Government pledges to become more transparent

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The government announced Friday a series of actions and measures designed to fight corruption based on the rule of law, transparency, and accountability to win back the public’s trust.

President Nicos Anastasiades pledged the government would promote major anti-graft reforms after scrapping its controversial passport-for-investment scheme last year.

Anastasiades, along with Justice Minister Emily Yiolitis after giving an account of measures already taken by the administration and refreshing a series of measures that were on the table, extended a call to civil society for cooperation.

“I believe that with everyone’s cooperation and decisiveness, it would be possible to adopt the proposed measures as soon as possible so that we can create a strong network of prevention, protection, and fighting corruption,” said Anastasiades.

Anastasiades said strong political will and cooperation on behalf of the legislature, the parties, non-government organisations, professional groups, and civil society, in general, was also necessary.

Yiolits said emphasis will be put on educating people and making them active participants in the fight against corruption.

Yiolitis outlined actions taken by the government to clamp down on corruption in the past, including enhancing the powers of investigating committees tasked by the government to probe corruption cases.

“Findings are now forwarded to the Attorney General by law,” said Yiolitis.

The Justice Minister referred to the law to allowing phone tapping in cases involving serious crimes, which was recently passed.

She also referred to efforts to protect whistle-blowers and a task force created within the police which investigates reports of wrongdoing by officers.

“Our planning aims at the best possible reinforcement of the legislative, political, financial, and social environment, through actions divided into three central pillars,” said Anastasiades.

The pillars are prevention, education, legislative measures, and supervision together with risk assessment.

He noted that there was a need for a strong and effective institutional framework, mutual respect between institutions, and transparency in probes to avoid smearing individuals.

Believing he was the target of a smear campaign over the ‘golden passports’ issues, the president said the media must also observe their code of ethics so as not to create the wrong impression.

The government plans to set up a national integrity service that will be authorised to carry out a real-time audit on politicians and their asset declarations.

Yiolitis also announced that a corruption-fighting unit answerable to the Attorney General’s office will be in charge of drafting a ‘code of ethics for all state officials.

Within the framework of the third pillar, the government is planning to set up a think-tank of academics and members of civil society under the Minister of Justice.

Also, an Independent Anti-Corruption Authority will be created to which citizens can provide information, anonymously against persons who may be involved in corruption.

“We will be proceeding with the creation of an open online portal allowing public access to state tender documents, especially in high-risk areas, such as the General Health System, public procurement, city council decisions,” said Yiolitis.

The announcements come at a time when the government and the political system is under public scrutiny and accused of sweeping corruption under the carpet.

The president has been under fire himself over his alleged involvement in the controversial citizenship by investment programme.

Cyprus dropped the “golden passport” scheme in November after Al Jazeera aired a documentary showing reporters posing as fixers for a Chinese businessman seeking a Cypriot passport despite having a criminal record.

Parliamentary speaker Demetris Syllouris and AKEL MP Christakis Tziovanis were secretly filmed allegedly trying to facilitate a passport for the fugitive investor, they later resigned, although insisted their innocence of any wrongdoing.