Gallup Survey Shows High Perception of Business Corruption Worldwide

A survey conducted by Gallup worldwide has revealed that the majority of the population in all regions perceive corruption to be widespread in businesses in their countries. Even in the regions where this perception is the lowest, namely in the United States, Canada and in developed countries in Asia, levels of perceived business corruption reach 60%.

The results show that corruption in business is a problem in both developed and developing countries. Nevertheless, Gallup reports that the figures obtained in the survey can be associated with the level of income and countries’ position in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index. Overall, countries where perceived business corruption is highest tend to have lower per capita income and offer a less favorable environment to business.

The survey was conducted in 2011 in 140 countries and consisted of face-to-face and telephone interviews with around 1,000 adult respondents in each country.

For more details read the article “Majority Worldwide Sees Widespread Corruption in Businesses” on gallup.com.

Corruption Unchanged After Egypt’s Revolution

An article by Anna Nadgrodkiewicz discusses how many questions remain about what can be expected of Egypt’s democratic transition over a year after Hosni Mubarak was ousted. Among some of the issues that arise is the concern that the rupture with old corrupt practices in the public administration may not have been so radical as expected by protesters and the opposition to the previous regime.

Many citizens are pessimistice about real change taking place any time soon, as they continue to experience bribe requests when coming in contact with public services. According to Tarek Mahmoud, “it turned out that ousting Mubarak was easy but removing his corruption is mission impossible”. It is also feared that grand corruption will continue at the same level as before, unless substantial institutional reforms are implemented to improve the functioning of the political system.

Apparently, as shown during the recent electoral campaign, fighting corruption is not among the main policy issues on the political agenda. This is particularly worrisome in a context where corruption seems to have become so widespread and ingrained among citizens, who find no alternative other than pay bribes to public officials to obtain documents and licenses, among other things.

In fact, it is believed that weak law enforcement has led to an increase in petty corruption since the revolution, something that may also be associated with the high level of informality in Egypt, where 92% of urban property owners don’t have official titles and 82% of businesses are run informally.

According to the author, reforms to improve the foundations of democratic governance, such as accountability, rule of law and access to information, are needed together with others that help reduce incentives and opportunities to corruption, such as cutting red tape and promoting entrepreneurship.

For more details read the article “Anti-Corruption Views – Will corruption undermine Egypt’s transition?” on trust.org. The picture above is also featured in the article and is credited to Reuters/Amr Dalsh.

Interesting Monitoring Projects in the United States

In the past years several civil society activities to monitor the public administration have emerged in the United States. From projects to track legislation bills and political donations to election candidates, among other things, these initiatives could serve as inspiration for civil society in other countries as well.

The website POPVOX, for instance, offers a platform where voters can follow bills in Congress and check who supports and opposes specific bills and how representatives and senators vote on each bill. Users can also express their own support or opposition to a certain bill.

Another interesting project is the website OpenCongress, which allows voters to track how their representatives and senators vote in Congress and also how they are funded.

Follow the Money and OpenSecrets.org are other resources that explore trails of political finance and money influence on politics. OpenSecrets.org also keeps track on the ‘revolving door’ between Congress and the private sector, showing where members of Congress and former staff members are employed after leaving Congress.

For additional information read “The 7 Best Open Government Sites” on readwriteweb.com.

Panfilova Talks about Russia’s ‘Awakening’ in the Fight against Corruption

In an interview posted on the website of the 15th International Anti-Corruption Conference, the director of Transparency International’s Russian chapter Elena Panfilova discussed the changes that anti-corruption work in the country has faced in the last decade and the perspectives for further change in the future.

Ms. Panfilova highlighted that the context for anti-corruption work in Russia nowadays is very different than 10 years ago, mostly because of the increase in public awareness about the need to fight corruption and in public support to the work of activists. Moreover, she mentioned that the last years have seen a boost in the participation of citizens in grassroot political initiatives at the local level, something that is not typical for Russia, a country without a strong civil society tradition.

