Contracts with private companies. Municipal corruption is largely linked to urban management. It is not an easy issue, but if there were real political will, this source of corruption would also end. The slowness in the management of urban changes is not synonymous with transparency, nor does it guarantee public interests. If each change were clearly mapped and publicized in the media (by law), if all the information down to the smallest details were on the Internet. the justifying criteria for its processing, cataloging, etc. important steps would indeed be taken. But without citizen education, without sensitivity to these problems, it is difficult for this source of corruption to be tackled municipality by municipality. In general, penalties should be toughened. Perhaps it should be considered that in any case of corruption or serious and objective inefficiency, the municipality should lose its powers for a certain period of years.
14. Great national pact against corruption
Ortega argued that this country works when great national objectives are identified and assumed responsibly and collectively. The political parties, trade unions, and employers made a great pact (the Moncloa Pacts) at the end of the seventies, during the democratic transition, to save democracy in Spain. The fight against corruption, given its entity and generalization, deserves a great pact, a commitment to zero tolerance with corruption. It would be essential for the measures outlined above to have the desired scope and effectiveness. But also to create a climate that prevents parties from “castling” on the defensive and, on the contrary, from becoming proactive with intolerance towards corruption. Simple commitments like:
- The opposition will not try to extract easy profits from corruption cases, as long as the affected party makes effective and exemplary decisions.
- The parliamentary or institutional commissions of inquiry will be carried out with the greatest enlightening and constructive spirit of all the parties.
- Maximum collaboration with justice, endowed with the necessary means
- Absence of pardons or favorable treatment for those convicted of corruption cases. Modify existing legislation so that economic crimes related to corruption do not have a statute of limitations.
- Creation of a large institutional body to ensure good practices and the fight against corruption.
Concluding: less cheering on corruption cases and more effective measures against it
Boring right? It would have been more enjoyable to tear one's clothes and count tricks of cases such as those of La Pantoja, Bárcenas, Gürtel, now Rodrigo Rato and 200 more cases. Watching television gives me the feeling that the whole country is rolling in the mud and even feels comfortable; it is already like a sign of national identity. Not a single serious debate, idea or initiative about how to end corruption. At the moment, Spain leads corruption in Europe. The country needs to address the issue of corruption with effective measures. Needs a social regeneration, both with shock and persistent measures aimed at creating a new consciousness in all levels of society.
Spain leading corruption in Europe. Source European Commission, via statista.com
The financial cost of these measures is very low. At most, they would not represent 1% of GDP. While the shadow economy reaches 20-25% of GDP; and the actual and accumulated current cost of corruption, if we could assess it, would not drop below double digits also with respect to GDP. There is no financial cost, there is a lack of political will. We are lucky that Internet and digital access they represent a revolution for access to public information by all citizens (not just the press or political opposition).
The Internet can play a vital role against corruption. Of course, the formats and digital tools must be clear and easy, understandable for any citizen.
As I said at the beginning, I admit that corruption is complex in its roots, development and cultural components. But if there is real political will if we fight it, their presence will end up being testimonial. It will be then when values such as democracy, coexistence and social cohesion -even territorial- acquire the correct entity and dimension in our country.