Further action recommended to combat corruption
GRECO report on the first evaluation of Switzerland
Press Release, FDJP, 02.06.2008
Bern. In recent years, Switzerland has made significant efforts to combat corruption. The Council of Europe's GRECO (Group of States against Corruption) commission nonetheless recommends further action to prevent, detect and punish corruption. These recommendations are set out in its report on the first evaluation of Switzerland. GRECO is expecting a report on the implementation of its recommendations by the end of October 2009.
In its evaluation report, GRECO praises the action that Switzerland has taken since the 1990s to combat corruption on many fronts. It takes a particularly positive view of the seizure and confiscation system and of criminal liability on the part of legal persons. It also acknowledges that the basic machinery is in place for preventing corruption in government. At the same time, however, it calls upon Switzerland to expand its existing anti-corruption systems and structures, and offers 13 recommendations to this end.
GRECO identifies a need for coordination and proposes that the Consultative Group on Corruption, which is currently the hub of information exchange between federal agencies, be given the necessary powers to initiate an anti-corruption strategy at national level. It also recommends that the issue of supervision of the prosecution service should be clarified speedily in order to ensure its independence. In addition, more extensive training about corruption should be encouraged for judges, prosecutors, and members of the police.
The evaluation report criticises the fact that bribery in the private sector is classified as an offence that requires a complaint to be made before it can be prosecuted. This precludes the use of special investigative methods such as telephone surveillance or covert investigations. In GRECO's view, the extent of this form of corruption would justify its classification as a serious offence where the criminal act is of a certain gravity. It would thus constitute an offence preliminary to money laundering. Where immunity is concerned, the report recommends that Switzerland ensure that the need for prosecuting authorities to request authorisation to bring criminal proceedings against federal employees does not constitute an obstacle to the effective prosecution of corruption.
At the government level, GRECO calls for broader training for federal employees on ethics and preventing corruption, as well as clearer rules on conflicts of interests in the case of ancillary employment. Action should also be taken, according to the report, to combat the greater risk of corruption when public officials migrate to the private sector, and Switzerland should lay down more specific regulations for all federal employees on the acceptance of gifts and other benefits. Furthermore, federal employees should be under a statutory obligation to report any suspicion of corruption, while proper protection for such "whistleblowers" should be guaranteed. The cantons should also consider setting up independent government and financial supervision bodies for all cantonal and municipal administrations. These bodies would report any cases of corruption to the criminal prosecution authorities.
In business, GRECO calls for consideration to be given to additional penalties – such as exclusion from public tendering – and to the establishment of criminal records for legal persons found guilty of offences. Finally, in consultation with the relevant professional associations, auditors should also be included to a greater extent in systems and structures to combat corruption, for example by means of directives and training on the identification and reporting of the related offences.
Switzerland became a member of GRECO in parallel with the entry into force of the Council of Europe's Criminal Law Convention on Corruption in 2006. As a commission, GRECO is tasked with supporting and strengthening the fight against corruption in member states by conducting mutual evaluation at the national level. The first evaluation of Switzerland investigated the following areas by means of questionnaires and on-site visits: general measures to prevent and combat corruption, specialist authorities, immunity issues, procedural measures, seizure and confiscation, laundering of the proceeds of corruption, the prevention of corruption in government and preventative measures and liability in the corporate sector. Switzerland's next evaluation, which will take place in approximately three years' time, will focus on provisions in criminal law that are designed to combat corruption, as well as the funding of political parties and election campaigns.