Asked about current concerns regarding the fight against corruption in Russia, Ms. Panfilova raised attention to the lack of substantive reforms by public authorities, despite increasing pressure from the public in favor of measures to reduce corruption.

She also mentioned some of the initiatives conducted by her organization, such as the implementation of Advocacy and Legal Advice Centers, educational measures to youth and small businesses, and activities to monitor procurement, access to public information and political finance, among other things.

Regarding perspectives for future anti-corruption work, she emphasized the importance of continued citizen support and engagement for changes in the political arena, despite recent electoral results. Ms. Panfilova called on people to focus on the issues of their everyday life and try to make contributions at the local level.

For more details read the full interview on 15iacc.org. The picture of Ms. Panfilova shown above is also featured in the article.

Movie Series Raises Awareness against Corruption in Indonesia

A new initiative to raise awaraness against corruption is being implemented in Indonesia. Anti-corruption organizations, film directors and famous actors have produced a series of four movies, entitled “Us against Corruption” (Kita Versus Korupsi), which portrays how corruption takes place in Indonesians’ everyday life and how it can be curbed.

The movies focus on situations such as paying bribes for marriage licenses or corruption in the education system, which reflect an environment where corruption has become an expected behavior in the society. Moreover, the series highlight that corruption can cease to be a common social practice through efforts to raise awareness and educate citizens.

Transparency International’s national chapter in Indonesia, together with the government’s Corruption Erradication Commission (KPK), led production and distribution activities, which included road shows with cast and crew and screenings in several regions of the country.

For more details read “Indonesia launches highly successful film selection: Us against Corruption” on transparency.org. The picture shown above is also featured in the article.

Independence of Enforcement Institutions Still Lacking in Ukraine

After the contested prosecution and conviction of opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko last year, the handling of recent criminal cases by the police, such as the one involving the 19-year-old Oksana Makar, has given additional evidence of how enforcement institutions and the justice system in Ukraine are continuously subject to political influence.

The Makar case created outrage among family and friends of the victim, who was raped and set on fire, after it was reported that two of the three suspects on the case were sons of government officials and were released from police custody. Following the uproar, President Viktor Yanukovich intervened to have the two suspects re-arrested and dismissed four local officials involved in the investigation.

This case was taken as a clear example of political interference in law enforcement agencies and the courts. According to Eduard Bagirov, head of the International League for Protection of Ukrainian Citizens’ Rights, judicial decisions influenced by interests of the presidential administration are not uncommon. Another manifestation of such interference is through selective prosecution, as is argued about the Tymoshenko case.

Andriy Portnov, presidential adviser on judicial affairs, acknowledges that the system needs to be reformed. One weakness is that the system does not foresee jury trials and decisions are taken either by one or two judges. Moreover, Portnov claims that social and cultural factors also contribute to limited independence in the judiciary. Still influenced by a mentality of privileges prevalent since the Soviet period, it is common that law-enforcement officials, including judges, refrain from taking procedures against high-ranking officials and wealthy individuals.

Measures to make law enforcement more efficient and independent are already underway. Hundreds of criminal and administrative procedures against law enforcement officials accused of misconduct have taken place in the past years. A new code for criminal procedure is about to be passed in Parliament. Improvements in recruitment and career of judges have also been introduced.

For more details read the article “In Ukraine, scales of justice often imbalanced” on reuters.com.

Social Media Provides for Increased Criticism of Corruption in Saudi Arabia

Social media has been increasingly used as a vehicle for raising awareness about corruption and other abuses in Saudi Arabia. Platforms such as Youtube and Twitter have become a means of spreading comments and satirical videos on episodes of corruption or undue political influence, topics that have always been considered taboo in the country. This has given a new dimension to freedom of expression in a country where conventional media still faces severe restrictions.

