Panamá,25º

19 de Feb de 2020

Nacional

Tougher rules asked for political campaigns

PANAMA. A call for more scrutiny of political donations and National Assembly vetting of officials appointed to track corruption, incre...

PANAMA. A call for more scrutiny of political donations and National Assembly vetting of officials appointed to track corruption, increased cooperation between government departments and shortening of election campaigns has been made by The National Transparency Council Against Corruption.

Added to this was a plea from Panama’s Attorney General, Ana Matilde Gomez, for the removal of a Comptroller’s Office road block into investigations. The calls were made at a press conference in Panama, on the fight against corruption.

Alma Montenegro de Fletcher, Executive Secretary of the Council Against Corruption, said Panama has both ratified and incorporated in its framework guidelines of the Organization of American States (OAS) and the United Nations conventions against corruption.

The suggestion for Panama to fully comply with the OAS Convention Against Corruption was put forward by Dr. Alfredo Castillero Hoyos, an OAS consultant, in collaboration with Panamanian political and civil groups.

Panama’s Attorney General, Ana Matilde Gomez, said the country already complies with many of the measures recommended by the OAS, such as laws that protect the identity of whistle-blowers and outlets (through fax, internet, and phone) that allow for the anonymous denouncement of cases by civil servants.

But she sees room for improvement in the implementation of article 38 of the UN Convention against Corruption, which calls for cooperation between public authorities responsible for investigating and prosecuting criminal offences.

According to Gomez, her office could use more help from the Comptroller’s Office, with faster auditing that would help complete adequate investigations on time.

She said that even though a law was passed in 2008 to allow the Public Ministry to start its own investigations of civil servants outside of those carried out by the Comptroller’s Office, in practice, the Prosecutor’s Office still has to wait for the Comptroller to find administrative irregularities before it can carry out a judicial investigation.

The Attorney General recommends removing the roadblock to allow her office to carry out investigations in a timely fashion.

Gomez also lamented that the current accounting rules for political donations does not allow the Public Ministry to track more than what is reported by candidates, explaining the task as arduous because “there is no registry of cash donations,” which can easily be hidden under different names or accounts.

Additionally she recommended the creation of a data bank on citizens aspiring to government positions.

Building upon these recommendations, Dr Hoyos outlined some of the recommendations reached in consensus with representatives from local government and civil groups on how Panama could better implement the guidelines of the OAS convention.

Among the recommendations, he mentioned modifying the constitution to state that authorities in charge of tracking corruption cases should be approved by 2/3 of the National Assembly, to guarantee independence of those chosen to keep civil servants in line.

He also mentioned creating a Public Ethics Secretary to receive complaints that would be investigated by the Public Ministry.

Dr Hoyos also suggested reforming Law 59 of 1999 to broaden the range of public officials who need to declare their assets, holding the Comptroller’s Office responsible for auditing these declarations and ideally allowing public access to them.

Reflecting a concern circulating among a tired electorate after a prolonged campaign period, the OAS recommendations also included shortening the electoral period and keeping a tighter rein on campaign donations.