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Polish government attempting to legalise corruption in the guise of supporting refugees from Ukraine

On 9 March, the Sejm – the lower house of the Polish parliament – adopted a special act to assist Ukrainians refugees, which would also roll back regulations that help to prevent corruption. Transparency International, with our Polish partner Stefan Batory Foundation, call for the Parliament to vote down the provisions legalising corruption.

The Act on Assistance to Citizens of Ukraine in Connection with the Armed Conflict is meant to set forth rights, assistance and benefits to Ukrainian citizens seeking refuge in Poland as a result of the Russian attack on Ukraine. In practice, the Act would practically guarantee impunity to authorities and entrepreneurs for abuse of public funds and corruption offenses pursued during times of war, natural disasters or pandemics. It would also effectively abolish the existing public procurement law, allowing the government to purchase goods and services without proper oversight.

This is not the first time that the Polish government has used a crisis to pass laws and implement regulations that enable corruption. In 2020, Poland proposed legislation that would exempt authorities from liability for unlawful activities connected to the COVID-19 pandemic or outbreaks of other infectious diseases, but efforts from civil society and activists blocked the effort. The very same year, Poland passed the ‘Anti-crisis Shield 2.0’ law, which granted indemnity for white-collar crime and violation of public finance regulations for purchases associated with COVID-19. It protected controversial multi-million-dollar purchases of protection equipment that lacked the required certificates. Such legislation increases the risk of corruption and abuse of power and threatens misuse of public funds.

Civil society organisations and our partner in Poland oppose this legislation and demand legal solutions to the crisis that would not exacerbate impunity or drastically limit the state's ability to prosecute corruption crimes. Transparency International therefore calls on Polish legislators to exclude Articles 82 and 94 – the most harmful provisions of the law that allow for the impunity of public officials and entrepreneurs.

Lidija Prokic, Eastern and South East Europe regional advisor at Transparency International, said: “It is unacceptable for the Polish government to take advantage of crises to legalise corruption. Instead of defending the current legislation, the government should focus its efforts on finding solutions that protect both human lives and the public interest.”

Notes to editors

Transparency International’s previous statement on the COVID-19 bill: