Lithuania slipped six places in the Corruption Perception Index last year, Transparency International non-governmental organization has announced this week.
Out of 176 countries rated, Lithuania ranked 38th, whereas Latvia stepped down four positions – from the 40th to the 44th position, sharing this place with Georgia, meanwhile Estonia is 22nd.
The index compilers have evaluated the corruption in public and political sectors. The assessments were done by local experts and business leaders.
Sergejus Muravjovas, the head of the Lithuanian office of Transparency International, suggested such index shows that the country has been skidding in the fight against corruption.
«The message from experts and businessmen is clear – no significant anti-corruption changes took place in 2015 and the first half of 2016. We have not made progress. I think it is a good opportunity to think about what could have been done differently and what we ought to do differently,» Muravjovas is quoted in a press release.
The Transparency International Corruption Perception Index shows the performance of countries across the globe in controlling corruption. The existing situation is given a score on the scale of 0 to 100, where 0 stands for an absolutely corrupt country, while 100 means a highly transparent country. The scope of corruption in public and political sectors is assessed by experts and business leaders.
On the index, Lithuania scored 59 points out of 100. Latvia- 57, Estonia – 70.
In the earlier index, Lithuania grabbed 61 points and ranked 32nd among 168 countries. Lithuania is 19th among countries of the European Union (EU) and Western Europe, down from 18th last year. Just like in 2015, the index is again led by Denmark and New Zealand with 90 points each. Somalia scrambles on the bottom with 10 points.
In comparison to the previous years, Latvia has scored the highest result so far – 57 points out of 100, which is by two points more than last year. It means that tolerance to corruption has declined in the past year. Latvia scored 55 points in 2014, 53 points in 2013, and 49 points in 2012.
Commenting on Lithuania’s slippage, Lithuanian Prime Minister reasoned that it may be due to a slew of scandals that tarnished the previous Social Democratic Government.
Last year, Lithuanian media reported that former PM Algirdas Butkevičius had allegedly caroused free in five-star Aqua wellness and leisure centre in Druskininkai.
At least five former Social Democratic ministers and the Prime Minister himself reportedly basked in the luxury and amenities off reach to the ordinary Aqua visitors. Among the other special guests allegedly were the former chief of STT, Lithuania’s Special Investigation Service and some high-ranking SD members.
Then there was Rimantė Šalaševičiūtė, also a SD party member, who as the Health minister, admitted of having given a bribe to a doctor who was about to operate on her close relative. The sincerity cost her post after the brouhaha engulfed nearly all- from the President rushing to scold the minister to the country’s Special Investigation Service which launched a probe into the wrongdoing.
Then it turned out that the Labour party-led Ministry of Agriculture had bought foods for the poor not for the market price, but paid for them twice more than it for a tin food plant in Kėdainiai, central Lithuania. The foods plant was run by the Labour Party founder, MEP Viktor Uspaskich. The provisions had been bought for exorbitant prices.
Then, at the end of the year, Environment minister Kęstutis Trečiokas, of the Party Order and Justice, got into hot water for allegedly allowing the Social Democrats’ deputy chairman and Druskininkai resort mayor Ričardas Malinauskas, trump up the necessary documentation legalising construction of the mayor-related manor house «Vijūnėlė» in the resort.
Now Skvernelis reasons that the scandals are to be blamed for the slippage in the corruption index.
«If we were to speak about criminal prosecution when fighting corruption, we will keep seeing investigations of the kind. They, however, can sometimes conjure up a negative image about the spread of the scourge. But that is the reality: if we do not investigate such crimes, we won’t see them (but that does not mean they do not exist),» Skvernelis said, adding, «Judging from what I hear from the Special Investigation Service, the perception of corruption is changing, however not in the positive direction.»
In the most cases, the country’s procurement sector is behind corruption.
Lithuania’s Public Procurement Office’s (VPT) former chief, Žydrūnas Plytnikas believes that there’s no single remedy to curb detrimental tender practices and, subsequently, corruption.
«First and foremost, the Public Procurement Law needs to be overhauled from the core. Now it accentuates procedural things, proper documentation, to be exact, not the quality – and the price – of purchased
services and items,» he said, adding, “And then, there must be personal accountability for all. Then we will be able to speak of lesser corruption. But speaking on the whole, a range of measures have to be carried out when harnessing it.»