Some demographic aspects of Saudi Arabia are favorable for this new dynamic. The population is very young, with about 70 per cent under 30 years of age, and internet penetration is around 40 per cent. This makes a large pool of potential followers of the online comedy shows, bloggers and twitter users that use the internet to express their criticism of government officials and even members of the royal family.

One of the latest online hits in the country is a video mocking the Ministry of Commerce for its ambigious enforcement of business regulations, which usually favors powerful businessmen. An anonymous writer on Twitter has also become popular with posts about misconduct by members of the royal family.

The government has already felt the impact of this intensification of the online political debate. Legislation that extends restrictions to traditional media also to blogs and social media platforms has been introduced, and analysts believe that government monitoring of online media will be strengthened in the near future.

For more details read the article “Social media skewer corruption in Saudi Arabia” on vancouversun.com. The picture shown above is featured in the article and is credited to Susan Baaghil/Reuters.

Study Assesses Use of Government Advertising in Argentina

Poder Ciudadano, Transparency International’s national chapter in Argentina, analyzes the use of government advertising as a potential source for corruption in the country.

The study points out that the national government’s share of the Argentine advertising market is about 9%, a very high number in comparison to other governments, such as in neighboring Brazil, where government advertisement is not more than 3% of the market, or even in the United Kingdom, where it is about 5%.

These data raise questions about the use of government advertisement to unduly influence media outlets, which might have less incentives to adopt critical positions in relation to the government and thereby risk losing a significant share of their advertising revenue. Moreover, the use of public resources for advertising can be a way to reward political supporters of the party in power, or even to by-pass restrictions on electoral advertising.

Poder Ciudadano lists some recommendations to avoid the use of public advertisement funds for political interests, such as limiting the amount of resources that can be used for advertisement, increasing monitoring by other government branches and also by media and civil society, and clearly establishing bans on the use of any reference to political parties.

For additional information read the article “Public service advertising – has political corruption found a new home?” on blog.transparency.org. The picture shown above is also featured in the article.

New National Survey on Corruption in Greece Released

Transparency International’s national chapter in Greece has released their fifth National Survey on Corruption, conducted in November-December 2011. The results show an overall decrease in the average cost of bribes and changes in the population’s perception of some corruption acts.

Petty corruption in the public sector has slighly increased, with 7.4% of respondents reporting corruption incidents in contrast to 7.2% in 2010. In the private sector, reporting of petty corruption was lower, at 3.4% against 4% in 2010. Moreover, the average amount of bribes reported fell from €1,623 in 2010 to €1,406 in 2011.

Respondents ranked hospitals, tax authorities and offices in charge of construction licenses at the top of the list of petty corruption in public services. Another interesting result of the new survey was that, for the first time, respondents considered the non-issuance of receipts for transactions as a corruption incident. Resistance to corruption also appears to have increased, with about 25% of respondents declaring to have refused to pay a bribe in the public sector, and almost 22% in the private sector.

Transparency International has also recently released a new National Integrity System assessment for Greece. An interactive tool with the results and the full report are available at transparency.org.

For additional information read the press release “Petty corruption under crisis” on transparency.org. The picture featured above is from fcpablog.com.

Anti-Corruption Candidate Wins Mayoral Election in Russia

Yevgeny Urlashov (pictured here), considered as an anti-corruption crusader, has been elected mayor of Yaroslavl, a large city located about 250 kilometers from Moscow, with 70% of the votes last Sunday. The victory by a large margin against the incumbent mayor, from Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party, was seen as an important boost for the country’s opposition.

Mr. Urlashov is a lawyer and was a member of Yaroslavl’s municipal council. In his campaign, he pledged to fight corruption through increased public control over municipal spending and reduced red tape in the local administration. He managed to win the election despite strongly biased media coverage in favor of his opponent and by intimidation strategies used by authorities against him.

The election of Mr. Urlashov has been highlighted by opposition leaders as a signal of their strength and the effectiveness of their mobilization strategy. Their focus on getting supporters to monitor local elections is likely to be continued after this positive outcome.

