A Short Note on Corruption in Cyprus

Transparency Cyprus (TC) is the national contact organization of Transparency International, which aims not only to raise awareness about the detrimental effects of corruption on society, but also to put pressure on the political parties to take steps towards improving the political and economic institutions of Cyprus through transparency and integrity. Since 2010, TC conducts annual corruption perception surveys to better understand the causes of corruption in the country and identify the perceived level of this phenomenon among decision makers and policy enforcers. Better understanding the underlying causes of corruption and its consequences could be vital for policymakers who aim to improve our institutions by controlling corruption. So far our organization is at the position to present result from two surveys based on the years 2010 and 2011. The respondents appeared to be more knowledgeable as to what constitutes corruption in 2011 as opposed to those surveyed in 2010. This is evident from their responses to questions regarding giving money or other consideration in return for an academic qualification, obtaining a driving license or a reduction of taxes – considered by 89%, 88% and 86% respectively – as acts constituting corruption. In the 2010 survey, only 55%, 55% and 58% of respondents respectively perceived the same actions as corruption acts. Possible reasons to explain these perceptions could be the Mari explosion (July 2011) that raised important concerns of transparency and accountability, or even the ongoing financial crisis that directly affects the majority of the populace. Our upcoming survey, 2012 (currently ongoing), takes a step further to exploit in more depth these possibilities. The 2011 survey interviewed a total of 1521 men and women, 48% and 52% respectively, from the private (51%), the public (16%) and the semi-government (9%) sectors. 34% of the interviewees obtained a high-school certificate, 37% hold a Bachelor`s degree while 29% acquired a postgraduate qualification. Finally, the survey was conducted based on the following age groups: 18-30 years, 31-40 years, 41-50 years, 51-60 years, and 61+ years. Unsurprisingly, according to the interviewees there are several acts within the Cypriot society that constitute corruption. For instance, 84% of the sample sees giving money to receive a building permit as a major corruption act. Additionally, the majority (93%) of respondents believe that corruption (and/or the abuse of power for personal benefit) exists and is widespread in most national politicians, in government officials in awarding public tenders (92%), and in the police (90%). According to the survey results, 70% consider corruption as a major issue in Cyprus, while 60% are being or have been affected by corruption directly. According to the survey, the suggested causes of corruption include: Impunity for corruption (84%), the minimum effort by politicians (government and parliament) to battle corruption (84%), the cronyism that characterizes the appointments to the public service (82%) and the acceptance that corruption is part of our everyday life (81%). With regard to the responsibility towards combating corruption, 84% of the respondents believe it is the responsibility of government, 81% of all political parties and MPs, 80% of the police. Transparency Cyprus has made a number of suggestions to the authorities, including the enforcement of the requirement for Members of the House of Representatives to declare their assets when entering parliament and again at the end of their term. TC has also suggested the enactment of legislation protecting whistle-blowers who may feel threatened if they report cases of corruption or other illegal activities committed in their workplace. Finally, TC recommends the creation of an Independent Commission Against Corruption such as those that have existed for decades in Australia and Hong Kong and are considered very successful.