THE GOVERNMENT has launched a booklet aimed at public administration workers in its bid to clamp down on corruption.
In total, 10,000 copies of the 22-page guide, Prevenir a Corrupção, which alerts staff to the importance of denouncing any illegal act that comes to their attention, are to be distributed among the various public sector organisations. However, the guide has already come under fire from union leaders, who say that corruption problems in Portugal often come at the highest political level.
Ana Avoila, coordinator for the Frente Comum (Common Front), dismissed the measure as “showing off” in order to divert people’s attention from cuts and reforms in the Public Administration.
The guide begins by explaining the nature of corruption, what should be done in specific circumstances, ro whom complaints should be addressed, and how to be protected from possible reprisals. It gives a number of specific case studies known to have taken place and explains types of corruption that a member of staff could be a target of.
This isn’t the first time that a Portuguese government has drawn attention to corruption. A number of laws and specific guidelines, laid down in 1984, have already been circulated and posted up around government offices and state organisations for years.
The law states that sanctions should be applied to those failing to report to the authorities “infractions that have come to their attention” or “display favourable treatment to a particular person, company or organisation”.
Under the Cavaco Silva government, the then Secretary of State for Public Administration, Isabel Côrte-Real, launched a Good Practices Manual (Manual de Boas Práticas). While under the Guterres government, the Secretary of State, Fausto Correia, issued a Code of Ethics (Carta de Ética), also known unofficially as the Ten Commandments, which were posted up around public administration offices.
According to statistics from the Polícia Judiciária (Judicial Police), corruption crimes represent only seven per cent of the total number of economic and financial cases under investigation, yet Portugal ranks 26th place in the international league tables for corruption.
Launching the initiative on Wednesday, Minister for Justice Alberto Bernardes Costa told journalists: “This guide intends to be widely distributed to different agents in different state sectors that could face or be exposed to possible situations of corruption.”
The booklet’s advice is often couched in general terms, recommending that public sector workers “promote a culture of legality” and “always act according to the law”.
Bettencourt Picanço, president of the state workers’ union Sindicato dos Quadros Técnicos do Estado, went one step further by saying: “It’s not public sector workers that society identifies as the main agents of corruption in Portugal but political power itself.”
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