Pointing to the results of the Global Corruption Barometer released by Transparency International in July 2013, Oya Özarslan, chairwoman of Transparency International’s Turkey office, said most Turkish people believe the institutions involved in corruption in Turkey are political parties, Parliament and the media.
Stating that 65 percent of the Turkish people believe the political parties and deputies in Parliament are the most problematic institutions in terms of corruption, Özarslan said, “If plans for immediate action encouraging honesty for civil servants and preventing civil servants from abusing their duties are not adopted, the political system in Turkey, the financial markets and the reputation of our country in the world will continue to be damaged,” adding, “The government has to avoid attempting to restrict the authorities of the judiciary and should adopt appropriate regulations to ensure clean politics in the country.”
Stating that they believe there are some structural problems in Turkish politics, Özarslan said if Turkey does not clean its politics as soon as possible, it will face much more serious problems in the near future, adding that Transparency International Turkey has proposed five suggestions for cleansing the political arena of corruption and bribery.
Özarslan said the first suggestion is the immediate adoption and implementation of a political ethics law to ensure political accountability. “There are some rules that are binding for civil servants, but there is no ethical regulation for politicians in Turkey, which is a very important problem. This new political ethics law should contain ethical codes of conduct, a ban on accepting gifts, regulation of lobbying activities and a requirement for politicians to declare their personal wealth on a regular basis.”
Continuing the list of suggestions, Özarslan said their second suggestion is the establishment of a website regularly publishing declarations of property by all deputies, senior bureaucrats and the leaders of political parties. She added: “Declarations of wealth by politicians and bureaucrats should be updated at least once in a year in order to be able to create an efficient social monitoring and inspection mechanism in Turkey. Furthermore, an independent institution should be established to inspect the assets and wealth of politicians as declared by the politicians.”
As the third suggestion, Özarslan said political immunity should not cover corruption and bribery offenses, including tender-rigging and embezzlement. She observed the fact that legislative immunity in Turkey includes crimes of corruption and bribery, obstructing political accountability and allowing offenders to escape from their crimes.
Listing the fourth suggestion, Özarslan said the financial activities of all political parties should be monitored. She stated: “The finances of political parties are far from transparent in Turkey, which makes the monitoring of a political party’s income and expenses very difficult. The fact that there is no regulation of electoral campaign financing brings the risk of unregistered donations. Later, it also causes favoritism towards donors. A system ensuring political accountability and transparency in the financial activities of political parties should be created as soon as possible. The budgets separated by the political parties for elections should be declared before the start of electoral campaigns. Those budgets should be monitored efficiently.”
Finally, Özarslan suggested a mechanism to make monitoring by independent institutions possible during elections, adding that independent nongovernmental organizations should also have the right to monitor the elections to prevent any kind of misconduct during the elections.
Signature campaign for transparent politics
At the end of the press conference, Özarslan called on the government to take necessary measures for more transparent politics and political accountability, announcing also that Transparency International Turkey had recently launched an online signature campaign for the requirements to be brought to the politicians to declare their personal wealth. Özarslan invited all people, politicians and high ranking bureaucrats to support their signature campaign for a more transparent society, free of corruption. She stated that people can join the campaign online at http://www.change.org/TemizSiyaset.
Corruption and bribery have become top issues of the Turkish agenda since the recent investigation began; the scandal has brought transparency and accountability to public attention. There have been serious problems with transparency in Turkey over the past few years. The Court of Accounts was prevented from fully auditing government institutions and ministries in 2012 due to a lack of cooperation from the relevant institutions. Similarly, the court did not send audit reports to the parliamentary Budget Commission in November 2013. There are media reports that the court will not be able to fully inspect government institution spending for three years, as the institutions will not be obligated to provide their account details. The fact that the court has been prevented from inspecting the government for a few years is considered a move to cover up corruption by government officials. Furthermore, the fact that over 1,000 police chiefs were removed from their posts following the corruption scandal has also intensified concerns that the government has been attempting to hide its corruption.