Switzerland improves corruption ranking

Switzerland can still do better in its fight against corruption according to Transparency International swissinfo.ch

Switzerland has rejoined the top ten of the world’s least corrupt nations, according to global watchdog Transparency International (TI).

This content was published on October 7, 2003 - 11:14

But the organisation warned that Switzerland’s overall corruption rating had not increased enough to confirm any real improvement in business practices.

For the past two years, Switzerland had been ranked outside the top ten, dropping to 12th in 2002 with a rating of 8.5 points. This year, Switzerland has climbed to eighth in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI), drawing level with Australia and Norway on 8.8 points.

Finland and Iceland are considered the least corrupt nations by the businessmen, academics and analysts polled by Transparency. Bangladesh sits at the bottom of the list of 133 countries surveyed this year.

The improved ranking may reassure some Swiss. Another recent survey commissioned by TI showed that 80 per cent of Swiss polled believe corruption has a significant impact on their lives.

TI warned, though, that while Switzerland may have improved its ranking, the difference in its CPI this year was not significant enough to confirm an actual drop in cases of corruption and bribery.

"The situation has not deteriorated, but we are more or less where we were a year ago," said Philippe Lévy, president of Transparency Switzerland (TS).

Room for improvement

The group’s Swiss branch said that while corruption was not widespread, there was still room for improvement.

"In the past four years, we have improved our system, especially in the field of money laundering," Lévy told swissinfo. "There are still some improvements that are possible and necessary, though."

Transparency's local chapter repeated its earlier calls to the government to coordinate the fight against corruption, adding that with the planned ratification of the European anti-corruption convention next year, a national action plan was more necessary than ever.

The organisation also demanded that whistleblowers who take personal risks to expose cases of corrupt practices receive better protection from the law, along the lines of what has been done in Britain or the United States.

It said that employees would not denounce corrupt practices if they feared the negative consequences of their actions.

Stricter guidelines

The non-governmental organisation also proposed that guidelines on federal employees accepting gifts or other advantages be tightened, stating that current rules for civil servants are not clear enough.

TS said that Switzerland’s cantonal structure was proving an additional obstacle to fighting corruption and bribery. According to the NGO, local officials are failing to take an interest in the problem.

It warned that the country’s small size and its web of personal relations fuel minor corruption.

The Swiss government introduced new anti-corruption rules on October 1. These regulations make Swiss businesses liable for fraudulent practices abroad, with fines of up to SFr5 million ($3.8 million).

According to the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, the new law will make it easier to prosecute those who turn a blind eye to corruption, such as company board members.

swissinfo, Scott Capper and Samantha Tonkin

Key facts

Switzerland is ranked eighth in Transparency International's latest Corruption Perception Index, joining the ranks of the ten least corrupt nations.
Finland is ranked first, while Bangladesh has the worst result of the 133 countries surveyed.
Other results: New Zealand (third), Australia (eighth), Britain (11th), Canada (11th), Ireland (18th), United States (18th), South Africa (48th), India (83rd), Pakistan (92nd).

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