For the Portuguese representation of the international body, the existence, “for better or worse”, of a national strategy to fight corruption may explain why Portugal has improved one place, from 33rd to 32nd in the annual index, but it could also be the explanation for not having improved more.

“For better or worse, we have a strategy. Obviously, despite the Government's effort to create this strategy, the impact was not as strong, precisely because the strategy is not ambitious and is not applicable to sovereign bodies and therefore does not touch those that are the fundamental institutions for democracy and the fight against corruption”, Susana Coroado, president of Transparency International Portugal, told Lusa.

“Political corruption is left out, high positions are left out and this does not convey an image of good leadership, of leading by example and ends up leaving out problem areas when it comes to preventing corruption”, she added.

More than repression, which Susana Coroado considers to be the main way of fighting corruption in Portugal, through legislation, the official argues that the focus should be on prevention, improving the management of conflicts of interest, the detection of risks and the availability of information by public institutions, thus facilitating greater participation by civil society in decision-making and inspection.

Inspection is a recurring failure due to the lack of public means for this purpose, she said, but that can be minimised with greater transparency that allows greater access to the media and will be an important issue in the application of European funds from the Recovery and Resilience Program (PRR).

“Now that large volumes of European funds are coming, the risks of misuse of funds, diversion of funds, of influences that move to improperly capture the distribution of funds, it is essential to have these preventive measures right from the beginning” , she said.

Susana Coroado considers the recovery of one place in the index compared to the previous year to be “positive”, in which Portugal recorded the worst position ever, but she believes that it is “a reduced recovery”.

Portugal occupies the 32nd position, tied with South Korea, with 62 points on a scale of 100, below the average value of the European Union, which is 64 points. Transparency International's 2021 index is led by Denmark and New Zealand with 88 points, the same as Finland. At the bottom are Syria and Somalia, with 13 points, and South Sudan, with 11.

“Looking at what Portugal's score has been over the last 10 years, [this] shows a worrying stagnation, even considering that corruption has been one of the biggest concerns of citizens. Public authorities need to do more to respond to the wishes of citizens and the needs of the democratic regime”, she defended.