GRECO calls on Belgium to strengthen transparency, integrity and accountability in public life

Belgium must strengthen the rules on the integrity of members of the government and review the system of authorisation of outside activities by police officers.

The Council of Europe’s Group of States against corruption (GRECO) of the Council of Europe has published its 5th round evaluation report on Belgium. This cycle focuses on preventing corruption and promoting integrity in central gov- ernments (top executive functions) and law enforcement authorities.

GRECO calls on Belgium to strengthen transparency, integrity and account- ability in public life, in particular as regards ministers and members of their private offices. There is as such no integrity policy or ethical framework for ministers. The engagement and remuneration of the members of their private offices is at their sole discretion. There are very few rules on incompatibilities, accessory activities, gifts and none on relations with third parties, revolving doors etc.

Sustained efforts will therefore be required to regulate the conditions of recruitment and employment of private office members and make their activities more transparent, as well as to establish an appropriate code of conduct for all senior executive officials, combined with an implementa-

tion mechanism and awareness-raising activities. The improvements to the mandate reporting regime initiated as a result of the previous GRECO eval- uation must continue, including more timely publication and effective scru- tiny of declarations.

Belgian Federal Police © Edm

The Belgian federal police is well regarded by the public at large but it suffers from a lack of resources, which affects in particular the services responsible for preventing and fighting corruption. A few years ago, the federal police carried out a quality analysis of integrity within the police force, but this work does not seem to have been continued more recently. The code of conduct must be updated and an integrity check must be introduced during the police officers’ career, particularly when officers are 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. This regime change raises many questions in terms of preventing conflicts of interest and managing working time. GRECO

considers that the exercise of outside activities must be subject to transpar- ent criteria and effective scrutiny. More generally, the internal supervisory system as a whole needs to be more pro- active. As for external control bodies, they must be informed in good time of criminal investigations and convictions regarding police officers.

GRECO will evaluate in 2021 the implementation of the recommendations addressed to Belgium under its compliance procedure.

GRECO

The Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) is a Council of Europe body that aims to improve the capacity of its members to fight corruption by monitoring their compliance with anti- corruption standards. It helps states to identify deficiencies in national anti- corruption policies, prompting the necessary legislative, institutional and practical reforms. Currently it comprises the 47 Council of Europe member states, Belarus, Kazakhstan and the United States of America.

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