Revolutions Against Corruption Continue: Bahrain, Yemen and Libya

While protests against corrupt dictators in Tunisia and Egypt are finally reaching closure, Bahrain protesters seem to be thickening the anti-government rows, giving hope to Yemeni and most recently Lybian protesters.

Read full articles:Yemen protests: Sanaa sees fifth day of demonstrations, BBC news, February 15, 2011

Bahrain protests continue as unrest spreads to Libya, theJournal.ie, February 16, 2011

, BBC News, February 16, 2011

Rio Chief of Police Resigns Following Suspicions of Corruption

Following a spree of arrests of allegedly corrupt officers operating within the Rio police, Mr Allan Turnowski – the chief of police – announced yesterday he was resigning from his current position.

One of those arrested in Friday’s operation was Turnowski’s former second-in-command, Carlos Oliveira, who is accused of taking bribes from drug gangs in exchange for information. The scandal took a new twist at the weekend when Turnowski ordered a raid on the Rio offices of the state’s anti-organized crime police, which took part in Friday’s operation. He said he was acting on information that its chief, Claudio Ferraz, was involved in fraud.

Rio police have long been accused of corruption and of covering up violent tactics in the city’s hundreds of slum areas that are often controlled by drug traffickers.Hundreds of officers took part in last week’s operation, code-named Guillotine, seeking the arrest of 45 people, including 32 police officers. The investigation began in 2009 when a planned police operation in a slum had to be aborted after details of the raid were leaked to drug traffickers, officials said.

 

Source: Reuters, excerpt from Rio police chief quits amid corruption scandal, February 16, 2011

Pm Vows to Tackle Corruption

Whatever some people may say, that we are a lame duck government, that I am a lame duck prime minister, we take our job very seriously, declared yesterday Indian PM, Mr Manmohan Singh.

Following a series of corruption scandals related to members of his cabinet, vowed on Wednesday to stay in office to press ahead with reforms, denying a series of massive corruption scandals had made him a lame duck leader, Reuters India reports.

Allegations the government may have lost up to $39 billion in revenues after firms were awarded telecoms deals at rock-bottom prices in return for kickbacks have caused months of parliamentary paralysis, rocked the ruling coalition, and rattled the markets.

That Singh was forced to deny talk of resignation underscored both the gravity of the scandals and how Singh’s decision-making has been paralysed in his second term despite winning re-election in 2009 with an increased majority.

The last parliamentary session was halted by opposition protests demanding a probe into the telecoms scam, effectively stopping any reform bills such as one to make land acquisition easier for both industry and farmers.

Source: Reuters India, full article Cornered PM vows to press on despite scandals, February 16, 2011

Corruption Caught on Tape Sets Albania on Fire Once More

Source: BalkanInsight.com, cited from Albania Video Corruption Scandal Takes Hollywood Twist, published February 15, 2011

A video released to the local media by former economy minister Dritan Prifit allegedly shows former deputy minister Ilir Meta discussing corrupt deals. Albanian prosecutors have now announced that IT experts found another video on Prifti’s computer, which he voluntarily turned over in which Prifti is shown dividing a €70,000 sum of money with deputy minister of economy Leonard Beqiraj”. Based on the new evidence, the general prosecutor requested the Parliament to strip Meta and Prifit of their immunity from prosecution.

The first videotape, the authenticity of which has been verified by a US expert and was earlier published by the investigative program Fiks Fare on Top- Channel Tv, allegedly shows Meta asking Prifti to intervene over a hydropower plant concession tender, naming an alleged recompense by a businessman of a seven per cent stake and €700,000 bribe.

Meta also allegedly asks Prifti to hire activists of their party, the LSI. The party is the junior government partner in the government of Prime Minister Sali Berisha, and controls the ministries of economy, foreign affairs and health.

Meta, who is the LSI head and at the time of the recording served as deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, also allegedly brags in the videotape about influencing a Supreme Court trial over the same hydro-power plant concession,.

Following the publication of the video, Meta resigned as deputy prime minister and minister of economy.

The videotape was shot by Prifti himself while he was minister of economy, before Meta took over the post. Prifti distributed it to local media and accused Meta of corruption, after being replaced by the LSI head in September 2010. Prifti has praised prosecutors several times for their investigation into the allegations, and vowed that the tapes are authentic.

Resignation Following Corruption Charges

Source: Radio Free Europe, Armenian Official Resigns Amid Corruption Charges

The head of Armenia’s earthquake-monitoring agency has resigned ahead of his trial on embezzlement charges, RFE/RL’s Armenian Service reports.

The Special Investigative Service (SIS) claimed in December that Alvaro Antonian, head of the National Service For Seismic Defense, took 3.3 million drams ($9,100) of a French government grant that was used for building several seismic monitoring stations in the southeastern Vayots Dzor Province.

