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Skandalis: The Hope of Fighting Corruption is in the Hands of the Citizen

Skandalis: The Hope of Fighting Corruption is in the Hands of the Citizen

The mobilization of Cypriot citizens working against corruption constitutes the hope of fighting the phenomenon, President of the Cyprus Integrity Forum tells InBusinessNews. Marios Skandalis invites citizens to attend the event on Monday 16 December which will take place in the presence of all the leaders of the parliamentary parties, where the audience will have the opportunity to present their own questions and suggestions regarding the fight against corruption.

At the same time, Marios Skandalis refers to the factors that promote corruption, while stressing that it is not enough to establish laws and principles to combat corruption, when there is a lack of exemplary punishment.

Why is the Cyprus Integrity Forum organizing the event "Corruption: The Time To Act Is Now!"

The Cyprus Integrity Forum is the only non-governmental and non-profit organization in Cyprus with the aim to combat corruption and promote transparency. We wanted to organize a big event this year, because corruption, as the title of our event suggests, has now reached a point of no return. The people who have the power to take drastic measures to crack down on corruption are the politicians. We have therefore invited all the parliamentary leaders and we have received a positive response from them all.

This is the first time such an event is taking place in Cyprus, where all political leaders will sit at the same table and discuss this issue.  We therefore expect suggestions and a specific stance regarding the purpose of this event, which is none other than the fight against corruption.

What is the role of the forum in the fight against corruption?

International research shows that corruption, the system and the framework that promote corruption are based on three main factors: The first concerns the lack of education about what corruption is. The second factor concerns the lack of tools needed to recognise and combat corruption. The third factor, which for me is the most important one, concerns the lack of exemplary punishment.

As a forum, we have a direct role to play in terms of the first factor mentioned above. It is vital to inform the public, the state and the business world. We are also taking strong initiatives regarding the second factor. We advocate for controls and checks to be institutionalized within legislative and institutional reforms.

For instance, the whistleblower protection legislation was suggested by our forum. Additionally, the establishment of an independent anti-corruption authority and the lobbying legislation was also a result of our advocating. It is also worth noting that the establishment of the online hotline receiving complaints and information concerning incidents of corruption.

Unfortunately, not much can be done concerning the issues primarily in the hands of the authorities and legislative body of our country- the parliament, unless there are specific frameworks and laws imposed, along with exemplary punishment. This is another reason as to why we are organizing this event, and we confirm that such meetings with parliamentary parties will continue to occur. Additionally, we are considering making this event an annual one, to commemorate the International Day of Corruption which was December 9th.

Have the levels of corruption in Cyprus improved?

Indicators that we receive from independent sources such as the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index show that Cyprus has improved by four points over the past two years. This improvement is a result of our various actions, notably that of the Cyprus Integrity Forum, and the education that is provided to the public, as well as the pressure put on the State which has resulted in multiple corruption scandals to surface. That certainly helps in the improvement of the Index. 

However, the fact that we rank at number 38 out of 180 countries, and the fact that our score is only 59% does not honor our country. The index must certainly improve even more. We are not satisfied. We are satisfied, however, that the first steps have been made. 

Is the way Cyprus is viewed abroad regarding corruption representative of reality, or are there differences? How can this change?

The way Cyprus is perceived abroad is representative of the reality that existed a few years ago. Now, however, due to significant changes seen within the last few years, what the public may have noticed is that the examples and incidents of corruption discussed are circumstances that occurred, for the most part, in the past.

Consequently, the way to change this rightfully built negative perception Cyprus has regarding corruption, is through a consistent, honourable and honest struggle to erase even the last traces of this negative and no longer true perception. 

To be honest, of course, there is still a long way to go to reach our goal. We’ll never reach perfection, but we aim to reach a desired level of transparency. The point in question is not just for safety nets to exist in order to maintain low corruption levels, but as I have already mentioned, punishments need to be put in place for others to learn from. Having laws and safety nets, but no punishments to activate should there be situations of corruption further supports corruption. Therefore, it is a combination of these factors that need to be put in place in order to reach the desirable goal.

I’d like to take advantage of this moment to call on the public to attend the event, as it constitutes a chance for the general public to gear their suggestions and questions towards the people in charge of our country’s legislature and get the answers they deserve. If there is to be any hope towards beating the cancerous effect of corruption, this hope lies in the hands of the people. If we truly want this, we need to be more active in this fight against corruption.

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