The European Commission has granted Belgium € 700,000 to perpetuate its integrity policy, spearheaded by the federal minister for the public service, Petra De Sutter, Ms. De Sutter announced on Monday.
“We will use these resources to ensure that procurement rules are properly respected and to strengthen the recently created Centre of Expertise on Integrity,” she said in a statement. “Integrity is the foundation of the trust citizens place in politicians and public authority.”
The minister said more than six out of 10 Belgians believe there is corruption in public institutions and more than a third of entrepreneurs think they have missed out on a public contract because of corruption.
Federal officials must become the 'showcase of integrity'
“Although it is a matter of perception, this indicates that integrity is not taken for granted,” the minister noted.
She believes the federal authorities must become the “showcase of integrity.”
“This is why I have already put integrity at the top of the agenda for civil servants by appointing integrity coordinators, while a centre of expertise has been created and we have reviewed the ethical framework for civil servants,” she explained.
De Sutter intends to build on this momentum with EU funding.
More effective audits with the help of AI
“We want to make the audits we already do today more effective by using artificial intelligence (AI) in a structural way,” she disclosed. “If, for example, AI allows us to see that one department is paying more than another for office equipment, for no apparent reason, we can seek to improve the situation.
"Similarly, if we find that certain types of contracts are awarded very often to a limited number of suppliers, we can broaden competition.”
The European Commission and Belgium will work with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to make the best use of the €700,000 grant.
The OECD will use the money to support the centre of expertise - the Integrity Bureau - and the newly established integrity coordinators. The centre will develop a toolkit containing instruments that can strengthen integrity, such as risk analysis and a whistleblower policy.