For more details read the article “Anti-corruption crusader wins Russian mayoral election in victory for opposition” on washingtonpost.com. The picture featured above is from guardian.co.uk and is credited to Denis Sinyakov/Reuters.

Media Freedom Still Restricted in Georgia

Under President Saakashvili, the Georgian government has implemented numerous reforms, including measures directed at tackling corruption. However, there is continuous evidence that the country still needs significant improvements in terms of press freedom, and that the government maintains strong influence over media reports.

A recent case involving the suspicious death of a man in policy custody renewed concerns about tight political control over media outlets, as all three nation-wide TV channels broadcast very similar reports, focusing on the politicization of the case by the opposition instead of exploring the facts related to suspect’s death.

According to citizens and investigative journalists, it is recurrent that political reporting by mainstream media in the country appears to be coordinated. Moreover, critical reporting of the government is rare. Two of the main TV stations in Georgia are privately owned, but headed by individuals connected to the current administration. The third main station is state-owned.

International organizations such as Transparency International and Freedom House have pointed out to weaknesses in the country’s democratic development, particularly with regards to media freedom. According to Freedom House’s assessment, Georgia is still considered to be partly free, and the country’s position in Reporters Without Borders’s freedom index has deteriorated significantly since 2007, from 66 to 105. According to survey data, this situation has contributed to weaken citizens’ trust in the media over the years.

For more details read the article “Little media freedom in Saakashvili’s Georgia” on dw.de. The picture shown above is also featured in the article and is credited to Deutsche Presse Agentur.

Graffiti Artists Raise Awareness against Corruption in Kenya

A group of graffiti artists have been using their artistic skills to urge Kenyan citizens not to vote to politicians seen as corrupt in the next elections, likely to be held in the end of this year. Their murals portray members of Parliament as vultures in suits and associate these figures with embezzlement and ineffectiveness.

According to Boniface Mwangi, a photographer among the artists engaged in this ‘campaign’, their strategy is to paint these representations during the night on busy parts of Nairobi, where a large number of citizens can see them while going to work the next day. They have also disseminated sentences like ‘vote the vultures out of parliament’ in several parts of the city.

Their goal is mainly to raise awareness and engage the population in contributing to change the political status quo. Mr. Mwangi highlights that they are motivated by their criticism of the Kenyan political elite, which they claim to be corrupt and exploit ethnic cleavages for political gains, leading to disastrous consequences such as the massive ethnic killings after the elections in 2007.

For more details read the article “Kenyan graffiti artists step up battle against ‘vulture’ politicians” on guardian.co.uk. The picture shown above is also featured in the article and is credited to Clar Ni Chonghaile.

Are Recent Anti-Graft Efforts in Romania Credible?

 

Recent convictions of high-level public officials, such as judge Georgeta Buliga and former prime minister Adrian Nastase, seem to show that Romania is strengthening efforts to curb corruption, in response to pressure from the European Union (EU). However, some people remain skeptical about how sustainable these efforts are and whether they will bring about long-lasting changes in the country.

Since it joined the EU in 2007, Romania has been under special monitoring with regards to improvements in its anti-corruption policies. The latest assessments by European institutions acknowledged recent efforts to prosecute politicians and officials accused of corruption, but pointed out that there is still much more to be done, such as tackling corruption in the judiciary and applying tougher sentences to graft cases.

Some reforms in this direction have taken place, for instance the implementation of new rules to check the workings of the judiciary. A bill to simplify procedures to seize assets is also being debated in Parliament.

Nevertheless, scholar Alina Mungiu-Pippidi, from the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, has alerted that repressive tactics are not enough to fight systemic corruption.

According to Laura Stefan, member of the EU team that oversees anti-graft policies in the region, there is fear that some of the steps taken to fight corruption are only ‘cosmetic efforts’, and that the country might even regress on that front following the next parliamentary elections in November.

