The cornerstone of any State strategy in the fight against corruption lays on the protection of those who denounce. Spain, fourteen years after adhering to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, still has not made the reformations of its legal and institutional system and does not guarantee protection for those who risk everything by warning of the existence of corrupt practices within public institutions or companies. Now, a European Union Directive, approved by its Parliament, falls upon this issue and requires Member States, those that have not yet done so, to adapt their laws to create safe warning channels and effective protection systems for the Whistleblowers. To remind it and reflect on it, June 23 has been chosen by international organizations that fight against fraud and corruption as to World Whistleblower Day.
Corruption is a drain by which 60,000 million euros disappear annually from our economic system, according to studies by the International Monetary Fund; 47,500 of which are lost only in the area of public procurement, as indicated by the National Commission of Markets and Competition, either due to cost overruns or to higher real prices due to the absence of competition and efficient controls in the execution and fulfillment of contracts. An important part of this immense flow feeds the black economy by creating dirty fortunes that end in tax havens. Corruption violates the constitutional principle of equality and puts public administrations at the service of dark plots. A democratic society that seeks the welfare and happiness of its citizens must not allow this to continue happening. Public resources obtained from taxes paid by all citizens should only serve the general interest and the benefit of the community.
However, the absence of integrity systems that regulate public administration, of legal reforms that prevent and fight against these bad practices and, especially, it is of the alarming deficit of institutional exemplarity, continue to foster a culture where corruption is considered something “natural” and those who denounces it, a whistleblower or a “sneak”.
The Valencian Anti-Fraud Agency (AVAF) knows this well, it is the only public institution in the Spanish State that by a law of the Valencian parliament has among its functions the protection of people who denounce fraud and corruption. Two dozens of protected people, in just over two years of operation, are a corollary of situations, an indicator that corruption continues to be embedded in our structures and that major changes in our legal system are necessary to stop them from being victims for fulfilling their duty, which has been none but defending an honest public administration and serving the general interest.
Spain’s delay in adapting its anti-corruption regulations is causing sentences to be passed, such as the recent one by a Seville court that sentences two years in prison for the crime of revealing secrets to a worker, Roberto Macías, who published the invoices that credited the diversion of subsidies from their union when those invoices should have been exposed on their transparency portal, having therefore long since lost the status of “secret information”, and their disclosure allowed them to recover tens of millions of defrauded euros. For the same criminal type but with better luck, Hervé Falciani was persecuted when the list of all the tax fraudsters that he turned over to the authorities allowed Spain to collect hundreds of millions of euros. The absence of highly qualified exemptions or mitigating factors is preventing businessmen who have been extorted by corrupt plots from denouncing the operation of such plots and thus uncovering cases that remain latent within our administrations. And, as if that were not enough, the insufficient regulations on the effective protection of whistleblowers, leads them to an ordeal of lawsuits filed with public money by authorities and corrupt plots that, in addition to causing economic ruin, breaks their personal and professional lives. Our current legal system dissuades and discourages the denunciation of corruption.
The Directive (EU) 2019/1937 on the protection of persons who report breaches of the legal system aims precisely to prevent this. However, this was also intended by the United Nations Convention against Corruption. We hope and wish that the necessary reformations of our legal and institutional system are made with the Directive, unlike with the Convention.
Posted on: 23/06/2020