On 20 November, Erik Solheim, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program, was forced to resign following accusations of ethical misconduct. Mr. Solheim was suspected of conflict of interest and criticized because of his travel expenses, which could be as high as 500,000 dollars. According to a draft internal UN audit leaked to The Guardian, this lack of probity was a reputation risk for an authority dedicated to fighting climate change. Indeed, some states announced that they were halting funding for this agency due to the behavior of its chief.
Council of Europe
On 6 November, the President of the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) attended a conference organized in Dubrovnik by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). On that occasion, he stressed that international commitments against corruption must be translated into concrete actions at the national level. He also recalled that PACE should set an example by complying with GRECO’s recommendations to strengthen its integrity framework following allegations of corruption.
On 4 November, The New Federalist devoted an article to the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO). Created in 2017, this body will start operations from late 2020 or early 2021 onwards. It will be competent to investigate and prosecute fraud cases. According to the article, EPPO could remedy the shortcomings of existing agencies and play a major role in the fight against corruption in Eastern Europe.
On 7 November, Transparency International (TI) pointed out that a revision of the European Parliament’s rules of procedure, which should be voted on 21 November, could increase lobby transparency. As a matter of fact, one of the provisions under consideration would oblige rapporteurs, shadow rapporteurs and committee chairs to publish meetings with interest’s representatives on the Parliament’s website. Since these MEPs play a key role in the legislative process, this measure would better regulate the influence of lobbies on EU decisions. On 21 November, the vote about the rules of procedure was postponed because of the delayed distribution of a report by the Parliament’s legal services on the subject.
On 12 November, DW published an analysis of the lobbying efforts of non-EU actors in Brussels. Based on data from the EU Transparency Register, this analysis showed that American firms’ expenses represent a considerable share of the total expenditure related to interest representation activities targeting European institutions. In addition, DW indicated that lobbying fluctuates significantly depending on legislative files.
On 16 November, the European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, made public her decision on the European Commission’s handling of requests for access to documents concerning Commissioners’ travel expenses. After an inquiry, Ms. O’Reilly decided to close the case by approving the Commission’s publication policy, which intends to publish information about each Commissioner’s travel expenses every two months.
On 20 November, the European Parliament Legal Affairs Committee adopted the report on the draft directive on EU whistleblower protection. The text proposes reporting mechanisms, protection against retaliation, and the creation of independent public authorities to support whistleblowers in Member States. Transparency International welcomed the vote as a step in the right direction.
On 29 November, an issue of Politique européenne devoted to transparency was published. The articles in this edition explored the different facets of transparency policies implemented by EU Member States and institutions. Special attention was paid to lobbying regulation.
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
On 29 and 30 November, a meeting of the Working Party of Senior Public Integrity Officials (SPIO) was held at the OECD. The SPIO members shared good practices to facilitate the implementation of the Recommendation of the Council on Public Integrity, which was adopted in 2017. Discussions focused on monitoring integrity, managing corruption risks, and identifying challenges and opportunities related to open government and social media to strengthen accountability and citizen participation.
Open Government Partnership
In the latest issue of Revue française de l’administration publique, published on 22 November, professors Annie Bartoli and Cécile Blatrix assessed the impact of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in terms of transparency and public accountability, using comparative analysis based on the initiatives implemented in the United States, Brazil and France. They noted that, since its establishment in 2011, the OGP has contributed to international homogenization of national transparency policies while also increasing their visibility. They highlighted that, despite its shortcomings, the OGP has had positive effects on government accountability and may be a sign of a deeper wave of transformation that is stimulating new forms of responsible public action around the world.
Fédération internationale de football association (FIFA)
On 16 November, prosecutor Olivier Thormann, head of the Economic Crime Division of the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Swiss Confederation, resigned. Mr. Thormann, who was in charge of investigating FIFA’s corruption cases, was suspended in October after being suspected of breaching professional secrecy, obstructing criminal prosecution, granting undue advantage and passive corruption. Nonetheless, the procedure to clarify these allegations was closed.
On 20 November, Sundra Rajoo, Malaysian deputy chairman of the FIFA Ethics Committee’s Adjudicatory Chamber, was detained by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission. He has been accused of using his position to gain financial favors. Mr. Rajoo was suspended by FIFA. In addition, he resigned as director of the Asian International Arbitration Center.
On 18 November, the winners of the Innovation in Politics Award, whose jury is made up of European citizens, were announced. In the category “democracy”, a project of the French National Assembly was rewarded. The Assembly launched in early 2018 an online consultation platform to strengthen citizen participation in parliamentary work. Since its launch, 10 consultations were held, receiving around 150,000 contributions from 13,475 citizens.
In the context of the G20 summit, held in Buenos Aires on 30 November and 1 December, the NGO Transparency International (TI) and its local chapter conducted an awareness raising campaign. The streets in the Argentinean capital were lined with posters featuring the slogan “#G20TakeAction: Implement Your Anti-Corruption Commitments”. This campaign aimed to put the fight against corruption at the heart of the meeting by calling on state leaders to enforce concrete measures in this area.