Poland - Corruption
In 2014, the Transparency International (TI) index of perceived public corruption ranked Poland as the 35th least corrupt among 175 countries. Due to the downward trend of corruption in Poland, Transparency International closed its Polish chapter in 2011.
The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption; however, the government did not always implement these laws effectively, and officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices. According to World Bank governance indicators for 2008, corruption was a problem in the country. There was a widespread public perception of corruption throughout the government. Citizens continued to believe that political parties and members of the legislative branch, the health care system, and the judiciary were the most corrupt.
The partial privatisation of medical services and the opening of private health insurance plans are thought to have limited corruption in healthcare, traditionally considered by Poles as one of the most corrupt sectors. Higher salaries and publicised arrests may also have reduced the incentive for doctors to accept informal payments from patients. However, healthcare remained prone to corruption.
Founded in 2006, the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau (CBA) has been at the heart of a polarised public debate in Poland, attracting both praise for its effectiveness and doubts (especially in the past) as to its impartiality. CBA combines intelligence and police functions including control of public procurement, privatisation, and all asset declarations. It can trigger both administrative and criminal proceedings. Since 2009, the CBA has also emphasised the preventive and educational aspects of fighting corruption through public awareness activities.
On March 11, 2009 the Dziennik newspaper alleged that Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Waldemar Pawlak had engaged in a conflict of interest for failing to resign as head of the Volunteer Fire Brigade and for steering contracts to friends and family without a competitive bid process. Pawlak denied any wrongdoing; he noted the independent Supreme Chamber of Audits cleared the contracts in question during an audit.
On March 17, 2009 Prime Minister Tusk expelled Senator Tomasz Misiak from the Civic Platform party in response to allegations that Misiak's private company profited from the passage of a new law dealing with the country's shipyards. Misiak chaired the committee that passed the legislation. After the legislation entered into force, Misiak's company won a 48 million zloty ($17 million) contract, without a tender, to provide job retraining for recently fired shipyard workers. On September 8, 2009 the Internal Security Agency arrested Sylwester Rypinski, the president of the state-owned Social Insurance Agency, and three other employees on corruption charges. If convicted Rypinski would face up to 10 years' imprisonment.
On October 1, 2009 the national daily Rzeczpospolita published phone transcripts of conversations between high-level politicians and businessmen who were allegedly lobbying for a revision of a draft law on gambling. The publication led to a major government reshuffling in which six minister-level officials resigned, including sports minister, Miroslaw Drzewiecki. The chairman of the ruling party's parliamentary caucus, Zbigniew Chlebowski, also resigned.
The Central Anticorruption Bureau (CBA) obtained the transcripts through wiretaps. On November 5, 2009 the Sejm established a special committee to investigate alleged corruption in connection with the so-called "gamble-gate" scandal. The CBA has broad powers to audit the financial holdings of public officials and to fight corruption in public procurement. It also is authorized to conduct searches and secret videotaping, wiretap telephone conversations, and make arrests. During 2009 the CBA continued to examine numerous high-profile and controversial investigations begun earlier.
For example, on April 1, the Poznan District Court began the trial of billionaire Henryk Stoklosa on 21 charges in connection with a major finance ministry corruption case. Three ministry officials were arrested in 2006 as part of the CBA investigation. According to the prosecutor, the officials canceled fiscal liabilities and issued tax exemptions over a 10-year period in exchange for bribes from organized criminals and businessmen. Stoklosa was also charged with bribing a Poznan judge. He has been held in pretrial detention since 2007 and could face up to 10 years' imprisonment.
On October 5, 2009 the Warsaw District Court began the trial of Beata Sawicka, a former member of parliament and the mayor of Hel, on corruption charges related to a real estate scandal. The CBA accused Sawicka of corruption for accepting a bribe to influence a public tender in Hel in the run up to the 2007 parliamentary elections. In her defense Sawicka said she was seduced and manipulated into accepting the bribe by a CBA officer. In a related development, in October 2008 a Warsaw court ordered the prosecution to investigate the CBA's involvement in the case.
On August 18, 2009 the Warsaw Circuit Court sentenced one person to 30 months' imprisonment for attempting to bribe former agricultural minister and deputy prime minister Andrzej Lepper. A second person in the case was fined. The two were detained in 2007 by the CBA based on reports that they had connections with persons in the agriculture ministry who could issue favorable land-use decisions in exchange for a bribe of three million zloty ($1.1 million). Lepper was subsequently dismissed as minister.
In the 2013 Special Eurobarometer on Corruption, 82% of Polish respondents state that corruption is a widespread problem in their country (EU average 76%) and 27% say that corruption affects their daily lives (EU average 26%). According to the same Eurobarometer, 15% of Polish respondents were asked or expected to pay a bribe over the past 12 months (EU average 4%), mostly in relation to healthcare. In the 2013 Eurobarometer business survey, 32% of entrepreneurs (EU average 43%) report corruption as a problem when doing business in Poland. However, 92% (highest percentage in the EU) say that bribery and the use of connections is often the easiest way to obtain certain public services, and 56% (EU average 47%) say the only way to succeed in business is through political connections.
Overall, U.S. firms have found that maintaining policies of full compliance with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) is effective in building a reputation for good corporate governance and that doing so is not an impediment to profitable operations in Poland. In April 2014, the Polish subsidiary of a U.S. information technology firm agreed to pay criminal penalties and forfeitures in the United States after admitting to violating the FCPA in Poland. The Polish CBA is conducting its own investigation into corruption accusations against this and other U.S. firms.
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