17 companies call on other businesses: Let’s change things in our state
Better law enforcement, more transparency and reduction in corruption were the main topics of the Anti-Corruption Forum.
At the Anti-Corruption Forum entitled Who is fighting corruption in Slovakia? representatives not only from business, but also from NGOs and embassies discussed several topical issues. These included the Gorilla case, the controversial Bratislava bypass, lack of public control of the Procurator’s Office or state capture into the hands of oligarchy.
The Fund for Transparent Slovakia by the Pontis Foundation has supported five organisations this year (The Fair-Play Alliance, Transparency International Slovakia, INEKO, The Slovak Governance Institute and the VIA IURIS association) which persistently focus on boosting transparency and fighting corruption. Better law enforcement, the creation of a transparent environment in Slovakia and the elimination of corruption were the main topics of the forum which was held in the residence of the British Ambassador in Slovakia on November 11, 2015.
NGOs demand systemic change in Slovakia
Zuzana Wienk, programme director of the Fair-Play Alliance, compared the fight of the civil society sector against state capture to the battle of David and Goliath. The work of non-profit organisations which attempt to combat the arrogance of powerhouses is often a long-distance race. When an organisation does not have sufficient capacities to enable it to focus on chosen cases even for a few years the desired results cannot be achieved. Zuzana Wienk considers it important to point out these problems and to make social pressure to change the situation in which we find ourselves. Thanks to that, several successful cases of the oligarchy losing or failing to achieve their aims have been recorded, example of which can be found below.
Ján Kovalčík from the organisation INEKO, pointed out the importance of transparent PPP projects and large transport tenders which constitute one of the largest state expenditures. In an analysis recently published by INEKO, several cases of misconducthave been proved in the preparation of the overpriced Bratislava bypass PPP project, amounting to an additional €1.4 billion compared to the funding from the state’s budget. Also thanks to public pressure, the Finance Ministry has agreed to reassess funding of the project.
There was the case of overpriced ultrasound devices in which a criminal prosecution is currently being carried out or the VSS tunnelling case which was reopened thanks to the work of VIA IURIS. This organisation is attempting to change the legal framework of the country in order to limit the possibility for corruption and the impunity of such activities in the long term. Zuzana Čaputová, a lawyer cooperating with the VIA IURIS association, added that in order to bring similar cases to a successful conclusion in future, systemic changes will have to be made. Therefore, they have prepared a proposal containing measures to secure depoliticisation and real improvement of the role of the police, the Prosecutor’s Office and judiciary which have so far allowed “the big fish” to rule this country.
Companies demand compliance with rules
The business sector also takes an active role in fighting corruption. Magdaléna Dobišová from the company Skanska talked about the difficult ethical and transparent situation in the building industry which companies have to face. Also the company Accenture, represented by Jozef Kokoška, has had similar experiences. It is the IT field which is considered one of the least transparent in Slovakia.
All participants of the forum agreed that the only way to face up to this situation is to fulfil high ethical standards in the company itself and to insist on change in the whole business environment. This is also why companies support watchdog organisations through the Fund for Transparent Slovakia.
The Fund has been supported by 17 companies this year. These companies have also called on other firms to join them and to support essential change in Slovakia. The Fund for Transparent Slovakia was launched in the Pontis Foundation based on the initiative of member companies of the Business Leaders Forum association which were concerned about non-sufficient law enforcement in Slovakia in the long term. Companies believe that it is necessary to solve the situation and therefore, it is necessary to exert social pressure to improve market conditions. That’s why they are striving for the development of transparency and a healthy business environment by supporting watchdog and analytical organisations. Fighting long-term corruption and exerting pressure to change the systemic measures of the state’s governance are the inevitable part of a healthy democracy,” said Pavel Hrica, programme director of the Pontis Foundation.