The Council of Europe’s Group of States against corruption (GRECO) today published its 5th round evaluation report on Belgium. This cycle focuses on preventing corruption and promoting integrity in central governments (top executive functions) and law enforcement authorities. (See the Dutch version of the report)
GRECO calls on Belgium to strengthen transparency, integrity and accountability in public life, especially ministers and members of their private offices. There is no existing integrity policy or ethical framework for ministers. The hiring and payment of members of their private offices is at their sole discretion. There are very few rules on conflicts of interest, outside activities, gifts and none at all on relations with third parties, revolving doors etc.
Sustained efforts are therefore required to regulate conditions of recruitment and employment of private office members and make their activities more transparent, and to establish an appropriate code of conduct for all senior executive officials, underpinned by an implementation mechanism and awareness-raising activities.
The Belgian federal police force is well regarded by the public but suffers from a lack of resources, which particularly affects services responsible for preventing and fighting corruption. The code of conduct must be updated and an integrity check must be made during the police officers’ career, particularly when being recruited to certain sensitive posts.
The most significant gap for the federal police is the recent change in the rules on outside activities from a restrictive practice to one in which authorisation is granted almost automatically. GRECO considers that outside activities must be subject to transparent criteria and effective scrutiny.
In accordance with its compliance procedure, GRECO will evaluate in 2021 the implementation of the recommendations to Belgium.