The kidnapping of the public sector by the large economic groups that live entrenched within the structures of the State in pursuance of their own objectives is alarming. This was apparent in the first Congress on the History of Political Corruption in Contemporary Spain (Barcelona 2017). Historians, political scientists, criminal lawyers, economists and experts from other disciplines analyzed corruption in public procurement, subsidies, urban planning, and the financing of political parties.
From the beginning of liberalism, and already in the Cortes of Cadiz (the first national assembly to claim sovereignty in Spain in 1810), it was reported that notables and chieftains generalised the corruption that continued in the monarchy with Ferdinand VII, the Regent Maria Cristina, Elizabeth II, Alfonso XII and Alfonso XIII. Professor Viñas, at the close of the Congress, denounced the systemic corruption of the Franco regime, where justice was organized as an administration and never as an independent judiciary. To hinder independence and hinder a fast and effective justice system serves to maintain an opaque system where immunity is perpetuated.
Professor Villoria states that Spain, in the current democratic system, has fallen more than 30 points in the European rankings. This system evaluates the degree of perception that the general public have of their administrations, and the latest report by the CIS describes corruption as the second biggest problem after unemployment. We can surmise that local and regional neo-despotism persists that has persistently maintained its own profits and kept on certain politicians.
This social fabric, quite mixed in with the social and cultural fabric, has the given rise to this permissive justification of corruption. Making clear that not enough work has been done to recover a conscience committed to ethical values by the general public.
We have not known how to transfer to the general public to what extent corruption has been a factor in the lack of democratic advancement of our political system.
This aspect of democratic backwardness, of culture, of control and of accountability, is what has caused the distortion, but has not punished electorally the corrupt or the party that supports.
EITHER WE ARE A REAL DEMOCRACY OR WE ARE NOTHING AT ALL
It is regrettable, even dangerous I would say, that our democracy is not capable of creating a state that can govern itself and persist without any of the historical blots of corruption, because either we achieve this it soon, or it will disintegrate, as Acemoglu and Robinson explain in their book "Why countries fail". Either we are a real democracy, or we will not be anything at all. The general public are exposed to this risk of disintegration and when they are helpless, paths of populism emerge that lead us to the shameful places that history reminds us of.
It is clear that not everyone who has had power has acted accordingly, but what is well proven is that there are guilty parties.
Guilty with names and surnames, with accounts in tax havens, with properties outside and inside the country, with a generalised silence about this traffic that never stops, and never breaks down. Moreover, this does not happen because it is protected and designed by some groups of professionals specialized in these arts to evade, organize offshore networks with fiduciaries, as well as multiple legal forms which the financial services of many entities provide that serve as a cover to prevent being identified.
As long as this silence is maintained, we can never ascertain the degree of public morality of our leaders. There will be no moral authority in politicians, as long as we do not raise the bar of requirements, for example we need a regime of incompatibilities for parliamentarians, as well as legislation where the whistleblower is protected and there are expulsion mechanisms for presumed corrupt from the institutions, without contradicting the constitutional people's right of the presumption of innocence with the right of the institutions to defend their dignity, for which we need to implement mechanisms to differentiate them from those who have some shady aspects. We are in a time of exemplariness, and the system is based precisely on the political virtue that the general public want to feel. Without this feeling there is no base for anything else in democratic life, and for which we need to create new structures and channels of participation that give stability to a fairer system. It is the Roussonian way of thinking, not subdue society, rather govern it.
PUNISH POLITICALLY TO AVOID CONTAGION
It is a way of not feeling complicit in the injustice, our representatives with "deaf ears" who do not mix with the general public in the debate of the problems, but rather participating only in "political party acts" exclusivity closed for "them and their own". Because this way we do not have to listen to what society at large wants to tell us, that corruption neglecting homeless people to carry out operations with vulture funds.
Corruption is repeatedly lying to the public. Corruption is keeping a sector of society on the threshold of poverty, or in child malnutrition.
Corruption is the financial or fiscal engineering done to avoid paying taxes. Corruption is to agree on review clauses in public contracts that permit doubling or tripling the amount awarded. Corruption is to allow impunity from white collar crimes, as well as revolving doors, aggressive treatment of competitors, making the public purse pay for losses, speculation, lobbies of multinationals to impose their own favoured conditions in markets. Corruption is always the aggression of the powerful against the weakest, to exploit them even more.
It is the circle of corruption together with the "bad government" that has to be punished politically to avoid contagion, making them politically unacceptable, knowing how to cut the bad part out, that is to say to tackle the harmful consequences and side with the common good.
According to Conde-Pumpido, Congress State Attorney General (2009), Spain is not a case of systemic corruption, rather it is a serious case of political corruption, with 730 court cases pending at that time. The Bárcenas and Urdangarin court cases have recently caused institutions of dubious reputation to be put into the public eye, causing institutional distrust and a certain sense of impunity. This is what Villoria explains to us, because of this intrinsic defect lacks the adequate mechanisms of independent accountability, public procurement sequestered by private interests, town planning in the hands of speculators and political clientelism that contaminates everything.
WE HAVE TO BREAK THE SILENCE
If we delve into the complexity of public procurement, we can find contracts with remote control by the contestant, unresolved conflicts of interest, prior arrangements, unclear selection criteria, design of contracts made by the contractor, abuses in negotiated processes, unjustified modifications, abuses of emergencies, and a long etcetera that clearly highlights the problem that in Spain there are no institutions with enough independence to fight the problem with impartiality.
By way of conclusion, I see corruption as a learned behaviour, and it survives because it is consented within organisations: it is not by chance that the last four treasurers of these political party have been implicated in judicial processes for this reason. That is to say, why changes and reforms are needed, not only laws, some of them structural, but also a change of culture and above all, public entity managers adhering to ethical values.
Some have asked that corruption be a crime of long-term lapse, more than 20 years, but what should never lapse is the illicit enrichment that the corrupt has obtained, because a democratic society cannot consent that, for those who violated the principles, their heirs enjoy the loot they took from public coffers.
My sense of democracy tells me so, and as a commitment I have to spread it to all corners of society, because it is quite clear to me that the corrupt are the ones that undermine the system, impede economic development, make us less competitive, scare off sensible investors, perpetuate poverty and above all, because democracy is seeing its ability to act reduced to a game of interests outside those of the general public.
We have to break our silence and defend the democratic process without fear to free ourselves from this wearisome burden of corruption and the corrupted, and demand that society at large want to be an active scrutiniser of public spending management for this democracy to survive, and project a fair distribution of the income that it produces.