Corruption is a word that is bandied about frequently. Often it conjures up pictures of brown envelopes passing from hand to hand or secret bank accounts in foreign countries being swelled with money. This is is certainly corruption but it is worth spending a little time analysing what additionally constitutes corruption. Corruption is a massive subject but briefly, what is encompassed by the the word "corruption"? Commonly it is felt that, electoral fraud, nepotism, bribery, cronyism and slush funds are all elements of corruption.
Electoral fraud covers from the obvious, like intimidation and buying votes to the less obvious like misinformation. Intimidation in its crudest form includes direct threats and violence but it also includes, for example instilling or allowing a belief that one has to vote in a particular way to persist. In Gibraltar the lack of simple explanation of our voting system is an issue. I have personally come across an sizable number of people who believe that they are obliged to block vote for the whole candidature of a party. It is the responsibility and duty of the administration to ensure a simple explanation that communicates to all voters that they each have 10 votes that they can use to vote for those individual candidates who they choose to vote for, irrespective of party membership. Misinformation is far more insidious. It includes misleading information about candidates and parties and their policies and at an extreme smear campaigns.
Nepotism, or the granting of favours or positions to family and friends regardless of merit, is a difficult issue in Gibraltar because of its size and the inevitability of webs of connections and family. It is precisely because of the inevitability of accusations of nepotism in Gibraltar that there is a a more crucial and unique need to have objective safeguards. The importance of transparency and accountability comes to the fore in precisely this area as does a robust and all encompassing tendering system. A tendering system that must operate fast and efficiently so as not to allow any excuse for contracts to be directly allocated by reason of a requirement of urgency.
Bribery, an often used expression but is its extent fully understood? Blacks Law Dictionary defines it as the offering, giving, receiving or soliciting of any item of value to influence the actions of an official or other person in charge of a public or legal duty. In practice it is difficult to distinguish between the act and the intent of influencing, so often the act leads to an inference that there has been influence. Therefore, the act is best avoided by those in public office. The act can include not just money and physical goods but advantages and can encompass generous entertainment, like foreign travel and free accommodation, food and entertainment. A robust system of declaring all hospitality is one safeguard. The one preferred in the US is that no hospitality whatsoever can be accepted by an elected representative, minister, public officer or servant.
Cronyism is being partial to long standing friends usually it is practiced by ignoring aptitude or qualification and so merit, to appoint them to positions of influence and/or authority. Cronyism results in the person appointed becoming or being an extension of the appointer as the person appointed will not try and undermine the appointer or even contradict him or her. Cronyism undermines the intellectual integrity of an administration aside from its obvious inherent dishonesty. It also leads to what is known in Spain as :"traffico de influencia". It is avoided by strict public, open and transparent appointments and tendering procedures.
Slush funds do not require much explanation. essentially a slush fund is an auxiliary or reserve fund that is usually used for subversive purposes or to buy favours. In government they arise absent strict open and transparent accountability and audit. More poignant are those in commerce that are hidden to buy favours from public servants.
The Anti-Corruption Authority that I have proposed is necessary but the ultimate deterrent to corruption, however, is the separation of powers. An independent judiciary thankfully we have. However in the area of government that is most susceptible to corruption, the legislature (Parliament) and the executive government (the Ministers) we do not have a separation of powers that is sufficiently robust. This is one of the aspects that I have referred to as the "democratic deficit" a phrase that has now been adopted in the wider media. The other aspects, which in turn helps to deliver this separation, is electoral reform. Most mainstream parties in Gibraltar have promised both and not delivered. I constantly ask myself why? Could the reason be that I am just innocent?