• The Minister of the Presidency, Meritxell Budó, addressed Parliament today to defend the Catalan government’s firm commitment to fighting corruption
Minister of the Presidency and government spokesperson Meritxell Budó defended the Catalan executive's firm commitment to the fight against corruption in Parliament today.

“Good governance and fighting corruption are priorities because they’re inextricably linked to our commitment to democratic quality, which we want to see prevail in a corruption-free Catalan republic that’s in the same league as more democratically mature countries.” With these words, Minister of the Presidency and government spokesperson Meritxell Budó defended the Catalan executive’s firm commitment to the fight against corruption in Parliament today. The minister accused the Ciutadans (Citizens) party, which requested today’s dedicated debate on corruption, of seeking once again to cast aspersions on the Catalan government in order to “generate headlines”.

Budó said the fight against corruption was not a new goal for the Catalan executive, drawing attention to the work begun in recent years: “It’s only fair to acknowledge the effort that’s gone into getting to where we are today. The fight against corruption is a long struggle, because while we’re improving institutions, we also need to improve our civic culture.”

The government spokesperson pointed out that five years ago Parliament passed the Law on Transparency, Access to Public Information and Good Governance by a large majority, noting that the Catalan legislation is “much more ambitious than the Spanish law passed the previous year”. Budó said the law had led to the creation of a public register of interest groups aimed at ensuring transparency with respect to the influence of lobbyists. The law also paved the way for the launch of a Catalan government transparency portal that provides information on the salaries of senior officials. The minister pointed out that citizens can also submit requests for information, which the government is required to reply to within two months. According to Budó, the Catalan executive received 3500 freedom of information requests from July 2015 to July 2019.

She also said that in the latest Transparency Index of the Autonomous Communities published by Transparency International Spain (for 2016), the Government of Catalonia was ranked highest on transparency policy. “In fact, the Government of Catalonia received a score of 98.1 out of 100 on the overall transparency ranking and the highest qualitative score. Generally, Catalonia ranked second, behind the Basque Country.” 

The minister stressed that in this legislature the Catalan government has “stepped on the accelerator” to ramp up the fight against corruption in 2020. Budó outlined the actions currently being pursued by the government to prevent corruption and strengthen transparency, citing the 2019–22 Plan for the Prevention and Reduction of Tax Fraud and the Promotion of Good Tax Practices. According to the minister, the plan introduces 29 new measures to reinforce the previous edition, which uncovered tax fraud amounting to €704.5 million thanks to over 200,000 control, detection and corrective actions.

The government spokesperson said that other Catalan administrations have also played an active role in the fight against corruption: “Ninety-nine percent of municipalities now have a transparency portal, which isn’t something that you’re likely to see outside Catalonia.”

Based on all of this evidence, Budó said: “It’s not true that we have a problem of structural, systemic and institutionalised corruption.” She also pointed out that the Catalan government is undoubtedly one of the most closely monitored governments in Spain. “I don’t know if the monarchy or other Spanish institutions could withstand this kind of constant monitoring,” she said.

Budó also noted that on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2018, which ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and businesspeople, Spain ranks 41st. “According to the latest report, released last month, Spain has gained nine positions since 2018, moving up the ranking from 41st to 30th, where it’s tied with Portugal, Barbados and Qatar.” The minister stressed the need to continue focusing on this issue: “The fact that citizens’ perception of corruption in Spain has improved is certainly good news, but more work remains to be done. The aim should be to reach the level of perceived corruption one sees in Germany (ninth in the ranking) and the Nordic countries.” Budó said: “In Catalonia, we know that it’s hands unstained by corruption that will write our future in freedom. All of the policies that we’re pursuing – underpinned by the same core strategy – are aimed at vaccinating our institutions against the virus of corruption.”