The President of the Catalan Government proposes 51 measures to fight corruption and increase transparency
After holding the second high-level meeting with top representatives from all the public powers involved in the fight against corruption and fraud in Catalonia, the Catalan President, Artur Mas, presented a document setting out a list of measures. The document takes into account suggestions and comments by all the attending public powers, but it is not a joint text issued by all the participants, Mas emphasised, as it is only signed by the President of the Catalan Government. An initial meeting was organised on the 6th of February to exchange views and gather ideas. The listed measures relate to transparency, public contracts, judicial capacities, political parties, control bodies and democratic regeneration.
Barcelona (ACN).- After holding the second high-level meeting with top representatives from all the public powers involved in the fight against corruption and fraud in Catalonia, the Catalan President, Artur Mas, presented a document on Friday setting out a list of measures addressing the issue. The document takes into account suggestions and comments by all the attending public powers, but it is not a joint text issued by all of them, as it is only signed by the President of the Catalan Government, as Mas emphasised. An initial meeting with the same attendees was organised on the 6th of February to exchange views and gather ideas, with the objective that the Catalan President would put on the table a list of measures for public debate. The list of 51 measures compiled by Mas relate to transparency, public contracts, judicial capacities, political parties, control bodies and democratic regeneration. In the last few months, especially since November last year, corruption scandals in Catalonia and in the rest of Spain have been popping up, creating a huge outrage and concern as well as a worrying detachment towards politics and democratic institutions by citizens. Not all the parties are equally affected, and some smaller parties have not been involved in any scandals until the present day (as yet). However, numerous corruption cases are being currently investigated and they involve senior members of the main political parties in Spain and Catalonia, including Artur Mas\u2019 party the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), Mariano Rajoy\u2019s organisation the People\u2019s Party (PP) and the Catalan and Spanish Socialist parties (the PSC in Catalonia and the PSOE in Spain). Furthermore, in the last two weeks an incredible and grotesque case of political espionage using private detectives has in different ways involved these three parties in Catalonia, although the roles played by each party are not clear yet and the case is being investigated by police and judicial authorities.
The President of the Catalan Government has decided to lead the debate for improving the fight against corruption and fraud in Catalonia, although the opposition parties have criticised him for doing so, while his own party is affected by corruption scandals. Mas announced 3 weeks ago he would organise an initial \u201Csummit\u201D with all the public powers involved in this fight in Catalonia, but not with the political parties. This first meeting was held on the 6th of February and it was decided that a second one would be held on the 22nd in order to come up with a definitive list of suggestions. In between, the attendees would exchange working documents, developing the ideas shared in the first meeting. Finally, Mas decided that the final list produced would not be \u201Ca synthesis document\u201D, as he explained in a press conference on Friday. The Catalan President stated that it would have been \u201Cextremely difficult\u201D to come up with a document on which all the attendees \u201Cagree 100%\u201D. Therefore, he decided to make his own document, taking into account any suggestions and comments, and then to share this document in the second meeting with the attendees, to gather their opinions.
Besides the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, those attending the two high-level meetings included the President of the Catalan Parliament, Núria de Gispert; the President of the Supreme Court of Justice of Catalonia, Miguel Ángel Gimeno; the Director of the Public Prosecutor Office of Catalonia, Martín Rodríguez Sol; the Catalan Ombudsman, Rafael Ribó; the Chairman of Catalan Public Audit Office, Jaume Amat; and the Director of the Anti-Fraud Office of Catalonia, Daniel de Alfonso.
6 main areas to improve the fight against corruption and fraud
The document lists a series of 51 measures to improve the fight against corruption and fraud. They are grouped into six main areas: transparency, public contracts, judicial capacities, political parties, control bodies and democratic regeneration.
Regarding transparency, the salaries of all the elected representatives and those occupying a high office in the public sector in Catalonia will have to be public and accessible. Furthermore, the difference in income between the moment they took and left office will also be public. In addition, the main managers and board members of companies receiving public money through generic grants will also have to publish their wages. An ethical code of conduct will be put in place for all public offices. Furthermore, a Catalan Law of Transparency will be approved, which is currently under debate at the Catalan Parliament. It will regulate citizens\u2019 access to information regarding the activities of the public sector, information that will have to be regularly updated while guaranteeing some basic data protection principles. An independent body will watch over its implementation.
In addition, the Catalan Government will build a single website enabling citizens to have information on public salaries and contracts with private companies, all at a single access point, and where all the public tenders and the resulting contracts will be found. In addition, private companies will have to stick to the maximum of the terms of reference and their original offers, thereby not allowing so many ongoing modifications of the terms of reference, construction time and budget. The aim is to make every public body accountable and liable to follow international transparency standards. Finally, a register of lobbyists will be compiled and publicised, following the example of the European Parliament and the European Commission, and following the guidelines issued by the OECD.
Political parties should be obliged to undertake internal audits, and made to use a single methodology. The audits would affect the parties and their foundations. The aim is for the parties\u2019 accounts to be comparable. To add to this point, Mas emphasised that his list compiles proposals, which now have to be debated with the political parties, and that he is not trying to impose rules on how parties should work internally. Furthermore, another proposal is that the Catalan Public Audit Office should appoint an independent permanent auditor to each party, to issue an annual report that would be public. On top of this, parties would be obliged to publish their accounts on their websites, as well as a list with all the entities linked to the party.
In order to do this, the control bodies, such as the Catalan Ombudsman, the Catalan Public Audit Office and the Anti-Fraud Office of Catalonia, will have to be strengthened. Their activities will be publicised more and public entities will be obliged to issue answers to their recommendations publicly. In addition, the eligibility to receive public grants or subsidies will be on the condition that certain information forms are filled out and details are registered with these public bodies.
Besides, the courts investigating the main corruption scandals will receive more economic and human resources, in order to guarantee a quick and comprehensive investigation, stated the Catalan President. The Catalan Government manages judicial staff, apart from the judges and attorneys. It also manages the economic resources and the facilities, and hence it can adopt such measures. However, there are three proposals that require the measures to be adopted at a Spanish level, including raising the term for the statute of limitations for corruption felonies, establishing unjustified new wealth as a felony and modernising the indictment law, which dates from the 19th century. The new law should regulate phone wiretapping, the maximum investigation time allowed and not respecting the investigation secret or the indictment figure.
In fact, politicians who are indicted but continue in their office is one of the most controversial aspects, which generates incomprehension in many citizens. Mas wants an agreement with all the political parties \u2013 or if this proves impossible, with the widest possible majority \u2013 to establish at which point a politician or a public servant should step down and leave public office if he or she is suspected of corruption or fraud felony. The Catalan President opposes them being forced to step down in the first few days with the initial rumours and hints, but he is also convinced they should resign before being actually condemned by a judge. A balance has to be found between the presumption of innocence and the health of the democratic institutions. In this debate, Mas suggested that the person involved should resign when they are officially accused of a felony and called for trial, therefore when the initial hints become evidence. However, Mas also insisted that if the person is found innocent, then they should be able to return to politics and have their honour back, in the same proportion as they had when they were first accused.
Finally, Mas asked the entire Catalan society to make an additional effort \u201Cto clean the country\u201D of fraudulent practices and to spread anticorruption values. The democratic regeneration should also affect the media, in order to promote an internal debate regarding the presumption of innocence and the practice of not respecting the secret of ongoing investigations declared by the judge. To support this idea, a comparative study of the legislation covering these areas in different European countries will be carried out.