The government has launched a campaign to eradicate corruption in public office, with Justice Minister Emily Yiolitis pledging to carry out the action plan demanded by President Nicos Anastasiades earlier this year.
The campaign includes a series of measures designed to fight corruption based on transparency and accountability to win back the public’s trust.
Yiolitis addressed an anti-corruption seminar Thursday, marking a new round of training for state officials and the wider public sector.
“Corruption is one of the biggest problems internationally, and its spread poses a threat to the foundations of any state’s economy and democracy as it diverts resources and undermines the efficiency of public spending,” said Yiolitis.
She said emphasis would be on educating people and making them active participants in the fight against corruption.
“Corruption makes states less attractive for business and, as a result, reduces private investment and competitiveness, thus undermining the growth of the economy”.
She called it a key factor in eroding citizens and society’s trust towards institutions, politics, and government institutions.
Yiolitis said the government had proved its intent to deal with the problem efficiently and holistically to rid society of this burden.
The government wants to amend the Criminal Code, increasing penalties for public officials who abuse power from 3 to 7 years in prison.
“Strong political will and cooperation on behalf of the legislature, the parties, non-government organisations, professional groups, and civil society, in general, is also necessary.
“I am sorry to note that important Bills in this package, such as the Bill regulating the establishment of an Independent Anti-Corruption Authority, have been extensively debated but have not been put to the vote in Parliament.”
The minister said the government aims to improve transparency and accountability.
“Important elements in minimising corruption and can only be achieved in a context of improving the quality of institutions and public sector governance.”
The Ministry of Finance is promoting reforms in public service to ensure that all recruitment, evaluation, and promotions in the civil service will be based on principles of objectivity and meritocracy.
There are also plans to set up a national integrity body authorised to conduct a real-time audit on politicians and their asset declarations.
The government and the political system has come under public scrutiny, accused of sweeping corruption under the carpet following revelations of corruption in high places.
Anastasiades has come under fire himself over alleged involvement in the controversial citizenship by investment programme.
An undercover Al Jazeera sting operation portrayed the then-House Speaker Demetris Syllouris and AKEL MP Christakis Giovanis, appearing ready to help a dodgy Chinese investor secure Cypriot citizenship for cash.
Both have since resigned, with a police investigation into their actions underway.
Although the video did not reference a government official, it did shoot down the government’s claim that Cyprus was unfairly targeted over its investment scheme from foreign media and EU partners.
In 2019, the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) said Cyprus was among countries that have not fully complied with its recommendations on corruption prevention.
According to the Commission, Cyprus has also failed to comply with the EU’s latest anti-money laundering directive, which leaves a legal gap that could be exploited at the bloc’s expense.