More Needs to Be Done to Prevent Corruption in Iceland

police car

Iceland has only dealt with four out of 18 recommendations from the Council of Europe to prevent corruption in the central government and law enforcement, according to a new report. The document was issued by the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption institution GRECO, and states that Iceland needs to tighten regulations on public officials and lobbyism, as well as limit political interference in law enforcement agencies.

“While GRECO appreciates the holistic approach taken by the authorities addressing conflicts of interest of persons with top executive functions, there is a lack of guidance for public officials on their contacts with third parties and lobbyists, and the introduced rules on post-employment restrictions are rather weak, especially the scope and length of the cooling off period,” a press release from the Council of Europe reads.

“GRECO also regrets that no progress has been made in addressing discrepancies between the codes of conduct applicable to persons with top executive functions and on providing guidance and confidential counselling to them,” the press release continues, saying awareness-raising mechanisms on integrity for those in top positions have yet to be implemented.

Transparent Recruitment Lacking in Law Enforcement

In its report, GRECO welcomes the adoption of the new law on protection of whistleblowers, while saying that “specific measures for its implementation in practice will also be needed.” In law enforcement agencies, GRECA adds that Iceland “needs to limit political interference, and to introduce transparent and fair recruitment procedures,” including by “systematically advertising vacancies, putting in place career procedures and providing criteria for non-renewal of contracts.”

“GRECO appreciates the measures taken in raising awareness through regular training of the police staff on integrity-related matters but regrets the lack of progress with updating the Codes of Conduct of the Police and the Coast Guard. Moreover, GRECO calls the Icelandic authorities to establish an effective mechanism of confidential counselling and for the supervision of internal inquiries, as well as introduce a regulatory framework on gifts, hospitality and other benefits.”

Prime Minister’s Bill Targets Conflicts of Interest

Katrín Jakobsdóttir

Government officials will have to disclose their financial interests and all lobbyists will be registered as such if a bill recently introduced by the Prime Minister is passed. The bill aims to prevent conflicts of interest among cabinet ministers and other higher-ups in the Icelandic government, Kjarninn reports.

Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir has introduced a bill in parliament, the purpose of which is to “limit as far as possible the impacts of conflict of interest on the jobs of the highest executive authorities working within the government of Iceland.” The bill refers specifically to cabinet ministers, permanent secretaries, secretaries-general, and ambassadors.

The legislation would require all working in the aforementioned positions to state and explain in detail their financial and business interests, as well as those of their spouses and dependent children. Lobbyists who interact with politicians and government administration in that capacity would be required to register as such, a proposal the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise (SA) has previously opposed.

Chief government executives and their assistants would not be able to hold other jobs while they were in government and would be banned from working as lobbyists until six months after they stop working in government. They would also not be allowed to “use information the had access to through public service for their own or others’ unreasonable profit.”

If the bill is passed, it will take effect on January 1, 2021.