Secretive political financing opens door for scandal, says first Denmark corruption study
The first ever anti-corruption study of Denmark’s institutions has highlighted secrecy in the funding of political parties and parliamentary candidates as the country’s biggest potential corruption issue.
The study, published today by Transparency International Denmark, warns that there are several ways of evading transparency rules, a problem made worse by the fact that politicians do not have to publish private donations they receive. This lack of transparency makes it hard for citizens and media to identify the role of special interests in decision making.
In Denmark, anyone who makes a campaign contributions over 20 000 krone (US $3 500) must be made public (though not the amount they donate). However, Transparency International warned that loopholes in Danish law may also allow the identity of large donors to be kept secret by spreading contributions across several local branches of a political party.
“We rely on politicians to act in the public interest, especially when they have to make difficult decisions in hard economic times. As long as the role of money in politics remains shrouded in secrecy, politicians are inviting speculation and mistrust among the public,” said Poul Riiskjær Mogensen, chairman of Transparency International Denmark. “Our study shows that Denmark’s civil service, justice system and other public officials are held to account. In many ways this makes us the envy of the world in corruption terms. Why should politicians be the exception?”
Denmark’s public sector is seen to be among the world’s least corrupt, according to Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index. However, a 2010 Transparency International survey showed that Danes see political parties as the most corrupt institution in their country.
TI Denmark today called on the Danish government to issue guidelines that improve transparency in campaign contributions, including :
- More precise information about the size of contributions to political parties and individual candidates;
- Information about the monetary value of donations made in the form of goods and services, which must appear in the parties’ financial accounts.
The ”National Integrity System” study, the first of its kind in Denmark, assesses whether Denmark can be said to have robust and reliable protection against corruption. It evaluates institutions like the judiciary, civil service and media on their transparency, accountability and effectiveness in preventing corruption in a country.
TI has carried out over 70 such assessments to date and the Danish study is part of a broader European initiative covering 26 countries. Denmark’s political sector stands out for its lack of transparency compared to other Danish institutions as well as other political sectors in the Nordic countries. Norway, for example, requires political parties to report income to a central register of political parties, and will soon require parties to also report on expenditures, property and debt.
Denmark’s National Integrity System report will be launched with a discussion of party funding to political parties and parliamentary candidates. The Minister for Development Cooperation Christian Friis Bach and President of the Parliament Mogens Lykketoft and Professor Lars Bo Langsted will debate each other.
The launch will be held on 12 January 2012, 17-19 in PH-café Halmtorvet 9A
1700 København V Copenhagen.
The study was co-funded by the European Commission, Directorate General Home Affairs, as part of its Prevention and Fight against Crime programme.
Transparency International Denmark is the Danish branch of the global, independent anti-corruption organisation Transparency International.
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