Inquiry into Austrian Government Corruption
German language media translated for TVR's Media Monitor
A cross-party inquiry is investigating bribery of former government members. It has no legal powers, but will inform new rules for officials.
Viennese favours, 29 Jan.
by Michaela Seiser
Austria is doing too little to prevent the abuse of power. Until recently, the government was overly generous about issuing diplomatic passports, and the numerous incidents of
political corruption have done little for the country’s reputation. Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index indicates that Austria is increasingly perceived as a corrupt country… its politicians will have to act "quickly" and "vigorously" to halt this decline.
Experts have criticised [Austria’s] anti-corruption law, saying that it makes many exceptions for politicians: For members of the National Assembly and the Federal Assemblies, buying votes is a crime, but accepting payment for proposing legislation is not.
The hour of truth strikes elsewhere, 27 Jan.
While the inquiry committee has successfully shown Austria to be a banana republic, it is doubtful whether it will succeed in draining the swamp of corruption…
Too many committee members are biased. The People’s Party (ÖVP) and the Alliance for Austria’s Future (BZÖ) are not interested in uncovering corruption during [their] time in government in the early 2000s.
The Social Democrats (SPÖ), on the other hand, will refrain from drawing attention to the newspaper advertising deals concluded by [Chancellor Werner] Faymann and [State Secretary for Media Josef] Ostermayer [who stand accused of misappropriating advertising funds of state controlled companies for promoting their party]...
The inquiry will struggle to get results from key witnesses who, conveniently, may refuse to give information due to on-going investigations against them by the judiciary.
An opportunity for self-purification, 11 Jan.
by Hubert Sickinger
How much can the inquiry committee accomplish under the constraints? Dependent as it is on documents released by the public prosecutor, it can achieve less than the judiciary. It lacks the authority to impose penalties, order house searches, or survey telephones.
On the other hand, [in some ways] it can do much more. The public is left in the dark about the judiciary’s investigations, except for what lawyers and officials decide to leak.
Inquiry committees, by contrast, (if not entirely public) are at least open to the media …
The inquiry committee’s greatest strength is its ability to broadcast and condemn practices that would go unpunished by law: inconsistencies, political manipulation, and dubious transactions involving politicians and parties. Thus, the committee can contribute enormously to shedding light on government practices – and to evaluating them.