The SIS said a 70,000 euro ($92,500) grant was provided to Armenia’s earthquake-monitoring agency in August 2009 through a nongovernmental organization headed by Antonian.

If found guilty, Antonian could be sentenced to between four and eight years in jail. He has avoided pretrial detention.

Antonian strongly denied the accusation at the time, saying that personal motives were behind the launch of criminal proceedings against him. He also told RFE/RL then that he had no plans to resign from his post.

Emergency Situations Minister Armen Yeritsian said Antonian has been relieved of his duties in accordance with his own request. Yeritsian, whose ministry controls the seismic defense agency, did not comment on the criminal case against Antonian.

The SIS has sent the case to a court in Vayots Dzor. The court has yet to set a date for the start of the trial.

Spree of Corruption Arrests at the Romanian Borders

In just one week, 150 custom officers from Siret, Caras Severin and Timis were arrested for 29 days, pending trial. At the same time, a 130,000 Euro bribe in exchange of an appointment as a custom officer led to the dismissal the head of the Halmeu custom, Mr Radu Marginean. Former Interior Minister, Mr Vasile Blaga declared he fully trusts the person he appointed and strongly believes he is innocent, despite having been indicted by national anti-corruption prosecutors.

Border guards and customs officers are accused of receiving bribes as part of an organized criminal group. After being monitored for about six months, anti-corruption prosecutors conducted home searches, establishing the modus operandi of those who protected cigarettes smugglers in exchange of certain amounts of money.

According to a press release of the National Anti-Corruption Agency (DNA) at the Siret customs the price for smuggling 30 packs of cigarettes was around 35 Euro. The sums received by officers per shift ranged between 200 to 600 Euro, given that a shift was covered 10-12 officers, stated the DNA press release (February 4, 2011).

Police escorting shipments of smuggled cigarettes

Other 91 border police and customs officials at the border with Serbia were arrested. They were accused of receiving bribes in the form of continued support and as part of an organized criminal group, for allowing cigarettes to be smuggled from Serbia through the Romanian state border. Moreover, after the cigarettes reached Romania, some police chiefs escorted the shipment to storage sites.

Source: www.romaniacurata.ro. Excerpt from “Mita generalizata pe viitoarea frontiera Schengen”, by Virgil Burta, published on Debruary 11, 2011 [in Romanian].

Corruption Arrests in Georgia

On February 4, 2011, Georgian news agencies were reporting the arrest of three officials who had allegedly leased state property illegally. Director of the Children’s National Center, Mr Valery Jokhadze, director of the Vocational Educational Center at the Education Ministry, Mr Zaza Avaliani and his deputy, Mr Murman Khvedelidze, have been detained by General Prosecutor’s office.

The men are suspected of conducting illegal activities that led to a total net worth loss for the state of approximately USD 389,000.

Detention of the officials representing the ministry of education and science and the ministry of sport and youth affairs was reported by Georgi Kondakhashvili, investigator of the anti-corruption department at Georgia’s main general prosecutor’s office at a briefing on Friday, who also point out that the case was not incidental and that it was part of a task-oriented policy.

From the beginning of 2011 the Anti-corruption department at Georgia’s Main General Prosecutor’s office started checking legal use of state immovable property, – Kondakhashvili emphasized in his speech.

Source; Georgia Times, Three corrupt officials arrested in Georgia

5Th Pillar’s Way to Reward Corruption: Zero Currency Notes and More

The 5th Pillar successfully encourages and empowers citizens to take a stand against acts of corruption. One of their most successful campaigns – the Zero Rupee Note – gave concerned citizens a practical tool in confronting daily corruption attempts of public officials. The organization’s website presents a series of success stories, in which supporters of this campaign from all over India have chosen to pay for bribes with the 5th Pillar’s specially designed zero currency note. The organization is setup as a network, with two chapters in the United States and another three across India. Besides offering citizens empowering tools to report and act on petty corruption acts, the 5th Pillar offers information and organized trainings on how to use the Right to Information Act (RTI). Moreover, the 5th Pillar makes available a portal and a telephone hotline where individuals and organizations can submit reports of corruption acts. So far, 46 reports were submitted by citizens concerned with everything from illegal revenue collection, corruption in research and education, as well as possible insurance fraud. We believe the work of the 5th Pillar organization is a valuable source of ideas to fight corruption for civil society organizations around the developing world, Eastern Europe included, and this is why we would like to welcome them to our network.

Ngo Coalition Wins Major Battles for Transparency

Courts fine heavily public sector executives who deny release of public documents

The Alliance for Clean Romania (ACR), an initiative led by the Romanian Academic Society (SAR), won a lawsuit against two entities that manage public funds, against their denial to disclose public information. After a series of judgments between SAR, as plaintiff, and the Authority for State Assets Recovery (AVAS) and EximBank – a bank specialized in intermediating packages of financial services for SMEs – the ACR’s right to the information was re-won in court. The two entities, both operating on public money and subject to the Freedom of Information Act (Law 544/2001) denied access to public information regarding problematic contracts they had sealed in the past years. According to the recent court sentences, both heads of these agencies were to receive a fine equivalent to 20% of their salaries for each day of withholding the requested public information. As a consequence, AVAS’director made available the documents within 9 hours from the court’s decision, while EximBank’s director requested the paper necessary for photocopying the documents. We consider this to be a major breakthrough in what represents judicial action for the respect of access to public information and the use of strategic litigation as a method of disclosure in ciil society action.