In addition to the EU, the government also has to convince the population that real changes are taking place. The feeling of distrust toward public institutions, including the justice system, remains strong among Romanians, after many years of impunity and unequal treatment to people in power.

For additional information, read the article “EU pressure finally spurs Romania into graft action” on uk.reuters.com.

Czech Doctor Persecuted after Blowing the Whistle

Last year, Dr. Martin Konečný, a doctor at a psychological clinic close to Karlovy Vary, broke patient confidentiality to denounce one of his pacients, a former policewoman convicted for bribery, who had told him that she was negotiating a presidential pardon of her sentence in exchange for a pay-off to President Václav Klaus (pictured here). In a recent interview, he revealed that his effort to expose a corruption case has cost him his job and even led him to move to another town.

Dr. Konečný stated that he faced strong pressure from his clinic to resign even before he denounced the pacient, when he consulted with the clinic’s management about his willigness to report the case. Eventually he decided to resign, but the hospital denies that this was the result of pressure from the management.

After moving away from the Karlovy Vary region and taking a position at another clinic, Dr. Konečný finally filed a criminal complaint about what he had witnessed and brought the case to the press. He was immediately asked to leave the new job by the clinic’s management, and was suddenly contacted by several instutions with inquiries about his tax declarations and finances. Even when he was called in by the police for questioning about the complaint he had filed, the focus of the questions were rather on his motivations and not on the facts that he had reported.

This case is an example of the kind of constraints and resistance that whistleblowers are still faced with in some societies when they decide to bring to light cases of wrongdoing by public authorities.

For additional information, read the article “Czech whistleblower ‘hounded’ over presidential pardon corruption claims” on ceskapozice.cz. The picture portrayed here is also featured in the article.

Research Initiative Looks at Anti-Corruption Incentives to Businesses

The Humboldt-Viadrina School of Governance, located in Berlin, has begun a project to examine ways to motivate businesses to counter or refrain from corruption. Within the scope of this initiative, a report has been published with the results of a global survey with 223 anti-corruption experts not only from the business sector, but also from the public sector and civil society.

The survey aimed to answer questions about what strategies are most effective to engage the private sector in curbing corruption, ranging from more sanction-based approaches to alternatives of incentive schemes. The majority of respondents considered that sanctions are more effective than incentives and rewards in fighting corruption in the business sector.

Nonetheless, 92% of respondents showed support for policies of preferential treatment, particularly in procurement procedures, to companies that demonstrate compliance to anti-corruption principles. Another 77% supported the idea of establishing a corruption ranking of businesses.

For additional information read the article “Motivating business to counter corruption” on blog.transparency.org. The full report is available on humboldt-viadrina.org.

Citizens to Protest over Power Cuts in Zimbabwe

Citizens in Zimbabwe have taken a step to protest against poor services and corruption in the provision of electricity in their country. Representatives of several communities call on citizens to sign a petition for the eradication of corruption and improvement in power delivery services, and also invite them to demonstrate on March 24th.

This mobilization was motivated by citizens’ discontent with common power cuts in the country for over a decade. Households and business sometimes have to deal with days or even weeks of power shortage. However, despite evident problems in service delivery, electricity bills have remained high.

The petition came about after individuals from many communities sought assistance from the legal advice center maintained by Transparency International’s national chapter in Zimbabwe. After an unsuccessful attempt to solve the problems by contacting the involved authorities, the organization held meetings at a number of communities to discuss their problems and complaints.

Based on the issues most commonly raised – inaccurate billing method, frequent shortages and bribe requests to prevent disconnection of electricity lines from households – the TI chapter helped citizens to draft the document that will be delivered to the state-owned Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA), the country’s only power supplier. More than 2300 people have already signed the petition and another 3000 are still expected to add their support to the initiative.

The full story is available on the article “Power failure in Zimbabwe – taking to the street against corruption”, published on Transparency International’s blog. The picture portrayed here is also featured in the article.

