TI Portugal Summer School: A lesson on integrity

You might have seen Portugal on the news recently. Just over a week ago, an estimated million people (in a country of roughly 10 million) took to the streets protesting new austerity measures announced by Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho. Talk of instability in the governing coalition amid increased public anger damaged the country’s reputation as the well-behaved “good pupil” of bailed-out economies in the Eurozone. Coincidentally, the new round of austerity measures that set people off was announced on the same day we at TIAC, Transparency International’s national contact in Portugal, finished a weeklong course on the failings of our National Integrity System (NIS).

Corruption, no doubt, has helped fuel Portugal’s spiral of deficit and debt. That’s why our NIS survey, conducted in parallel with 24 other European countries, came at just the right time: now, finally, the country has a thorough diagnosis of the failings of 13 national institutions in the fight against corruption – and a blueprint for fixing the loopholes, gaps and frailties that are still keeping us from cleaning house.

So maybe it should have come as no surprise to find that our summer course, based on the findings of the study, was packed with more than 40 students (although it had initially been designed for a small class of roughly 25), with lots more being unable to join us for lack of vacancy.

It were intense five days, in a program packed with some 20 guest lecturers who covered just about everything from conflicts of interest in the parliament and government to lack of transparency in party financing, holes in the auditing of public accounts or in the effectiveness of the judicial system. There was even time to explore issues of corruption in local government and the private sector and discuss how investigative journalism and civil society can play a bigger role in monitoring transparency and anti-corruption efforts.

Watch an interview on the corruption crisis in Europe with TI’s Managing Director, Cobus de Swardt, on the Euronews show “On the Frontline”.

The course was an opportunity for citizens – graduate students, public sector officials, small businessmen, lawyers, teachers, engineers – to confront the failings of the system, debate those responsible and test new ideas. For me, personally, that was the most inspiring result of our week’s work: more than the actionable knowledge our class came away with, what made it worth-while were the awkward, demanding questions they directed at everyone, including TIAC members and volunteers – how can TIAC (and, on a global level, TI) help the most, work better, accomplish more? How can citizens’ voices be heard, how can we speak up louder, or clearer?

I hadn’t (still haven’t) the answers to all these questions. I just know that no matter how much we recognize the need for governments and corporations to step up, we also need ordinary citizens to put pressure on our leaders, to stand up and be counted in this fight for our future.

So, as Prime Minister Passos Coelho was announcing another round of tax hikes and austerity measures, we were handling new membership applications and volunteers ready and willing to help out. In a country where so often people find themselves dispirited and hopeless, and so many feel corruption is an unbreakable system maintained by powerful people, somehow hovering high above the rest of us, it’s nice to be reminded that integrity still has a purpose, and a power, in today’s world. It’s still needed and valued, and we can use every bit of it, from every citizen willing to step up.

Not a bad lesson for a week’s work.

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Joao Paulo Batalha

About Joao Paulo Batalha

Joao Paulo Batalha is Board Member and Head of Communications at Transparencia e Integridade Associacao Civica (TIAC), Transparency International's national contact in Portugal.

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2 Responses to TI Portugal Summer School: A lesson on integrity

  1. Vasco de Castro 26 September 2012 at 3:03 pm #

    Exmº Sr. João Paulo Batalha

    Você ouviu falar, alguma vez, do livro – Tudo em Família….(A corrupção dos poderes político e judiciário de Portugal e da Comissão Europeia dos Direitos do Homem) – ? Pois bem, mesmo que nunca tenha ouvido nada a este respeito, ou lido este livro, eu aconselho-o a fazê-lo. A crise actual é aí prevista e é devida ao nepotismo, corrupção e à má gestão das finanças públicas, desde o 25 de Abril. E como a maioria dos deputados, ministros e presidentes de Portugal continuam a ser os mesmos, desde então, trocando de posições, como trocam de camisa, nomeadamente entre a administração de empresas públicas e o governo, é fácil compreender porque é que o actual Primeiro-Ministro, Passos Coelho, foi obrigado a implementar medidas tão austeras. E fê-lo, claro, porque os credores – a Troika – o exigiram.Em primeiro lugar, o Mário Soares, o marocas, delapidou as reservas públicas de ouro, armazenadas por Salazar, porque decidiu, despudoradamente, promover a independência imediata das ex-colónias, quando o devería ter feito num prazo, nunca inferior a 12 anos. Eu disse-lhe isto pessoalmente, no Canadá, em maio, ou junho, 1974, quando ele era Ministro dos Negócios Estrangeiros, mas nunca admitiu a racionalidade e lógica das minhas sugestões. A própria história já o explicava e aquilo tudo que aconteceu depois – as guerras étnico-tribais e políticas, a fuga da maioria dos portugueses (Portugal, de país exportador de mão-de-obra, virou importador) -= já era previsível.. Todos os que Governaram depois, Cavaco, Guterres,Jorge Sampaio, Sócrates etc, todos êles, são responsáveis pelo que se vive hoje.. E, claro, a Justiça portuguesa está também de mãos ligadas a todas estas impunidades e violações do sistema democrático de Portugal. A própria imprensa sempre se recusou a falar deste livro, porque aquêles que podem, têm e mandam têm as mãos ligadas uns aos outros. O próprio banqueiro que eu legitimamente acusei de roubo, fraude e falsificação, está ou esteve, só agora, sob investigação , por desvio de fundos -1.600 milhões de Euros – para paraísos fiscais. O Estado português deve-me mais de 170 milhões de euros e , apesar deste irrefutável facto e de eu ter sido refugiado político, de 1964 a 1974, até hoje, nem a minha pensão paga. Depois de tudo que Portugal já foi e fez, esta situação actual é mais do que uma vergonha….

  2. Luis Felipe Martí Iturbide 27 September 2012 at 4:38 pm #

    No doubt, education is the best way to combat corruption.

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