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Swiss government must improve anti-corruption measures says review

ZURICH (Reuters) - The Swiss government must improve its measures to tackle corruption by federal officials and departments after steps taken were found to be inadequate, an evaluation report said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: A Swiss flag is pictured on the Swiss Federal Palace (Bundeshaus) in Bern, Switzerland May 30, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo

“Important reforms” are needed to increase the effectiveness of the anti-corruption working group set up by the Swiss cabinet ten years ago, the Swiss Federal Audit Office’s (SFAO) review said.

Several scandals have emerged in Switzerland this year, including at PostBus, part of the state-owned Swiss Post, which used irregular accounting practices to divert cash from its subsidized regional transport business to other parts of its business.

Federal prosecutors have also searched state arms group RUAG after a whistleblower flagged unauthorized arms exports.

Switzerland set up the group in December 2008 after the Council of Europe’s Group of States Against Corruption demanded better sharing of information and other measures to prevent corruption of government officials.

But the part-time group, which ran anti-corruption workshops, was found by the SFAO review to be inadequate and lacked a proper strategy or communications.

“They are not experts in fighting corruption. The [group] has not enough independence, budget, authority and visibility to achieve its objectives,” said Eric-Serge Jeannet, vice director of the SFAO.

The group had only a basic website and was virtually unknown outside the federal government, making it difficult to tackle corruption, he added.

The review recommended the Swiss government set up a new, independent office to share information about possible corruption cases, with specialist officers employed.

The report has been submitted to the Swiss government, which said it would use the report to develop further measures in future.

Global watchdog Transparency International said it shared the concerns, and called for an independent and effective anti- corruption organization in Switzerland.

“It is impossible to say how much corruption there is in the Swiss public sector, but there are a lot more cases than people think,” said Alex Biscaro, deputy director of the group in Switzerland.

“In the fight against corruption, an effective federal agency must be given a comprehensive mandate and the necessary resources by the politicians. That is something that the government has so far unfortunately failed to do.”

Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg