The corruption perception index in Portugal is quite high, and the evaluations carried out periodically over the last few years show that the measures adopted have had a reduced impact in terms of improving the performance of our country in relation to the index which is well below the average values for Western Europe and the European Union.
The consequences of corruption are varied and with serious social consequences, ranging from the degradation of the confidence of citizens and economic agents in the functioning of policies; in electoral absenteeism and political instability; no increase in social inequalities; in the impoverishment and indebtedness of States; no increase in the tax burden; and in the country’s own economic and social development.
In order to understand the social harm of the phenomenon, it is estimated that corruption is equivalent to 8-10% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), approximately 20 million euros.
The approach to the problem must, from the outset, go through an understanding of its multidimensional nature – it has cultural, social, political, legal, organizational, economic, financial and even communicational dimensions.
On the other hand, an effective response by the justice system from a reactive point of view, that is, through criminal investigation and the application of criminal sanctions to offenders, requires an entire upstream intervention that makes it possible to signal and detect early practices. criminals.
Without mastering the prevention of corruption, it is necessary to implement self-regulation programs in the public administration and conformity, with the development of regulatory compliance plans, codes of ethics and available communication reporting channels within the organization, in order to ensure that the person in any way has contact with or knowledge of illegal acts that may give notice, in a simple way, clear and safe, and without the risk of suffering persecution or retaliation of any kind.
It was also specified as essential the implementation of the standardization of procedures at the level of the public administration, tending to be uniform and transparent, and the existence of independent audit structures, which occur and immediately report detected criminal offenses to the Public Prosecutor’s Office.
Also from a preventive point of view, it is imperative to tighten the meshes of party funding and establish a demanding declarative and justification duty on the part of political office holders with regard to the acquisition and/or concealment of assets that are manifestly inconsistent with those declared during the period. coincident with the exercise of functions.
From a repressive point of view, the political will to fight this criminal phenomenon must necessarily be reflected in an unequivocal investment in means and in the quality of the means.
From the outset, provide the Public Prosecutor’s Office with a body of magistrates and officials in a number adequate to the special requirements and complexity of this type of crime and invest in their qualification and training.
Equip the Judiciary Police and the Scientific Police Laboratory with human, technical and IT resources.
Create advisory offices for magistrates (Public Prosecution Service and judges) staffed by IT experts, systems analysts, economists, accountants, in compliance with the provisions of the respective statutes and the Law on the Organization of the Judiciary System and strengthen the Technical Assistance Center at the PGR with a sufficient number of experts who are able to respond quickly to all requests.
In the criminal procedural domain, the protection systems for witnesses and defendants who decide to collaborate in the investigation of these crimes must be deepened; to encourage a relevant evidential procedural collaboration of the participating defendants with the institutes of the penalty waiver and the special reduction of the penalty; and bet on a greater effectiveness of the mechanism of confiscation of the benefits of crime as a deterrent to its practice so that “the crime does not pay”.
For any strategy to be effective, it is absolutely essential that there is a genuine political will to fight corruption and not, as has been the case so far, a mere appearance of will.
President of the Union of Public Prosecutors