Diplomacy, As We Know It

Author: Laura Stefan, Anti-Corruption Coordinator, Romanian Academic Society

*Disclaimer: This article presents the views of the author and it is not the official position of the institutions supporting this project.

France and Germany do not want Romania in Schengen, at least not in the very near future. Why? Romania still faces significant corruption issues (I can give numerous examples: Fatuloiu scandal, Ridzi’s case or the one of Pasat). Mr Orban, presidential adviser, warned us all that if joining Schengen is not going to happen when sheduled, than the delay could last years, not months. On January 3rd, the Romanian Foreign Minister, Mr Baconshi, flexed his muscles in sending a rather surreal message to Europe: Romania is considering to unilaterally cancel EU’s monitoring mechanism on justice and corruption, and condition Croatia’s EU membership on the existence of a monitoring mechanism similar to the Romanian one (additionally, he invited those who have something against Romania, to give us a call). Now, let us discuss each of these claims one by one.

1. Romania is considering to unilaterally cancel the monitoring on justice

Romania’s EU accession was conditional on the adoption of Cooperation and Verification Mechanism – in other words, if Romania had refused the mechanism, the EU would have blocked Romania’s accession in 2007. In 2011, Romania no longer agrees with the commitment taken in 2006 and would like to refuse EU monitoring. With the sole exception that this decision is not for Romania to make, but for the European Commission. This is precisely what Mark Gray, a spokesman for the EC, was explaining on January 4th: procedurally, suppression of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism should be based on a European Commission decision, once the four benchmarks that are related to justice reform had been fulfilled. In other words, monitoring will cease to exist when we had met all our obligations. The Commission will continue to issue reports on Romania’s developments, whether Romania wants to or not. Mr. Baconschi’s belligerent attitude could only cause losses for Romania – the only thing he will succeed is to piss off our European partners, not to mention that it has no practical purpose. After the Parliament’s disaster performances in the Ridzi and Passat cases, after the scandal on the attempt to bribe the Internal Affairs State Secretary in charge of Schengen, after irregularities in the organization of elections for the new Superior Council for the Magistracy, the decision to obstruct the monitoring mechanism seems almost hilarious! Bulgarians are wiser: the CVM helps their country to progress, they wish to maintain the mechanism until EU conditionalities are fully met they stress the importance of not tying the CVM on Schengen accession.

2. Romania will condition Croatia’s EU accession on the imposition of a monitoring mechanism similar to that existing in Romania

In his rage, Mr. Baconschi threatens to take revenge on Croatia. Nice foreign policy touch… Let us explain a bit to Mr. Baconschi as well, the principle underlying the conditioning of a country’s EU accession on the acceptance of a cooperation and verification mechanism: only if a country fails to meet all conditions required for membership, the EU is able to condition the accession on issues still unsolved. That means that the cooperation and verification mechanism could be discussed only if Croatia still has solved background issues after the accession. Romania’s understanding is completely wrong: we cannot ask for Croatia to be monitored just because Romania and Bulgaria are monitored. We can ask for monitoring only if we indicate problems still unsolved in Croatia – only this would mean knowing what they are and that is a little bit more difficult than any uncivil statement of the Romanian Foreign Minister. As it can be noticed, Mark Gray did not even respond to Romania’s threat…

The conclusion is that nobody is afraid of the angry Romania. This scandal will die slowly. The story of the summer of 2010 is likely to repeat itself: you might recall probably that the president announced that Romania will conduct its own monitoring, dissatisfied as it is with the EC report. Have you seen this report? I certainly did not …

This article was published in Romanian in “Revista 22”, on January 4th.

a Sad New Year for Hungary’s Media

The last months of 2010 witnessed a wave of unrest for the media in Hungary, as well as wide-spread debates about freedom of speech among local media, political opposition groups and national and international civil society actors. The right-wing Fidesz government headed by Mr. Viktor Orban managed to almost ‘smuggle’ in a new draft of the Hungarian media law (“The Law on Media Services and Mass Communication) , with a controversial draft which was passed through the Parliament without any preliminary public consultations and stakeholders’ debates. The law, which was adopted by the Parliament on 21st December 2010 and subsequently signed by President Pal Schmitt and published in the Hungarian Gazette on December 31st, became active as of January 1st 2011.

What are the major issues at stake with the new media law and how does it threaten media freedom?

