Latvia: More Work Needed to Combat Corruption
Latvia has made good strides in tackling corruption, but some legislation is still lacking, as is proper implementation, the Baltic country's chapter of Transparency International said in a report last week.
“Latvia made substantial progress in bringing its legislation up to the European standards in the years preceding its admission to the European Union but we’ve seen efforts slip after that. This should not be accepted as an excuse, and the government needs to make anti-corruption a genuine priority,” said Inese Voika, chairwoman of Transparency International (TI) Latvia.
The report assessed 13 key “pillars” of the country’s anti-corruption framework and concluded that the Ombudsman institution and the business and public sectors were the weakest elements.
It recommended that the executive branch become more engaged in anti-corruption efforts, and called for a code of ethics at all levels of government. It also advocated for comprehensive whistleblower protection and more efficient judicial processing of corruption cases.
The business sector suffers from an excessive administrative burden and a prominent grey economy, said the report. Moreover, the business community is not as involved in anti-corruption activities as it should be.
Transparency International said that public officials are vulnerable to corruption because of drastic salary cuts caused by the economic crisis. It found that “qualifications are not the main determinant of selecting an individual” to a public position. The report authors concluded that the public sector has failed to engage civil society in anti-corruption issues and to promote high standards of public education.
The Ombudsman institution remains weak. “It does not seem that the legislative majority has ever aimed at appointing the most professional, independent and active candidate for the Ombudsman position,” TI said in a news release.
“The influence of the Ombudsman’s Office has been held back by a low public profile, the questioned personal authority of the Ombudsman, as well as weak public outreach activities.”
The study also named Latvia's strongest pillars: the Supreme Audit Institution, the Central Elections Committee, and the Executive branch.
Voika said that although the economic crisis had fostered corruption, it also inspired citizens to be more engaged in the country’s political system.
“The recent financial crisis had a damaging effect on some institutions but it also prompted some citizens to rethink the importance of the state and their own role in democratic politics,” she said. “It is a changing civic consciousness that can bring practice up to the same level as the finely designed legal framework in the books.”
Latvia is one of 25 countries to participate in the National Integrity System initiative of the European Commission.