Transparency International recently released its 2023 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). The CPI ranks 180 countries and territories around the globe by their perceived levels of public sector corruption, scoring on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). Even if Western Europe and EU stay on top in the ranking, the regional score has fallen. Thus, Austria improved its position and is ranked on place 20 (which is an improvement from place 22 of last year), nevertheless, the situation is not ideal – some 5 years ago Austria was on place 12.
Bettina Knoetzl, Partner at KNOETZL and President of Transparency International Austrian Chapter, gave comments on the current results in interviews with ORF III aktuell and Guten Morgen Österreich. Her comments contained a warning message and calls for action:
ORF III aktuell (30.01.2024)
Austria is one of the richest industrialized countries in the world, and it is a disgrace that we did not make it into top 10 yet. We can establish ourselves as a top business location only when our country is transparent and free of corruption. But we are going in the right direction, with the adoption of the Freedom of Information Act and the introduction of the Whistleblower Protection Act. Our hope is that the Freedom of Information Act will bring more transparency – information should be freely accessible, a fundamental right to information, that there will really be a cultural change, a real change in thinking, and in the entire civil service. Currently, official secrecy is basically a sacred cow and we will now, hopefully, successfully slaughter it.
To mention only three of the long-standing demands of Transparency International Austrian Chapter: (1) an independent leadership of the public prosecution authorities (2) the Freedom of Information Act (3) and the improvement of existing laws, such as the Lobbying Act and the Whistleblower Protection Act. In fact, there is a lot of room for improvement. Nevertheless, we acknowledge that the latest legislative measures are a positive step forward and will hopefully help to improve our ranking in the years to come.
Guten Morgen Österreich (02.02.2024)
Our goal is to get back into top 10 and this is urgently needed. The measures that are being taken to help this, enter into effect only much later and their implementation is rather slow.
Compared to Germany, Austria does not have a Commissioner for Freedom of Information, who would help the civil society to make use of its right to access information.
Why did we get such a low score? Austria has known quite a few scandals in recent times, which of course negatively influences the perception in the CPI; Austria was also behind on some legislative initiatives, e.g. there was no Whistleblower Protection Act in place for a long time [after the EU Directive]; there was no right to access information, which will now be changed by through the Freedom of Information Act.
Press release of Transparency International Austrian Chapter on the release of 2023 Corruption Perceptions Index (in German)
Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index