Several provisions of the law are of particular concern as to their potential to affect the freedom of the press, the status of on-line media, and impact on the core mechanisms of investigative journalism practices, as the European Newspaper Publishers’ Association (ENPA) has put it in an open letter addressed to Mr. Orban. Of even higher concern is that the law can enable the Hungarian Media Council to control not only Hungarian media but all other foreign media that is distributed in Hungary and can “affect” the Hungarian public. I can expect a slight jurisdiction problem to arise here very soon, and it is likely that the concerned Hungarian authorities might feel the need to rethink this provision (and most others, by the way) in the near future.

The law also enables two recently founded bodies with members named primarily by the governing party – the National Media and Telecommunications Authority and the Media Council – with the following rights:
– to oversee content and licensing of all public and private media – broadcast, print or web-based – according to the same principles;
– to apply extraordinary fines for content that is “unbalanced” without a clear definition of what “balanced” would mean (see complex analysis by media lawyer Judit Bayer at http://janalbrecht.eu/2011/01/02/whats-the-problem-with-the-hungarian-media-law/);
– to access equipment and documents of media outlets;
– to force journalists to reveal their sources in contexts assessed as potentially affecting public order and national security, the later notions being also vaguely defined in the new legal document.

Concerns about how these regulatory provisions would lead to state and political control over content, self-censorship due to very high fines as well as hinder public information and public debate have been voiced by the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media’s office and by the Independent Press Institute (IPI) whose representatives conducted a fact-finding Mission to Hungary in 15-16 December 2010. Despite strong public reactions from these and other organizations, the media, as well as European Parliament representatives, the new Law on Media Services and Mass Communication is now “active” in Hungary. Constant monitoring of its implementation followed by prompt reactions whenever media freedom is at stake seems the only way forward for those actors concerned with ensuring that this legal act has a short life .. or a short arm, in the end.

And, on a last note, the fact that Hungary took over the EU Presidency for six months on January 1 2011, may place the government either under increased pressure from media freedom advocates and the EU or on the contrary, under a more relaxed scrutiny of its position for the period of its presidency. This is also left for us to see.

See here the new Hungarian Media Law in English.

Author: Laura Ranca, CSaC collaborator

*Disclaimer: This article presents the views of the author and it is not the official position of the institutions supporting this project.

Frying Big Fish in Croatia: Continued

The Croatian authorities have issued an international arrest warrant for former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader, soon after he left the country amid a corruption inquiry, announces the BBC.

Immediately after his speech on the anti-corruption reforms initiated during his mandate (2003 – 2009), I saw Mr Sanader avoiding to respond a question coming from a Croatian journalist, which proves to be highly relevant today: “Mr Sanader, you are pending an investigation on corruption charges. If an arrest warrant would be issued on your name today, would you go back to Croatia to stand trial?”. This was taking place in early September 2010 at an international event in Austria. No point in words; Mr Sanader served us the answer yesterday, when he fleed Croatia.

Among other things, reforms in Croatia were supposed to be an example for other countries in the region that aspire towards European Union integration. Today, the speech of the Montenegran Minister of European Integration on good governance reforms in her own country makes complete sense: “We do what we have to. They ask for good governance reforms we do it.” Now I am wondering what the Albanian or Bosnian governments are getting out of all of this.

Send us your comments on this article on our Facebook page.

Author: Sinziana – Elena Poiana

*Disclaimer: This article presents the views of the author and it is not the official position of the institutions supporting this project.

Happy International Anti-Corruption Day!

Dear colleagues,

The 9th of December is the International Anti-Corruption Day. We take today to congratulate you – those who chose to speak out, those who have at least once risked careers, personal security, or friendships – for your struggle to keep public matters public. For all those still fighting for access to public information, for all those who still believe they have a say in how our money and resources are spent, know that you are few, but not alone. And whoever you are, because you have at least once chose to queue instead of cutting in front of the line, because you refuse to pay the teacher of your child for better grades, because you refused payment in exchange of your vote in the last elections, today we bow in front of you and we say thank you.

The CSaC team.

They Want to Know What You Think

We believe that EU anti-corruption monitoring in member states matters and it can make a difference. Today is the last day when you can send the European Commission (DG HOME) your suggestions for the design of a future reporting and monitoring mechanism on EU Member states’ progress in fighting corruption. Whether you are a citizen, an organization or the representative of a public authority you can access the consultation’s website, complete the questionnaire in your own language and submit your suggestions.

Stop Voting for Corrupt Politicians

“Our initiative was designed to significantly reduce the number of votes for two major parties which were governing for the past 15 years in the Czech Republic. We were quite successful – both these parties dropped from over 30% in poll estimation to around 20% in real votes. Their failure in the elections triggered substantial changes inside of both those parties.”

