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Swiss urged to take preventive action against corruption

A new report has put forward a series of recommendations to combat corruption in Switzerland. The measures are based on the first in-depth study of such crimes, and stress the need for greater accountability and transparency.

The study, presented in Fribourg on Thursday, contained 50 proposals to tackle corruption at all levels of government and industry.

The report calls for strict separation of all parties involved in the legislative process, from lawmakers to the judiciary. It says measures must be implemented to reinforce transparency, to control political party funding and to create a level playing field in the area of public procurement.

Other recommendations include the introduction of a rotation system for all private and public posts susceptible to abuse, as well as a campaign to educate people to respect healthy and honest competition.

The authors of the report, led by Professor Nicolas Queloz of Fribourg University, say corruption has never been the subject of in-depth research in Switzerland. They also point out that the country has no real anti-corruption strategy, and that information is seldom shared.

"Our aims were to fill a part of the knowledge vacuum and to achieve a better understanding of supporting factors, circumstances and the process of corruption," Professor Queloz said.

For empirical purposes, the research work concentrated on the cantons of Geneva, Ticino and Valais.

Professor Queloz said that despatches from the Swiss News Agency (sda/ats) between 1985 and 1997 showed a "very strong increase in media interest" in corruption cases.

"This suggests that corruption is no longer a taboo topic and the media are certainly playing an important role as the "fourth estate" in reinforcing our growing awareness of this phenomenon," he added.

The research found that the sectors most susceptible to corruption were the public construction market, information technology, police and customs, as well as authorities concerned with the issuing of official permits or licences (in particular affecting vehicle checks).

Interviews with selected informants confirmed that the public sector of the construction market was perceived as particularly susceptible to illegal practices.

The study also examined so-called "grey area" corruption, represented by trading in influence, cronyism and the old boy network.

In the cantons studied, the researchers looked at specific sectors.

In Italian-speaking canton Ticino, they focused on political parties, while in Geneva the allocation of residential and work permits was scrutinised, along with the mechanisms for identifying illegal workers in the "black" market.

In Valais, the researchers examined how the judicial system could best uncover and penalise corruption.

by Robert Brookes

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