Thursday, October 13, 2005

The voice of general public and business people on corruption

What do the general public and the business people in Poland think of corruption?
Kubiak, A. / Stefan Batory Foundation, Warsaw , 2003
What do the general public and the business people in Poland think of corruption? This report describes the findings of a research on corruption conducted in June 2003.

The first part of the research is a public opinion survey, conducted on a random-address sample of 1016 adult Poles. Questions included in the survey referred to corruption-related experiences of survey interviewees. The second part of the research is an individual questionnaire, addressed to private company owners and managers to obtain information on the way corruption is perceived by business people.

Major findings of the research are:

every day personal contacts with healthcare, traffic police and various public administration units are tangible proof for about 20% of adult Poles that they live in a country with high levels of corruption
business people attach greater importance to corruption as a social issue than the total population of Poles do
the majority of business people (66%) are convinced that there is a growing proliferation of corruption in Poland, and almost 30% declare that corruption is becoming more and more of a problem in their business activity
together with delays in payments, business recession, taxation and credit problems, corruption is seen as a major barrier to running a business
based on their personal experience, two thirds of business people believe that there is a special additional tax burden in Poland – the so-called ‘bribe tax’
the items reported most frequently as corruption-prone are customs offices, tenders, public procurement, permits for company expansion and business launch, and getting contracts from other private companies
business people are extremely critical of the offices and employees of regional self-government administration with respect to their involvement in corruption
business people express strong disapproval for corruption and seek its sources in lack of moral standards, in human dishonesty and the wish to have more at any price
the level of strong disapproval for corruption on moral grounds is lower among business people (14%) than in the overall population
on the other hand, though, business people more frequently express lack of acceptance for corruptive practices (38%), side by side with lack of approval for their presence (44%)
In conclusion, business people believe that the best way to curtail corruptive behavior is to reduce the quantity of legal regulations and to make them as precise and explicit as possible.

Full Text
Polish prosecutors, Czech colleagues discuss Unipetrol case
PRAGUE- Representatives of the Krakow, Poland, prosecutor's office will meet their Czech colleagues in Prague today to discuss aid in the investigation into alleged corruption in the privatisation of the Czech petrochemical company Unipetrol, Martin Omelka has said.
"I cannot say anything more than that the negotiations concern the investigation of a Unipetrol case aspect," Omelka, spokesman for the Prague City State Attorney's Office, said.

The meeting was initiated by the Polish State Attorney's Office. The Polish prosecutors want to personally discuss cooperation with their Czech colleagues and to ask them for help in interrogations.

According to unofficial information, they will also want to interrogate leading Czech politicians, including Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and ex-prime minister Stanislav Gross, both the senior ruling Social Democratic Party (CSSD).

Polish authorities have already asked for legal aid, namely the cassettes with a discussion between Polish lobbyist Jacek Spyra and Zdenek Dolezel, former director of the office of Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek (CSSD) as well as of his predecessor Gross.

It was particularly this discussion, broadcast recently by the Czech commercial television channel Nova, that triggered the scandal around the Unipetrol sale.

Polish PKN Orlen bought 63 percent of Unipetrol shares for 13.05 billion crowns last year.

Spyra and Dolezel spoke about politicians' corruption. Dolezel allegedly asked Spyra for a bribe of five million crowns as well.

The Krakow prosecutor's office is interested in Unipetrol in connection with the investigation into the "fuel scandal" around extensive frauds with fuels.

The office wants to examine all significant contracts PKN Orlen concluded.

The Unipetrol privatisation is also mentioned in the report by a special commission of Polish parliament that investigated the circumstances of the dismissal of the Orlen former CEO three years ago.

According to the report, the Czech government could have got 5.3 billion crowns more than what PKN Orlen paid it. The government allegedly refused a higher bid under the pressure of the Czech company Agrofert and businessman Andrej Babis.

The Czech Chamber of Deputies has also decided this week to form a commission to look into Unipetrol's privatisation. The deputies are to elect 10 members and chairman of the commission by tomorrow.

Monday, October 10, 2005

New EU states get a mixed report card on corruption


Vienna :
Bribes in exchange for business. Conspiratorial whispers and cash-stuffed envelopes. Public powers routinely used for private gain.

Corruption remains widespread across the "New Europe" and the latest global rankings give a mixed report card to the European Union's ex-communist newcomers and neighbouring nations still aspiring to join.

"Chances for improvement are not encouraging," conceded Adriana Krnacova, who runs the Czech office of Transparency International, which this week released its 2005 corruption perception index an annual ranking that is closely watched in eastern Europe.

But fellow EU newcomer Poland "has performed relatively poorly and shows little or no sign of improvement," TI said, singling out rampant bureaucracy and frequent conflicts of interest.

Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek vowed to redouble efforts to fight corruption ahead of general elections next year. Ordinary Czechs, however, reacted with a mixture of fatalism and antagonism to their 4.3 ranking, a mere tick better than last year's 4.2.

"Frankly, we don't need Transparency International to see how corrupt our country is. (This in reference to Poland use of this bureau) And how are our politicians fighting it? Mostly by mouth. ... What about buying ourselves at least the 20th position next year?" the daily Mlada Fronta Dnes said yesterday in a wry commentary.

"Corruption exists in every country," Bulgarian Interior Minister Rumen Petkov said yesterday, insisting his office was "making every effort to curb such practices".

Many of the EU's newest members have shown improvements in fighting corruption since they joined the bloc in May 2004, which "points to the leverage of the accession process in promoting anti-corruption reforms in candidate countries", TI said.

Among them was Slovakia, which managed its best score yet: 4.3 points on a 10-point scale, with a 10 reserved for the least-corrupt countries. Last year, Slovakia scored a 4.0.