Golos Association Calls Attention to Election Process in Russia

(by Ksenia Sokolova)

Association GOLOS conducted independent long-term and short-term monitoring of federal and regional elections set for 4 December 2011. The monitoring was performed in 48 regions of Russia. GOLOS obtained information from correspondents of newspaper “Grazhdanskiy Golos” who acted as electoral observers, expert interviews with representatives of political parties, NPO leaders, members of election commissions, as well as from citizens who reported violations in the course of campaigns – both to GOLOS representatives in person and through the ‘Map of violations at elections’.

GOLOS Association calls attention to the large-scale participation of federal, regional and local officials, including the RF president, the head of his administration, eight members of the Government, and the majority of governors, in direct campaigning for one of the parties. This creates the conditions under which the inequality of the participants inevitably predetermines the election outcome.

Some of the problems identified:

–    The legislation does not even require that they would be on vacation for this period, thus creating extreme information inequality as practically all administrations are campaigning under the guise of fulfilling their professional duties.

–    As a result of concentration of the top state bureaucracy in the list of one of the parties, and because of the hypertrophied powers of the executive branch and actual subordination of the election commissions to it, the whole state power system actually works for the results of one specific party, constantly exceeding its powers and applying pressure to the electorate, mass media, and opponents. All levels of the executive vertical are ordered to ensure the greatest possible results for United Russia party, and the administrations, in their turn, put this pressure to enterprises and institutions, in the form of direct instructions and orders to the workforce to vote for United Russia.

–    Using the budget funds, the officials make their campaign trips through the regions. Practically all regional, city and rayon administrations have been made United Russia’s campaign staffs, the heads of administrations have been declared personally responsible for its success, and are openly campaigning for United Russia, sometimes even at official events.

–    The campaigning itself is quite often conducted in educational institutions, hospitals and other health care institutions, where campaign ads of the party are also displayed. Municipal officials, employees of budget-financed organizations and of housing and utilities services are forced, through administrative pressure, to participate in the campaigning. Large-scale indirect campaigning for United Russia, in the form of social and other advertising, by its style and contents clearly associated with the ‘government party’, remains the key technique.

–    This campaigning is generally conducted using slogans and visual images, to the extent of confusion resembling those of United Russia itself. Not infrequently, the party’s logos or their imitations are present in campaign ads which formally have no relation to United Russia. All this volume of indirect campaigning is not paid for from the party’s budget or its election account.

–    Production by election commissions of campaign ads, very closely resembling United Russia’s ads, and, vice versa, publication by United Russia of campaign ads imitating the election commissions’ ads, is an especially notorious practice.

GOLOS Association notes that United Russia systemically claims for itself the results of activities of the federal, regional or local authorities, performed at the account of the respective budgets. This can be classified as false political advertising.

Along with growing importance of the Internet in the election campaigns, there have been more and more cases of using improper methods for struggling with the opponents on the Internet, including DDos attacks in order to paralyze operation of the sites of opponents and undesirable mass media, cracking of e-mail boxes, trolling etc.

There are other manipulations, including attempts to sabotage meetings with voters, organization of ‘instructive’ public opinion polls, and so on.

The picture featured above is credited to AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko.

Weekend of Massive Protests in Russia

(by Magda Barascu)

Tens of thousands of Muscovites protested on Saturday alleged electoral fraud and urged an end to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s rule. Demands repeated at other rallies across the country in the largest public show of discontent in post-Soviet Russia.

Participants in the demonstration included activists of the A Just Russia party, the unregistered People’s Freedom Party (Parnas), the Communist Party and the Blue Ribbon and Internet Community public movements.

The demonstrators also included representatives of the interregional Ussuriysk Cossack military society, the Khabarovsk scout organization, residents of Komsomolsk-on-Amur and the Khabarovsk Territory, members of garage cooperatives and a group of nationalists.