David Seibert, leader of the “Replace the politicians!” campaign

Within the sample of countries included in our analysis the Czech Republic is perceived to be one of the least corrupt, with a Corruption Perception Index that ranks fifth in the region in 2009. That does not mean that civil society organizations should start congratulating each other on the great job they have done. All the contrary. “Replace the politicians!” was needed to bring citizens to vote and make them understand the importance of their choice in changing the bargaining leverage between the two major Czech parties and possible smaller and less influent opponents.

What made “Replace the politicians!” the most influential civil society campaign in the Czech Republic during the past elections? In the words of David Seibert, the leader of the group conducting it, two routes of reaching the audience were taken. One driven by the general public promoted through happenings and advertising. However, the critical success factor was convincing 12 publicly known respectable figures. Their profiles are very different, such as different audience targets would be reached. Famous Czech writers, singers and actors spoke for this initiative. Without it media would not be interested and the attention of general public would have never been caught.

You can read more about this initiative (in Czech) on its website.

Play Fair! or the Dog Will Get You

“Disclosure increases the risk of being caught in wrong-doing. There is not enough public pressure to legitimase this request and not enough willingness and expertise inside the government.”

Zuzana Wienk, Leader of Slovak Alliance Fair-Play, interviewed for Transparency Global Voices Online, 2010

“Slovakia’s Most Wanted Watchdog” – as it claims – Fair-Play Alliance (AFP) has been “naming and shaming” around for about 8 years now. And it seems to be working very well for them. Surveys show that citizens perceive AFP as the main actor behind major disclosure of corruption scandals in Slovakia. The EU recognizes and supports their work and some of the people who reached their lists have seen themselves forced to resign. Even large consultancy companies admitted to have used their database in order to complete auditing reports.

What has AFP been doing exactly? For the past 8 years it has been looking at the use of public funds in Slovakia and the links between potential misuses and certain politicians. AFP put together a database that started of with 20 names of politicians whose support funds were suspicious. Now the database has reached 450 names, all food for thought and investigation for Slovak journalists. Under the lead of one of Slovakia’s most prominent anticorruption leaders – journalist Zuzana Wienk – AFP publicized data on misuse of funds in public administration, in relation to many issues such as EU funds, party-financing, conflict of interest legislation and public procurement.

For more information on Fair-Play Alliance and their anticorruption database please consult their website.

Today Croatia Fried a Big Fish: Bereslav Roncevic, Former Defense Minister

Just over a year after being endighted, former Croatian Minister of Defense in the Ivo Sanader Cabinet – Mr Berislav Roncevic – was sentenced today to four years in prison, along with another former high rank official. You can read more facts related to this story here.

Why is this relevant? Well, to start: the more convictions, the better. The speculations of the Croatian press that Mr Roncevic is only an actor in the Croatian corruption business are absolutely irrelevant. What matters here is that it was possible to prosecute Mr Roncevic and it was done. Moreover, the Croatian state expects to recover the almost 1,4 billion Euro that had been stolen among the two. The thought alone of recovering an amount of money or asset that was in public property and misused by public officials seems to bring something new to the picture of anti-corruption prosecution in Eastern Europe. Needless to say we are still waiting for the much craved in Brussels convictions for corruption of high rank Romanian and Bulgarian officials.

Do you know of any similar stories? Send them to us!

on a Scale from 1 to 10, How Clean Are Your Universities?

The Romanian Coalition for Clean Universities found a clear correlation between academic integrity and academic quality. As civil society we promote quality and integrity.

Ever wondered how much money goes into research and higher education in your country? Why is public expenditure on higher education not performing as well as it is expected? And most importantly, what should one do when accountability mechanisms fail, or worse, are not yet in place? We have! Following up on a previous project that looked at the level of transparency of public universities in Romania, a coalition of 12 civil society organizations under the lead of the Romanian Academic Society investigated the use of public funds in higher education and academic research. The analysis revealed that Romanian public universities are neither targeting expenditure efficiency nor high quality standards. The evaluation of the universities’ transparency, which was based among other things on the integrity of their financial management, showed that none of the evaluated Romanian universities reach the desired level of transparency It was thus no surprise to stumble across various barriers in identifying where exactly the funds come from, who spends them and according to which criteria. CCU went on to discover significant flaws in the functioning of the current accountability mechanisms of the higher education and academic research system.

The issue still remained: what happens when accountability mechanisms lack or fail? CCU’s solution – the Education Ombudsman – designed as an office that would provide legal consultancy and conflict mediation for plaintiffs in relation to public research grant selection, human resource management in universities or student – teacher relations. For strategically selected cases where the procedures have been infringed or cases that can point to strategic adjustments of policies, the Ombudsman would open discussions with the public authorities in relation to those specific cases, engaging them in solving the cases to create precedents and/or engaging them in the improvement of procedures/policy.

If you want to know more about the Coalition for Clean Universities please consult our website or download full report here.