Slovak Justice Minister Daniel Lipsic hailed the results as "the greatest progress" the country has seen in the last few years. "It seems that specific anti-corruption steps we've made are starting to bear fruit," Lipsic said. But he cautioned: "We're not at the end of the road yet."

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Report on Covert Prisons Abroad Spurs UN, EU Probes
Katherine Stapp

NEW YORK, Nov 3 (IPS) - Pressure mounted on the George W. Bush administration Thursday to provide details of secret prisons abroad reportedly run by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), where terror suspects are held incommunicado in dark, sometimes underground cells.

According to an investigative article by the Washington Post's Dana Priest, shortly after the Sep. 11, 2001 attacks, the CIA set up clandestine jails for al Qaeda suspects in at least eight countries, including Thailand, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

The paper said some were also located in Eastern Europe, although it withheld the specific countries involved at the request of "senior U.S. officials".

But Jean-Paul Marthoz, Human Rights Watch's spokesman in Belgium, said independent investigation suggests that the secret CIA installations in Eastern Europe are in Poland and Romania.

Last fall, Human Rights Watch issued a report on "ghost prisoners" held by the CIA at undisclosed locations after being apprehended in places such as Pakistan, Indonesia, Thailand, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.

The group said it was unable to obtain first-hand information on the treatment of these detainees, but added that press accounts have repeatedly cited unnamed government officials acknowledging torture or mistreatment.

"The concern is that under international law, states have an obligation to monitor and prevent torture from happening," Priti Patel, an attorney with the New York-based group Human Rights First, told IPS. "One of the most central things to achieve this is openness, and detentions within legal constraints."

"Even in the context of war, the United States is bound by Army regulations and international human rights laws to maintain a list of detainees and where they're being held," she said. "But it doesn't appear that Congress has had access to that information."

According to the Washington Post article, interrogators at the so-called "black sites" are permitted to use "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques", including "waterboarding", in which a prisoner is made to believe he or she is drowning. More than 100 people have reportedly been sent to the secret prisons, about 30 of whom are considered major terrorism suspects.

European Union spokesman Friso Roscam Abbing said the EU would conduct an informal inquiry into the allegations, and that if such secret prisons existed, they would violate EU human rights rules. Poland is a member of the EU, and Romania is scheduled to join the bloc in 2007.

"We have to find out what is exactly happening. We have all heard about this, then we have to see if it is confirmed," he said.

The U.N. special rapporteur on torture, Manfred Nowak, said Wednesday that he too would seek more information about the covert prisons.

"Every secret place of detention is usually a higher risk for ill treatment. That's the danger of secrecy," Nowak said, adding that he would seek access to all U.S. detention facilities outside its territory.

The Washington Post article said that virtually nothing is known outside elite political and intelligence circles about the black sites, including who is detained and how long prisoners are held. But it adds that "the arrangement has been increasingly debated within the CIA, where considerable concern lingers about the legality, morality and practicality of holding even unrepentant terrorists in such isolation and secrecy, perhaps for the duration of their lives".

"There is at least one known detainee who died in CIA custody in Afghanistan," Patel noted. "We are calling for access for the International Committee of the Red Cross, and for the U.S. government to provide Congress with a list of all the facilities and the number of people being detained."

Responding to reporters' questions Wednesday, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said "...(S)ome people say that the test of your principles are what you do when no one is looking."

"And the president has insisted that whether it is in the public or is in the private, the same principles will apply and the same principles will be respected, and to the extent that people do not measure up to those principles, there will be accountability and responsibility," he said.

The administration has refused to confirm or deny the allegations, although they have been refuted by several of the governments named, including Poland, Thailand and Bulgaria.

"It is extremely unlikely," Janusz Onyszkiewicz, a former Polish defence minister who now serves as vice president of the European parliament, told the wire service UPI. "I don't think our cooperation with the United States goes that far. Besides, these kind of goings-on would have been spotted and leaked to the press by now."

The revelations were quickly seized on by the opposition Democratic members of Congress, and even some Republicans, who have warned that the mounting evidence of prisoner mistreatment by U.S. forces in the "war on terror" is destroying U.S. credibility at home and abroad.

"This is not what America stands for," said Congressman Jim McGovern of Massachusetts. "This is more like Chile under (former dictator Augusto) Pinochet, or Argentina under the junta." Both of the South American countries endured military dictatorships in the 1970s and 1980s.

Last month, in a pointed rebuke to the administration, the Senate voted 90-9 to endorse an amendment by Republican Sen. John McCain, a former combat pilot who was captured and held as a prisoner of war at the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" for most of the Vietnam War, and three other Republican co-sponsors to the 2006 defence bill.

The amendment would ban the use of "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment" as defined by the U.S. constitution and any interrogation technique that is not authorised by the U.S. Army Field Manual, which was drafted to comply with the Geneva Conventions.

Arguing that it would hamstring the president's ability to protect the country, the White House has threatened to veto the entire defence spending bill, and is lobbying hard for language exempting the CIA from its scope.

House and Senate conferees are meeting this week to reconcile the two versions of the defence bill. House Democrats say they already have 15 Republican backers, and Republicans have told the White House they expect the measure to pass, an Appropriations Committee spokesman said.

Opposition to the McCain amendment is largely concentrated in the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, whose new chief of staff David Addington -- the replacement for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who was arraigned Thursday for lying to federal investigators -- helped draft a now infamous 2002 memo arguing for legalised torture.

"What emerges will be a moral barometer," wrote Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst and co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, in the essay "The Torture Test", published online by "It will be interesting to see if the barometer keeps falling." (END/2005)