In the kingdom of the least corrupt, Greenland remains uncharted territory

Not including Greenland in transparency statistics may make Denmark’s reputation appear better than it really is

December 10th, 2012 1:01 pm| by admin

Denmark has once again risen to the top of Transparency International’s (TI) list of the world's least corrupt countries. After slipping to second place last year, Denmark shares this year’s number one spot with New Zealand and Finland.

The rankings are based on TI’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI), which collects data from independent institutions specialising in governance and business climate analysis.

The CPI is an indicator of the public’s perceptions of public sector corruption in TI’s 176 member countries.

The export and trade minister, Pia Olsen Dyhr (Socialistisk Folkeparti), wasted no time in trumpeting Denmark’s return to the top.

“In Denmark we have a society based on trust,” she wrote on her ministry’s website. “I am pleased to see that this is also reflected in the newest study by Transparency International. A well-functioning public sector is also a key element in running a professional business.”   

Interestingly, Greenland, a part of the Danish commonwealth where trust in government and the public sector may well be the most pressing issue of the day as it rushes to develop its mining industry, is not included in this year’s numbers. Although it was welcomed last year by Transparency International chairperson Huguette Labelle as an accredited chapter, Greenland is still waiting to become a full member.

Anne Mette Christiansen, a spokesperson for TI’s Greenlandic chapter, said the organisation was working to get Greenland included in the report.

“We are not yet a full chapter,” she said. “We are in dialogue with TI’s secretariat and our plan is to be ready next year.”

As part of their effort to become a part of the parent organisation, Transparency Greenland commissioned an independent study (read it here – in Danish) to assess the public’s perception of the level of corruption in Greenland. As the country stands on the cusp of major developments in the mining and industrial sectors, the report worried that accountability processes in the country were in need of a complete overhaul.

“The process of establishing the Alcoa aluminium smelter in Maniitsoq is an example of how not to do things in the future,” concluded the report. “The process has been rushed and opaque and it has been difficult to control the authorities, which in turn makes the system vulnerable to corruption.”

The report points out that the system lacks significant anti-corruption instruments such as clear rules on the acceptance of gifts and whistleblower options.

Transparency Greenland chairperson Anders Meilvang said that he hopes Greenland’s government will take the report to heart and use it to strengthen the system, particularly where it applies to the island’s Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum, which has been criticised for having a double role of regulating the industry at the same time as it promotes its growth.

“The report will now be used as a tool in Transparency Greenland's work to prevent corruption and increase awareness of the harmful effects that lack of openness and transparency have on society,” Meilvang told the Greenlandic newspaper Sermitsiaq.

Meilvang said that inconsistent and confusing regulations in all facets of life and business left Greenland open for corruption.

Thomas Trier Hansen, a TI Greenland board member, expressed concern that the expected passage of a law allowing major projects to import low paid labour from outside of the country would seriously damage Greenland’s reputation.

“Greenland will be known as a place where money talks and human rights do not have to be taken seriously,” Hansen told Sermitsiaq.

Since Greenland is seeking to be judged on its own merits next year, it remains to be seen if it will find itself sharing space with Denmark at the top of the list or joining the two thirds of the countries ranked in the 2012 index with a score below 50  meaning they are considered significantly corrupt.

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