Grassroots Anticorruption Resource Webpage for Eastern Europe

A new anticorruption resource webpage and a report on ‘Civil Society as an Anticorruption Actor’ was launched on September 15, 2010 at the Open Society Institute in Brussels in the presence of EU officials and aid industry exceutives. www.againstcorruption.eu was realized by the Romanian Academic Society in cooperation with Hertie School of Governance in Berlin and includes nearly 500 anticorruption projects from the last ten years of work of NGOs in Eastern Europe. Country reports on the effectiveness of civil society as an anticorruption actor can also be found on the webpage, which includes a database of most significant projects, as well as diagnosis tools and recommendations for anticorruption activists.

In the general report analyzing the effectiveness of civil society in promoting good governance in Eastern Europe, Alina Mungiu-Pippidi from the Hertie School of Governance found that “the [lack of] strength of civil society explains most of the level of of corruption, with controls for development, political pluralism and market institutionalization. It is a stronger determinant of good governance than political pluralism, market institutionalization and any other component of democracy except media freedom”.

But civil society is weak and resourceless in many new EU member countries, accession and neighboring ones. As the report explains, resources for corruption remain great in these countries, including:
a. public jobs, as the public sector is extremely politicized and each winning party fills not only political offices but many civil service positions with its own people;
b. public spending, for instance the commissioning of public works, but also preferential bailouts, subsidies, loans from state banks;
c. preferential concessions and privatizations from state property; and
d. market advantages in the form of preferential regulation.

A survey of governance by the World Economic Forum in 2009 found only Estonia and Georgia on the border between the fifty most advanced countries and the rest of the 138 countries surveyed. For headings such as government favouritism and diversion of public funds due to corruption, response to this survey by business experts did not reveal great differences across the postcommunist region, suggesting that differences are in size rather than in kind. The report argues that the two countries had active civil societies but also virtuous governments, which cut resources for corruption by deep market reforms.

She argues that no efficient state-building formula can exclude civil society, but not one colluding with the government, but one able to increase ‘normative constraints’ by creating integrity markets, where public actors need to compete to prove integrity. Such work is still very reduced in the present, the report claims, with only 3% of projects surveyed involving voluntary work and the majority treating corruption in general rather than focusing on a sector. The report claims that post-EU accession monitoring was partly ineffective due to collapse in donors’ financial support for civil society, which left the European conditionality like ‘a bow without an arrow’. Civil society needs funding independent of government, and programs focused on increasing corruption costs, not expert programs; also distributed through flexible small grants mechanism, conditioning money of grassroots activity. Estonia is given as a positive model for EU funds distribution for good governance, although the report found that EU contributted less than a third of anticorruption funds for civil society impact projects. The study also found proof of large impact for small sized grants of smaller donors, such as Norwegian government, Open Society Institute or Balkan Trust and recommended that EU anticorruption money is channeled through such donors than EU bureaucratic channels.

Full report, country reports, database and contacts on www.againstcorruption.eu

Clash of Views on Integrity Today

Many arrests for corruption these days, but also a lot of confusion. Yesterday we were congratulating Croatia on sentencing a former minister for misuse of public money. Today, we are wondering whether there is something fundamentally wrong with integrity standards and the political costs attached to their breach. On Sunday, December 5, President Karzai was making a pledge to fight corruption in Afghanistan. His pledge to reduce corruption, as conditioned most recently by both the US President and the Canadian PM, ended with an attack on the capacity of the Afghan judicial system to deal with cases of corruption by casting doubts on the 4 years jail sentence given to the former Kabul mayor, Mr Abdul Ahad Sayebi. Mr Karzai was positive that no political cost would be incurred for his support towards a convicted criminal. No one can argue that it is easy to build states, much less to build them on solid institutions that have the proper accountability links. However, sabotaging what seems to be working makes sense only when you know that you own the monopoly on the integrity market you claim to be creating.

Today Russian prosecutors arrested a high rank official in the Ministry of Defense on charges of extortion and bribery. Mr Sergei Yemelin was caught receiving a 144,000 USD bribe in exchange for a construction permit. Why is the Ministry of Defense releasing construction permits? That is for the Russian administration to decide. Meanwhile, Mr Yemelin is pending a trial on corruption charges, and Mr Medvedev has not yet shown his support for Mr Yemelin’s innocence.

Also today, Mr Assange, the man behind the nowadays infamous wikileaks.org, was arrested in London. It is rather uncertain whether with Mr Assange judged and convicted we will ever know the truth about the alleged 10mil USD bribe offered by the former (possibly future as well) President of Moldova – Mr Vladimir Voronin – to one of the leaders of the opposition parties – Mr Marian Lupu – in exchange for the Parliament seats that would have assured his re-election in 2009. The cables from Moldova were released in the day immediately after the 2010 elections for the Moldovan Parliament. With or without the bribe, it might not even matter after all, since offering such a bribe means that Mr Voronin ownes the 10mil USD, which, of course, makes him a very powerful man. The kind any citizen of any democratic country would like to see holding public office, isn’t it? Bottom line, no political costs in this case either.