The demonstrators carried posters calling for fair elections and against a third presidential term for Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The demonstration took place just a week before presidential elections in Russia, in which Putin is widely expected to win his third term in the Kremlin.

Protests took place in more than 50 other cities from the Pacific Coast to the southwest, including a large demonstration estimated by police at 7,000 people in Saint Petersburg.

Opposition figures indicated Friday that the next step would be to call another protest in Moscow for next weekend and make it even bigger. But staged events at regular intervals may be less effective than daily spontaneous protests.

Russia’s opposition also is vulnerable to attacks on the websites and social media that have nourished the protests. This week, an official of Vkontakte, a Russian version of Facebook, reported pressure from the FSB, the KGB’s main successor, to block access to opposition groups, but said his company refused.

On election day, the websites of a main independent radio station and the country’s only independent election-monitoring group fell victim to denial-of-service hacker attacks.

 

The picture featured above is credited to AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky.

Eurobarometer Shows Increased Concern About Corruption

The results of the latest Eurobarometer survey, published by the European Commission last week, reveal that citizens continue to see corruption as a central challenge in most European countries, and in some of them corruption is even considered to be increasing.

The overall results for Europe show that almost three quarters of respondents consider corruption to be a major problem in their country. There is, however, enormous disparity among countries: in Greece, for instance, 98% of respondents shared this opinion, while only 19% in Denmark.

Almost half of all respondents declared that corruption has increased in their country. In countries like Slovenia, Cyprus, Portugal, Czech Republic and Romania, this share was more than two thirds.

The survey also raises some questions about European’s awareness regarding corruption and strategies to reduce it. An alarming result was that about 70% of Europeans consider corruption to be unavoidable. Two thirds of respondents also agreed with the statement that corruption is part of the business culture in their country.

Read the article “Corruption on the rise in Europe” on blog.transparency.org. The full Eurobarometer report is available on ec.europa.eu. The picture featured above is from thedaily.sk.

Anti-Corruption Activist Arrested in Burundi

Prominent anti-corruption activist Faustin Ndikumana has been arrested in Burundi after claiming that judges were being forced to pay bribes in exchange for their appointment. The reason for his arrest remains unclear, as no official charges have been pressed against him yet and no trial date has been determined.

Ndikumana, head of the advocacy group PARCEM, declared earlier this month at a news conference that he had written to Justice Minister Pascal Barandagiye to inform him that his organization had received information from newly-appointed judges that they had been forced to pay between $1,000 and $1,500 for their position. Ndikumana’s lawyer claims that he was arrested for defamation against the Justice Minister, but this information has not been confirmed.

Burundi has been ranked by Transparency International as the most corrupt country in East Africa. According to international analysts and donors, corruption remains one of the main factors hindering the country’s development.

Read the full article “Burundi arrests prominent corruption activist” on trust.org.

Russian Activist Recruits Monitors for Next Elections

Russian blogger and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny (pictured here) has launched a new initiative aiming at curbing fraud in the next presidential election, to take place on March 4th. The project, entitled RosVybory, seeks to recruit voluntary monitors for the precints where violations were already uncovered in the last parliamentary elections on December 4th.

According to Russian electoral law, monitors must be linked to one of candidates or parties running. Therefore, Navalny is seeking support from the Communist party, the Just Russia party and independent candidates, to which the monitors recruited through the project could be associated. According to Rosvybory coordinator Georgy Alburov, these parties should be interested in supporting the project, as they don’t have enough monitors and are concerned about guaranteeing fair elections.

The website rosvybory.org (in Russian) already has over 13,000 poeple registered as monitors. All participants will undergo training on how to prevent and identify violations. They will also be taught on how to use cameras and document violations they might uncover.

Read the full story “Monitor that!” on themoscownews.com. The picture of Mr. Navalny above is featured in the article and is credited to RIA Novosti.

