The aim is to take a pre-emptive strike against corruption, where possible - Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Administration and Justice Tibor Navracsics said on Monday, the International Anti-Corruption Day, in Budapest.

He evaluated the steps taken against corruption jointly with President of the State Audit Office László Domokos, Vice-President of the Curia István Kónya, Chief Prosecutor Péter Polt and President of the National Judiciary Office Tünde Handó, as heads of the institutions participating in a closed inter-institutional meeting on the topic.

Besides prevention, the minister also talked about reprisal against corruption and, in addition to preventive measures, called attention to changes in criminal law, the intra-institutional measures taken and international cooperation.

Photo: Zsolt Burger

Speaking about prevention, he said that it was necessary to develop a culture which in itself would make corruption impossible in public administration. It also needs attention how criminal acts can be retaliated, he added.

He mentioned the anti-corruption programme adopted by the Government in 2012 and the amendments to legislation, for example the changes in the Criminal Code, including clarification and the inclusion of new offences, such as trading in influence, which enables a more effective punishment of corruption than earlier.

He believes that the so-called acceleration package reflects that every effort is taken to ensure that corruption cases are taken to trial stage and closed with a sentence as soon as possible. To this end, additional funds have been provided to the NJO, the Curia and the Chief Prosecutor’s Office.

He also made mention of the act on public interest disclosure, which protects, for example, anonymous whistleblowers and provides for integrity officers, who are responsible for monitoring indications of a threat of corruption in public administration.

Photo: Zsolt Burger

Speaking about public administration, he referred to the Code of Conduct for Public Officials adopted in July and recalled in the field of international cooperation that Hungary was one of the founders of the UN anti-corruption academy set up in September 2010. He highlighted the role of Hungary in developing anti-corruption activities in the context of the process of Western Balkan countries’ accession to the EU.

László Domokos likewise emphasised the importance of prevention and mentioned the development, by following the example provided by the Dutch audit office, of a risk focussed integrity assessment and a method for measuring internal control activities in public administration. Regarding the latter, he said that it was a safety belt for notaries and senior local government officials.

István Kónya said that corruption was like AIDS in that it weakens the immune system of public administration. Speaking from the perspective of his organisation, he stressed the importance of transparency, efficiency and accountability to society as a whole, in addition to criminal sentencing.

He referred to the medium term strategy adopted by the Curia in September, which among other things focuses on corruption, and the cooperation with the NJO in the development of a code of conduct for the judiciary.

Considering the last twenty years, István Kónya said that 700 to 750 corruption crimes occurred on average each year, mainly in the form of bribery, bribery of public official and influence peddling. While the number of such crimes was higher than 900 in 2009, it is now 300 to 400.

He considers it a favourable trend that while courts proceeded in 297 bribery cases and 45 influence peddling cases in 2011, the number of bribery cases and influence peddling cases before courts were 195 and 48, respectively, in 2012.
He added that corruption cases amounted to 0.1 to 0.2% of the 450,000 crimes committed on average each year.

Photo: Zsolt Burger

Péter Polt recalled the institutional strategy adopted by the Chief Prosecutor’s Office in November, which lays down as a priority objective first maintaining public confidence in the prosecution service and second giving assurance that the prosecution service is also committed to the fight against corruption. He also made mention of increased efficiency, accelerated proceedings and that the work done in the last two years provided evidence of the earlier efforts of the prosecution service to meet these objectives.

Since its establishment two and a half years ago, the Central Investigating Chief Prosecutor’s Office dealing with priority corruption cases has worked on 417 cases and has heard 222 suspects in 87 investigations. He also mentioned that charges may be brought in an investigation of corruption within the police in the coming days or weeks.

NJO President Tünde Handó underlined the importance of integrity in the judiciary and stressed that although the risk of corruption is low within the organisation, the transparency and predictability of operation needed attention. She added that the working group for the integrity of the judiciary had developed a draft version of the new code of conduct during the year and a proposal for a legislative amendment that would empower the National Judiciary Council to adopt it was before parliament.

(Ministry of Public Administration and Justice)