Friday, December 21, 2012
Denmark lacks transparency in private contributions to political parties and parliamentary candidates. The opaque environment thrives from inadequate legislation that enables weak public disclosure. Private donations above 20,000 DKR (US$3,609) must disclose the donor’s name – however, not the amount given. In addition, individuals can remain anonymous if they donate through affiliated foundations. This loophole also exists if private donations are given in increments of less than 20,000 DKR.
Political donations and gifts also lack strong regulations. The grey area surrounding the receiving of gifts has yet to be adequately defined. The Danish media have accused top officials and Members of Parliament (MPs) of attending undisclosed trips, concerts and dinners, paid for by private contractors.
Denmark’s access to information law is outdated. The wide range of ‘exceptional case’ provisions enables public bodies to deny access to information or to delay legitimate enquiries. At the same time, several studies show that current right to information legislation is not respected in practice. Deadlines for applicants’ requests for information are only met in half of the cases and only 30% of requests for information to the Prime Minister’s Office and Ministry of Justice are completed in the required 10-day deadline.
Public and private sector executives’ limited understanding of their obligation to disclose information to the public leads to major weaknesses in accountability.
Denmark does not have a dedicated whistleblower protection law or regulation. There is also no dedicated whistleblowing body to advise and protect whistleblowers. Instead, the Danish labour market has been regulated by voluntary agreements on pay and working conditions between employees and their organisations, otherwise known as the Danish Labour Market Model.
The laws on citizens’ freedom of speech and employees’ right and duty to inform the public on irregularities are fragmented. These laws are scarce and the case law is limited. And although public employees’ freedom of speech is generally considered to be better protected legally than their counterparts in the private sector, whistleblowing bodies and support are more advanced in the private sector.
In 2009 Parliament introduced the Openness Scheme, which aims to improve the transparency of MPs’ expenses and activities. It provides an agreement between a broad range of political parties that MPs must publish information on their monthly spending, activities in entertainment, travel expenses, received gifts, official representations, and prospective official activities.
Together with the Code of Good Practice in the Public Service, the new transparency mechanism aims to ensure effective monitoring of MPs’ conduct and use of public resources.
Denmark is a participating country in the Open Government Partnership. The initiative’s aim is to promote good governance and to strengthen democracy. As a participant, Denmark commits itself to modernising the public sector and improving the management of public resources. This is done by increasing, among others: transparency in public decision processes, anti-corruption and accountability mechanisms, citizen participation, and dialogue with civil society.
A key driver is the utilisation of new technologies and media so that government information and technology is available to citizens and businesses. In effect, the government aims to address citizens’ needs and concerns.
A new mediation and complaints institution for corporate responsibility was adopted by Danish parliament. This independent body has the mandate to investigate corruption allegations and make recommendations to ensure compliance. The OECD also notably welcomed the creation of the institution.
The formation of the institution was part of the government’s 2012-2015 Action Plan for Corporate Social Responsibility. In it, the government recognises the need for increased efforts to promote Danish companies' global accountability to labor and human rights, international environmental standards and the fight against corruption.