How should corruption be prosecuted efficiently? You can now comment on our new Facebook page.

*Disclaimer: This article presents the views of the author and it is not the official position of the institutions supporting this project.

**photo by Fabiano de Andrade Correa

Keep an Eye on Them

And if the European Commission offers its help, then it would be wise to take it. In 2005, 2006 and 2008 the Center for Public Policy Providus has monitored the progress of anticorruption regulation and its enforcement in Latvia. With the financial support of the European Commission, the first report looked at the impact that the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) had on reducing corruption in Latvia since its creation in 2002. The latest two issues in 2008 were going deeper into the nitty-gritty of what could still be improved in anticorruption regulation in specific sectors, such as the judiciary and the law enforcement institutions. Corruption °C was not a simple assessment on the state of corruption in Latvia, but has also set the standards for what anticorruption policy should deliver. The latest report was drawing attention on the importance of education as preventive measure against corruption and how an efficient KNAB should take that into consideration in its future policies.

Credibility in front of the EU institutions was crucial. The EU adopted its Anticorruption Monitoring Mechanism only upon Romania’s and Bulgaria’s integration into the EU, following-up the possible enforcement of the safeguard clauses in the accession treaty. However, prior to that, the EU strongly relied on the local civil society to take ownership over its rule of law monitoring. States on the row to accession require both: having a strong civil society that would run watchdog activities and accepting permanent EU anticorruption scrutiny. It is probably much too often that one could hear a Croatian, Macedonian or Montenegrin Minister of European Affairs complaining about the legacy of good governance requirements that they unwillingly inherit from new member states. What they maybe cannot see yet is that having a free, strong and committed civil society, empowered to do things such as those done by Providus in Latvia is within the benefit of all.

Nigeria Means Business, Mr Dick Cheney!

Yesterday the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Nigerian anti-corruption agency, filed bribery charges against former US Vice-President, Mr Dick Cheney. This is not the first attempt of the EFCC to go after Mr Cheney. An arrest warrant was issued earlier this year on his name in relation to the same fishy oil business he was conducting in the Niger Delta through a subsidiary of his firm. Read more about this story here.

It is definitely not the first bold statement made by the EFCC. Without going too much into Nigerian politics, Mr Goodluck Jonathan, acting Nigerian President since February 2010, seems to have brought along a higher tolerance to prosecution of corruption. It was after his official appointment as President that Mr Ibori – governor of the Niger Delta – was arrested, also for corruption, giving greater hope to democracy and rule of law activists in Nigeria and abroad. And they did not stop there. The Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja), two former state governors, four Siemens representatives, five representatives of a natural resources exploitation company and a senator are the highlights of the charges filed by the EPCC in the past 2 months alone. The EU praised the efficiency of the EFCC and assured more support for the activity of the agency. Beyond facts, we draw three important lessons from all this.

Lesson #1. Things work better when the word of the ruler is the rule of law. Mr Jonathan might just be on his way to giving leaders of African presidential regimes the most important lesson they could possibly receive. Instead of debating on the rightfulness of good governance aid conditionalities or the anthropological significance of the “good governance” concept, fundamentally different in Africa from any other place on earth, they might try cleaning up their countries. The implementation of Nigerian anti-corruption strategy began 2000. Since then serious efforts were made to make the collection of revenues from the extractive industry more transparent.1 According to the country report provided by the Revenue Watch Institute (RWI), the revenue transparency policy initiated by President Obasanjo in 2003/4 encouraged the development of an effective institutional setup for curbing corruption. Since 2006, the EFCC has recovered more than 5bil USD. These small advancements could be the positive sign that aid donors were waiting for, while the obvious political efforts to make Nigeria cleaner could build enough capital for its leaders to set their aid investment priorities, and in another 10 years maybe they will ask USAID for their own MIT, as India did a while ago.


Lesson #2
. This goes to Mr Filat, still in office Moldovan PM (and to clarify why an African corruption story is posted on a webpage targeting Eastern European civil society projects). Mr Filat took another approach than Mr Jonathan: after his appointment he did almost nothing to depoliticize his administration or his judiciary, and consequently prosecute those who had unrightfully jailed and battered the protesters who brought his alliance to power. This is not a judgment of Mr Filat’s or his Cabinet’s intentions. However, it could be an explanation for the price he had to pay in the November elections. After next year’s Nigerian presidential elections we will find out whether Mr Jonathan’s credit balance with his voters is negative or positive.

