Saturday 19 October 2019

Political corruption could be costing us €3bn

Colm Kelpie

POLITICAL corruption could be costing the economy €3bn in lost business revenue and foreign investment.

A damning new report yesterday said politics in Ireland was seen to be heavily influenced by personal relationships, favours and donations.

And Transparency International claimed this could cost the flagging economy billions of euro in lost revenue.

The ethics watchdog said local government, political parties and the country's contracting system were the most vulnerable to fraud and abuses of power.

And the situation was compounded by a lack of openness in political funding and lobbying, the anti-corruption body's study revealed.

John Devitt, Transparency International Ireland chief, said: "Ireland has long suffered from high levels of undue or hidden influence over regulation and government by vested interests."

The body said that while Ireland had low levels of "petty corruption", it was regarded by international observers as suffering high levels of "legal corruption".

While no laws may be broken, personal relationships, patronage, political favours and political donations were believed to influence political decisions.

Mr Devitt said the behaviour could be found at all levels of Irish society.

The chief executive said the regulatory system for tackling corruption was too weak -- a fact laid bare by the scale of the financial crisis faced by the country.

"It's only now that our country is on the brink of bankruptcy that we can see for ourselves the consequences of weak anti-corruption controls and self-regulation," he said.

The independent watchdog also warned tougher laws were urgently needed to protect whistleblowers as current government measures were not strong enough.

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