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No surprises during lockdown

The week in corruption, 4 April 2020

Transparency Int'l

In the coronavirus era, there are two kinds of decisions: emergency responses to the crisis and everything else.

As worldwide lockdowns and states of emergency limit public oversight, it is becoming increasingly clear that any ongoing non-emergency business that requires thorough deliberation needs to be postponed. Crisis-mode governance has to be limited to emergency matters only.

Yet, some decisionmakers are reportedly pressing ahead with contested measures or even slipping in some surprises while public attention is elsewhere.

In Georgia, Transparency International and other civil society groups today criticised the Supreme Court’s unexpected decision to consider an important judicial appointment while the country is under the state of emergency. The seat has been vacant since December 2019. Back then, civil society urged the Supreme Court to propose a candidate as soon as possible. Making this decision now, behind closed doors, will undermine public trust in the judiciary.

Transparency International Ukraine has called on its government to postpone making important political decisions for as long as citizens do not have the opportunity to make their voices heard.

Alarmingly, in Hungary, new legislation that would effectively end legal recognition of trans people has been introduced this week as part of an omnibus bill with dozens of other proposals. We are calling on the government to adhere to the rule of law during the state of emergency.

In Poland, the government fast-tracked electoral reforms deemed unconstitutional to press ahead with presidential elections scheduled for May. Holding elections while public attention is on containing the virus will limit the information voters get. Movement restrictions will make campaigning impractical, and most likely result in low turnouts. As International IDEA warns, holding elections during these times could also undermine democracy.

Finally, in Montenegro, the government is cynically moving forward with a highly controversial piece of legislation that would significantly restrict citizens’ right to information.

Access to information can be a matter of life and death, especially during a pandemic. The Montenegrin government should delay the debate on the law until after the crisis.

In such delicate times, any move that would conceal abuses of power is completely unacceptable. Instead, governments should be focusing on saving lives and mitigating the economic crisis.

What do you think? Let us know @anticorruption.

News from Transparency International

19th International Anti-Corruption Conference postponed

As safety and health take prominence over any other consideration, the IACC Council, Transparency International and Korean hosts have decided to postpone the 19th IACC to a later date this year. We are working hard to find suitable new dates to reschedule the conference.

Corruption could cost lives in Latin America’s response to the Coronavirus

While emergency legislation can help reduce the time it takes to procure these critical medical supplies, unfortunately, it often also allows governments to bypass the usual checks and balances on public spending.

Montenegro: Public debate on access to information law must be delayed

The amendments would remove controls over how the Montenegrin state declares information classified. They would allow information to be classified if its publication affects the operations of a government agency — potentially including information that exposes corruption within the agency.

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