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Mar 06, 2017 - Zoltán Kovács

Transparency can be bought?

Something strange is happening with Transparency International. The international NGO that made a name for itself for its “global coalition against corruption” has remained rather tight-lipped about why it decided in January to strip accreditation from its US affiliate, denying it the use of the TI name and logo.

Reports have emerged claiming that the international board of directors disagreed with the US national chapter’s practice of taking money from certain corporations that might compromise their fight against corruption.

A statement posted on Transparency International’s website, January 24, refers only to differences in “philosophies, strategies, and priorities between the [US] chapter and the Transparency International Movement.” But another report suggests that Transparency International USA fell out of favor because it was seen as a corporate front group, funded largely by multinational corporations including: Bechtel Corporation, Deloitte, Google, Pfizer, Citigroup, ExxonMobil, Fluor, General Electric, Lockheed Martin, Marsh & McLennan, PepsiCo and others.

When the Orbán Government announced plans to introduce new NGO regulations that would require NGOs to be more transparent about their funding resources, we got a lot of push-back from critics decrying a crackdown on civil society. Well, this story about TI booting one of its biggest national chapters offers yet one more illustration of why transparency is so important.

One would like to believe that the seal of integrity of the transparency label, whether it be for a national chapter or for the issues they drive, is not something somebody can simply buy, but this recent twist raises questions.

Had the US chapter become compromised by its dependence on certain donors? Unfortunately, Transparency International remains largely untransparent about why they kicked them out. And lacking a clear explanation, one begins to wonder about TI’s double standards. If the TI board of directors in Berlin has a problem with a chapter taking money from big corporations like Pfizer, General Electric, ExxonMobil and others, why don’t they have a problem with other branches taking funds from billionaires with a clear political agenda? Yes, I’m referring to George Soros, a major donor to Transparency International.

Soros drives a clear political agenda that calls for open society, and one of the pillars of this program is promoting immigration, supporting mass, illegal migration into Europe from the Middle East and Northern Africa and acts against governments like Hungary’s, which prefer a pro-security approach. It’s no conspiracy theory; the billionaire is open about these plans.

Prime Minister Orbán has called attention to the growing trend of international NGOs meddling in domestic politics of the countries where they’re active, frequently reminding that it’s not only an issue in Hungary but in other countries as well, like France and the US.

‘He who pays the band, chooses the music,’ as we say in Hungary. Clearly, a number of actors exploit the civil society cover to give credibility and legitimacy to their political agenda and apply pressure on governments. By providing funds, these international actors choose the music. Political parties and lobbyists must respect strict laws and guidelines. What the government of Hungary wants is real transparency for NGOs, the same transparency and accountability that is demanded of others.

Questions have been raised about Transparency International itself. Critics point to the parent organization accepting donations from companies that have engaged in bribery. One corporation that recently donated millions of dollars to TI pled guilty back in 2008 to bribery charges and paid more than 1.6 billion USD in penalties.

Not surprisingly, some are beginning to wonder whether transparency can be bought.