Government Database Increases Transparency on Mining in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone’s government has launched an online database to increase transparency in the natural resource sector. The online repository includes information on revenue and transfers related to mining activities and on mining companies licenses. The initiative is supported by international donors and is part of the government’s efforts to comply to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

Due to a history of unregulated mining operations and the poor state of older records, the database includes only data collected from 2010 onwards. Despite this move towards more transparency, however, concerns about full disclosure on mining deals remain. Abu Brima, country director of the Network Movement for Justice and Development, raises questions about the ultimate reliability of the information uploaded on the database.

Another point of concern relates to the fact that Sierra Leone still lacks a Freedom of Information law guaranteeing access to original government records. This step is still needed to ensure that citizens will have access to all relevant information related to the mining sector.

Read the full article “Sierra Leone launches online mining database to increase transparency” on guardian.co.uk. The picture above is also featured in the article and is credited to David Levene.

New Study on the Use of Social Media in Fighting Corruption

The UNDP office in Slovakia has published a report exploring the use of social media to fight corruption in the former Soviet countries. The document examines existing literature on the topic and also takes a closer look at specific anti-corruption initiatives, with the aim of identifying main success factors. 

Some of the cases studied in detail are the Georgian version of FixMyStreet, Moldova’s crowdsourcing platform Alerte.md, the activities of the Russian blogger Alexey Navalny and the use of the Ushahidi platform to monitor elections in Kyrgyzstan.

Among the elements identified as contributing to the success of such initiatives are the use of offline media for promotion, the established reputation of the individuals behind the initiative and the verification of reports both by civil society organizations and public authorities.

Read the full article “Social media for anticorruption: lessons from the trenches” on europeandcis.undp.org.

World Bank Report Praises Anti-Corruption Reforms in Georgia

The World Bank has launched a report documenting Georgia’s successful efforts in fighting corruption since 2003. According to Philippe Le Houérou, World Bank Vice President for Europe and Central Asia Region, Georgia’s case shows how the vicious cycle of endemic corruption can be broken with the right policies.

The report “Fighting Corruption in Public Services: Chronicling Georgia’s Reforms” presents a series of case studies on the reforms implemented in selected public services, including tax administration, customs and business regulations, among others. These studies reveal how the government’s “zero-tolerance” policy was applied to various departments to reduce illegal payments in exchange of government services. Moreover, the document attempts to show the reforms also from the perspective of the decision-making process and the strategy decided upon by policy makers.

Ten factors are identified in the case studies as main explanatory components of Georgia’s success, among which strong political will, credibility of reform efforts, close coordination and the tailoring of international best-practice to local conditions.

The study emphasizes that many measures are still needed to ensure that the results achieved so far are sustainable. It also highlights that, despite some unique aspects regarding Georgia’s conditions, its case offers valuable lessons to other countries facing high levels of corruption.

Read the press release “Georgia’s Fight Against Corruption in Public Services Wins Praise” on web.worldbank.org.

New Initiative Corruption Watch Launched in South Africa

A new civil society initiative has been launched to help curb corruption in South Africa. Corruption Watch, initiated by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), was founded as a non-profit organization to collect, analyze and publicize information about corruption cases received anonymously from whistleblowers through a website and a cellphone message hotline. Additionally, the organization will take complaints to law enforcement authorities for further investigation.

According to a speaker from COSATU at the launch event, the objective of the new organization is to gather public participation in naming and shaming corrupt politicians and public officials, and to strengthen public disapproval of corruption. COSATU’s initiative follows their efforts to pressure the governing party African National Congress (ANC), to which they are allied, to taking a tougher stance against corruption, especially in case of suspicions against party members.

Regarding the risk of the reporting mechanisms being used to make false accusations, the individuals behind the project emphasized the importance of verifying information posted by users. According to Ben Elers, from Transparency International, similar initiatives in other countries have collaborated with government agencies and the media to ensure that information made public is not based on false claims.

Read the full article “Unions back anti-corruption campaign in S.Africa” on newsday.com. The picture above is featured in the article and is credited to AP and Denis Farrell.