Transparency International’s annual report 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index (“CPI 2022”), aiming to measure the perceived level of public sector corruption based on various sources with the contributions of businesspeople, NGOs and country experts, was released on January 31, 2023. The index ranks 180 countries/territories by their perceived level of public sector corruption on a scale from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). CPI is regarded as one of the most credible indicators of this field.
While the world is still trying to recover from its wounds after the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been a challenging year in terms of transnational corruption with a new wave of global crisis such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, climate change, and the current economic outlook on the verge of recession. In face of this complex environment, the CPI 2022 Report revealed that the number of countries in decline has increased, while 124 countries managed to have stagnant corruption levels. The global average score, on the other hand, remained unchanged at 43 out of 100 for the eleventh year running, and no significant progress was recorded in this regard.
According to the CPI 2022 Report, countries experiencing conflict or where basic personal and political freedoms are highly restricted tend to earn the lowest marks. In this regard, it is no surprise that Turkey, struggling with extremely high inflation rates and being highly criticized for human rights violations, has faced another decline this year. Turkey’s score has been cut from 38 to 36, ranking the country 101st out of 180, compared to last year’s 96th.
In the past year, Turkey’s main focus shifted to combatting economic problems and no significant preventive legislative actions were taken against corruption. According to the written statement of OECD Working Group on Bribery (the “Working Group”) dated November 10, 2022, the legal persons’ liability for foreign bribery, whistleblower protection, and prosecutorial independence, as well as Turkey’s lack of enforcement of its foreign bribery laws still stand as key recommendations for Turkey which need to be addressed immediately to fight foreign bribery. Turkey had earlier promised the forthcoming measures to ensure the liability of state-owned enterprises for foreign bribery and protection of whistleblowers in the private and public sectors to the Working Group. Yet, the Working Group is seriously concerned that no concrete steps have been taken to date and expecting Turkey to report on progress to address all key outstanding recommendations in March 2023.
In parallel, Group States against Corruption of the Council of Europe (“GRECO”) published a Fourth Evaluation Round 3rd Interim Compliance Report on Turkey on June 23, 2022. GRECO’s Fourth Evaluation Round dealt with “Corruption prevention in respect of members of parliament, judges and prosecutors”. In brief, GRECO concluded that the level of implementation remains the same as in the previous report. Turkey has implemented satisfactorily or dealt with in a satisfactory manner three of the twenty-two recommendations contained in the Fourth Round Evaluation Report. Of the remaining recommendations, nine have been partly implemented and ten have not been implemented.
On the other hand, Turkey Office of Transparency International stressed that Turkey continues its impunity practices, which vulgarize and normalize corruption. It stated that impunity becomes widespread for corruption crimes as many allegations are raised before judicial bodies but result in non-prosecution. Additionally, the oppression and deterrence policies on media organizations, journalists, civil society continues. Turkey Office of Transparency International also addressed the fundamental breaches in terms of budget transparency and accountability concerning the allocation of public resources and emphasized that the project, public procurement, and contract processes with public-private partnerships must be conducted publicly and transparently. Indeed, it is beyond doubt that the burden of these projects on public finance must be shared with society as noted by the Turkey Office of Transparency International.
Recently, two major earthquakes struck southern and central Turkey, as well as northern and western Syria, which are considered as the strongest earthquakes of the region in nearly a century. Although the damage assessments are still on-going at the date of writing of this article, the Ministry of Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change has announced that 384,545 detached sections in 105,794 buildings have been determined to have either collapsed, been heavily damaged, or need urgent demolishment and these figures are expected to increase with the ongoing devastating impacts of aftershocks. The dramatic death and destruction toll of this catastrophe fueled the question marks about the allocation of public resources as well as the public-private partnerships especially in the construction sector. One of the most controversial topics appears to be the concerns about the allocation of earthquake taxes and other revenues such as the payments collected from zoning amnesties. The aftermath of the earthquake disaster indicates that these public savings have not been utilized to support urban resilience against natural disasters. Moreover, the public procurement legislation, which was amended almost 195 times since 2001, appears to have allowed certain facilities and advantages in the distribution of public tenders. Overall, these data clearly indicate a transparency and accountability problem, as well as deficiencies and errors in terms of fair distribution of public resources.
CPI 2022 Report sets forth that corruption and conflict feed each other and threaten durable peace. Indeed, the hardships in managing sudden and unexpected crises bear a risk of fueling corruption or at least endangering the efforts to combat corruption. The rest of 2023 is expected to be quite challenging for Turkey. Considering that there will be major public procurement processes and mass housing activities in the impacted region, transparency and accountability will bear crucial importance to ensure compliance. Management and allocation of the donations collected for the victims of the earthquake will also come as another factor increasing corruption-related risks. With the approaching general election on the agenda and the current hyperinflation problem added on top of these challenges, fight with corruption might again remain faded on Turkey’s agenda. However, at least a dramatic decline can be avoided if this challenging process can be managed by rebalancing the trust in public sector in a fully transparent and accountable manner.