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Public corruption survey shows why Tribunals should be allowed to continue their work

“The debate around the length and cost of tribunals misses one important point: overall, they are good value for money”

A new survey published by Transparency International (TI) today, shows that the Irish public views political parties as the most corrupt of all institutions in the State. The Global Corruption Barometer measures public attitudes and experiences of corruption in 60 countries including Ireland.

The Barometer rated political parties with a score of 3.4 out of 5. A score of 1 denotes a sector or institution which is seen as very clean compared to a score of 5 which indicates a sector or institution as highly corrupt. Political parties were followed in order by business and the legal system as most prone to corruption.

One of the more worrying findings is that a much greater number of Irish respondents believe that levels of corruption will worsen over the next three years. Almost half (47 per cent) of those polled said that corruption is likely to increase over this period. This compares to 32 per cent who gave the same answer in 2005. A slight majority of respondents (51 per cent) also felt that the Government was not doing enough to fight corruption

Women and those from middle to higher income brackets also appeared to be most disaffected with standards in public office and business.

John Devitt, Chief Executive of TI Ireland said the results showed that the Government, political parties and business needed to take collective responsibility for the steep decline in public confidence. “What it does point to is the need to restart process of reform that began in 1995 but which seems to have been going backwards since 2003.”

The anti-corruption group is calling on the Government to ratify the UN Convention against Corruption as a matter of urgency. The Convention is seen as a roadmap for fighting graft at home and abroad. Ireland has signed but not enacted this landmark treaty.

TI Ireland has also called for the tribunals to be allowed to continue their work and for the proposed Tribunals Bill to be shelved until existing tribunals finish. “The debate around the length and cost of tribunals misses one important point: overall they are good value for money. They should be allowed to get on with their job”, claimed Devitt.

“The Mahon Tribunal for instance has cost €70 million and it is believed it will cost a further €200 million when third party costs are taken into account. What has been ignored is the fact that the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) is set to reclaim over €50 million from one corrupt enrichment case alone” he added. The lands belonging to Jackson Way Properties in Carrickmines, Co. Dublin are believed to have been rezoned through the bribery of County Councillors in Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown in 1997.

Using laws introduced in 2005, the CAB is now able to present evidence acquired by the Mahon or Moriarty Tribunal to secure a High Court “corrupt enrichment” order to seize the value of bribes or assets believed to have acquired through a corrupt payment.

The Jackson Way ruling is still under appeal by the landowners, but if the CAB application is successful, it is believed that it could open the way for the State to recoup a substantial proportion of costs from the Tribunals and dwarf the amount seized from organised crime gangs since 1996.

The indirect economic benefits of the Tribunals are also believed to have been substantial. Over €2 billion in evaded tax is estimated to have been collected by the Revenue Commissioners arising from evidence gathered at the Tribunals, the Ansbacher inquiry and DIRT inquiry.

“The claim that Tribunals are too expensive and lengthy has some validity” added Devitt. “But any attempt to close them down will not only do irreversible damage to our international reputation, but could also short-change the Irish tax payer.”

Table 1. To what extent do you perceive the following categories in this country to be affected by corruption? (1 meaning not at all corrupt, 5 meaning extremely corrupt)

Political parties are therefore perceived to belong to the most corrupt category of public and private sector institutions.

2007 Sector Average
1 Political Parties 3.4
2 Business/ private sector 3
3 Legal system 2.9
4 Media 2.8
4 Parliament/Legislature 2.8
6 Religious bodies 2.7
6 Police 2.7
8 Tax revenue 2.6
9 Medical services 2.5
10 Utilities (telephone, electricity, water, etc.) 2.4
11 NGOs (non governmental organizations) 2.3
12 Registry and permit services (civil registry for birth, marriage, licenses, permits) 2.2
14 Education system 2.1
14 The military 2.1

2 (a). Do you expect the level of corruption in the next 3 years in this country to change? 2007 Findings

Increase a lot + a little 47%
Stay the same 9%
Decrease a little + a lot 44%
DK/NA 1%

2 (b). Do you expect the level of corruption in the next 3 years to change? 2005

Increase a lot + increase a little 32%
Stay the same 37%
Decrease a little + decrease a lot 28%

3. How would you assess your current government’s actions in the fight against corruption?

Is very effective 8%
Is somewhat effective 38%
Is neither effective nor ineffective 3%
Is somewhat ineffective 29%
Is very ineffective 22%

4. Countries most affected by petty bribery[1]

Quintile Countries/Territories
% of respondents reporting they paid a bribe to obtain a service Top quintile:

More than 30%

Albania, Cambodia, Cameroon, FYR Macedonia, Kosovo, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Romania, Senegal
Second quintile:

17 – 29%

Bolivia, Dominican Republic, Greece, India, Indonesia, Lithuania, Moldova, Peru, Serbia, Ukraine
Third quintile:

8 – 16%

Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Panama, Russia, Turkey, Venezuela, Vietnam
Fourth quintile:

4 – 7%

Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Finland, Hong Kong, Ireland, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, United Kingdom, United States

Bottom quintile:

Less than 3%

Austria, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Japan, South Korea, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland
Source: Transparency International Global Corruption Barometer 2007.

The Global Corruption Barometer, which surveyed over 1000 respondents from all over Ireland (and a further 62,199 respondents worldwide) offers a broad spectrum of data on common experiences of corruption, including which institutions most frequently demand bribes, where citizens see the greatest degree of corruption, and how they see both the future development of corruption and their governments efforts to eradicate it.

The Irish survey was conducted by TNS MRBI on behalf of Gallup and Transparency International during June 2007.

The Barometer is distinct from the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) which is also conducted by Transparency International and used to evaluate expert and business attitudes to corruption.

Details of previous Barometer findings can be found at:

2005: www.transparency.ie/news_events/gcb2005.htm
2004: www.transparency.ie/news_events/irishp_parties.htm

Further information on this year’s CPI is available at:

www.transparency.ie/news_events/cpi2007.htm

Ends

[1] Due to problems with data, results for Colombia, Ecuador, Ghana, Guatemala, Norway, Poland, Thailand, and Singapore could not be used. In Germany and Italy this question was not asked.


For any press enquiries please contact

John Devitt
T: 086 173 5040
E: info@transparency.ie