The Switzerland National Integrity System report analyses twelve areas that play a vital role in preventing and fighting corruption at the national level. On the whole, Switzerland received a rating of ‘good’ to ‘very good’.
What does Transparency International (TI) mean by a National Integrity System (NIS)? An NIS includes all key national institutions, laws and processes that contribute to integrity, transparency and responsibility in a society. National Integrity Systems that function well offer effective safety mechanisms against corruption and are part of the fight against abuse of power, illegal conduct and misappropriation in all its forms.
Most of the institutions assessed in Switzerland are well equipped with financial and human resources and the autonomy of neither government nor non-government stakeholders is unduly restricted. Nevertheless, there are still areas that show room for improvement. In its report, TI Switzerland suggests how the Swiss Integrity System can be improved:
More Transparency in the Swiss Political Landscape
Switzerland lacks regulations on political party financing. Consequently, Swiss voters are denied access to information about the source of political parties’ funding. Transparency in political party financing enables voters to judge the influence of financially powerful interest groups or individuals on political events and to make informed decisions. TI Switzerland therefore demands that donations above a certain amount made to political parties, to candidates for the Swiss Council of States and National Council, as well as to election committees be disclosed.
In December 2011 the Group of States Against Corruption of the Council of Europe (Greco) recommended Switzerland introduce a disclosure policy for political parties and guarantee independent monitoring of political party funding and election campaigns.
"We welcome the recommendations of Greco. They correspond to the requests by TI Switzerland", says Jean-Pierre Méan, President of TI Switzerland. "Surveys show that most of the population wants more transparency in politics. This issue has also recently been put forward in various discussions in parliament. In particular, the acceptance of a motion in the Swiss Council of States demanding transparency in election campaign funding is a positive sign. We hope very much that these efforts soon lead to definite results."
The complete disclosure of vested interests of members of parliament (including financial compensation) should also allow for greater transparency in politics. Only then will it be possible for voters to know which interests politicians really represent in parliament.
Whistleblowers Need to be Better Protected
The recent Hildebrand case showed clearly just how difficult the situation is for whistleblowers in Switzerland. The question surrounding whether the IT employee who passed on to a lawyer the customer data of the president of the Swiss National Bank is a whistleblower or a law-breaker, cannot yet be conclusively answered based on the general evidence available.
“The question is nevertheless justified,” says Anne Schwoebel, Director of TI Switzerland, “as it shows the urgent necessity of legal clarification for those who witness irregularities at work. We are dependent on whistleblowers in order to prosecute and even expose corrupt practices. Without legal protection for whistleblowers we cannot expect them to act in an unlegislated environment and to accept the risk of being dismissed and prosecuted.”
Partial revision of the Swiss Code of Obligations has been pending for quite some time. This should permit employees under certain circumstances to make known illegal or unethical practices in the workplace without running the risk of breaching their duty of loyalty.
What is essential, according to TI Switzerland, is that decisions to dismiss whistleblowers, who have made justified complaints to internal or external parties, are invalidated or contested. Furthermore, the dismissed whistleblower should alternatively have the right to be reinstated either to the same position or a comparable position at the same employer or receive appropriate compensation reflecting the damage suffered. A justified complaint to internal or external parties should not put the employee at a disadvantage professionally. Whistleblowers are therefore protected from any form of discrimination and not just from dismissal.
It is also essential that independent reporting hotlines for whistleblowers are set up in companies and in public administrations and are made known to employees. Whistleblowers need reporting hotlines they can turn to in confidence for advice.
Since 2011 the majority of government employees have been obliged to report crimes and offences that they become aware of in the course of their duty. They can report these to the Swiss Federal Audit Office. The scope of the new guidelines regarding duty of disclosure, legislation pertaining to the official registration of residence, and in particular for the protection of whistleblowers, which are stipulated in the Swiss Public Service Employment Act, should be extended to cover all local administration units within the federal administration, as requested recently by the OECD.
Greater Commitment Required from Political Parties and the Swiss Federal Council
The NIS report shows that Swiss political parties and also the Swiss Federal Council have not placed enough emphasis on the issue of fighting corruption. "In the world of politics, those involved are not yet fully aware of corruption and its negative consequences. In our country, the effects of corruption on government and society are underestimated," according to Jean-Pierre Méan, the President of TI Switzerland. “The Swiss Federal Council and the political parties are now called upon to step up their efforts in this regard and to include this issue more often on their agenda.”
Further suggestions for reform include making professional experience the main criteria when electing judges and state prosecutors; introducing clear rules for declaring vested interests and conflicts of interest of judges; making processes in public procurement transparent and raising awareness of the risks of corruption that are unique to international sport clubs in Switzerland.
The NIS Project
Currently the National Integrity Systems of 25 European countries – including that of Switzerland – are being systematically assessed. A standardised methodology developed by Transparency International was used in the process. In the Swiss NIS report, the most important institutions responsible for improving integrity and the fight against corruption in Switzerland were evaluated. These institutions form the following 12 "pillars“ of national integrity: legislature, executive, judiciary, public sector, investigative and law enforcement authorities, national electoral authorities, ombudsman’s office, national audit office, political parties, the media, civil society and the business sector. The NIS report shows the strengths and weaknesses of each area and how they influence one another.
The study’s content focuses mainly on national institutions and provides a broad analysis.
Download the full report (German)
Download the French summary
Transparency International Switzerland is the Swiss chapter of Transparency International and engages in the fight against corruption and campaigns for its prevention.
For any press enquiries please contact
Anne Schwöbel, Director, and Jean-Pierre Méan, President
T: +41 31 382 35 50