Lesson #3. Nigeria filing corruption charges against a former US high rank official draws attention on both North – South power relations, as on the accountability links that the current global governance system makes available to national integrity agencies or anti-corruption prosecution institutions. This question goes to the core of the debate on responsibility towards the use of public goods. Nigeria got to be Africa’s biggest oil and natural gas producer because 25% of the continent’s resources are on its legally recognized territory. Under these circumstances, should the right to use belong to its citizens alone? Consequently, if these rights are breached on integrity grounds, should regular courts have the legitimacy to judge them? If allegations against Mr Cheney are backed up by enough evidence, then to which court should he respond to and by which rules should he be trialed? What is the responsibility that regional organizations should play in the administration of national public goods of regional or global relevance, if any? Should the corrupt administration of global public goods be addressed in special courts? We leave the answer to these questions open for debate.

1Revenues collected by the Nigerian government from the extractive industry account from 85% of total revenues. According to World Bank data (2008), the extractive industry is the most productive sector of the Nigerian economy (52% of GDP).

Author: Sinziana – Elena Poiana

 

*Disclaimer: This article presents the views of the author and it is not the official position of the institutions supporting this project.

on Perception and Other Monsters

Is the world really more corrupt today? A simple search on Google by „accused of corruption December 13” returns 10 different corruption related scandals published today only in the first 2 pages. Namibia, Mozambique, Uzbekistan, India, Croatia, all had today as front story some local high rank official being allegedly corrupt, prosecuted or arrested for corruption acts. On December 9, 2010, Transparency International was launching the Global Corruption Barometer, showing that worldwide people believe today less than ever in anti-corruption efforts. In other words, today the world is perceived to be more corrupt than ever while we are less equipped to do anything about it. But is that true? If anything, then after my Google search I would be tempted to say exactly the contrary: the world has never been so free of corruption because we have never been as ready as we are now to address its challenges. This goes beyond the mere half-full, half-empty glass dilemma.

It is at this point unavoidable to ask the question that everyone seems to be shuffling around these days: should there be any boundaries to free access to public information? I cannot stop thinking that the way that the citizens in many of the transition countries see the public today is significantly different from the way they saw it 10 or 20 years ago. The acknowledgement of the “public” as “one’s own” goes hand in hand with the perception that the ownership boundaries are crossed once public funds are misused, while freedom of information has matched rights to access the public space with the capacity to question its use. So can it be that today corruption is perceived to be more pervasive than ever just because we have access to more information than ever? Is not knowing even an option? If increased access to information is causing a measurement bias, then can it be fixed? Is corruption research still valid when you cannot do anything to minimize the cost that perception has on reality?

Author: Sinziana – Elena Poiana

*Disclaimer: This article presents the views of the author and it is not the official position of the institutions supporting this project.

How Facebook Is Mapping the Free World

Following up on yesterday’s topic related to information and free access to it, it is impossible not to touch on another media frenzy – how much networking websites tell about us. An attempt to map the geographical distribution of friendships on Facebook draw my attention. The map identifies a higher concentration of friendships in North America, Europe, India, Southern Brazil and North Argentina, the West Coast of South America, some areas of the South – East Pacific. If we were to cross-reference the density of Facebook relations with total population density, then for some regions the results would be explainable – more people, more connections.

But how about the countries in transition? The big blank on the map corresponds to China, Russia and most of Africa. Blanks can be explained in three ways: (1) The people living there do not have access to internet; (2) The people living there do not want to use Facebook (for various reasons – more popular internet networks, the use of traditional methods of socialization); (3) The people living there do not have access to Facebook. Let us take each of these options one by one.

Lack of access to internet. In 2010 the highest number of people using the internet was in Asia (825mil users). Breaking that number down by countries in Asia, China has the absolute lead with almost half of all internet users in Asia. India and Japan follow next, but they each barely reach 10% of all users on the continent. In Europe, continent with the second largest number of internet users in the world, Russia and Germany have a comparable total number of internet users, with Russia’s population being two times larger than that of Germany. With an average 10% of population using internet in Africa, we would not expect Africa to be lighten up on the Facebook map.

As much as I would want to, the data freely available does not allow me to discuss Facebook’s market shares as compared to the other networks, or people’s willingness to sign up for a social networking website. Therefore, if we were to run these analyses with real numbers – as I sincerely hope someone will some day – we would expect these factors to be a significant source of error.

Lack of access to Facebook. I believe that most Facebook users, such as myself, will have discovered that the effects of networking online are more or less the same as those of networking in real life. That is especially true for building social capital. Social capital can mean a lot of things. For you it might mean attending more parties. For governments it might mean revolutions, such as that witnessed not long ago in Moldova. Thus, the incentive to control it somehow is very high.

For most of the people who are reading this using a Facebook account might be their favorite way of wasting time in work breaks. For the people feeling the blanks on the Facebook map it might mean having the capacity to access and distribute information, which is now unrightfully not granted to them. If we look at it that way, then the Facebook map is not just a map of density of social connections, but an indicator of freedom in all its meanings. Under this assumption, the blanks are ridiculously overwhelming.

Author: Sinziana – Elena Poiana


*Disclaimer: This article presents the views of the author and it is not the official position of the institutions supporting this project.