Stronger Whistleblower Protection Needed in Central America

An article by Eleanor Kennedy published on Transparency International’s blog highlights how the lack of efforts to protect whistleblowers, associated with cultural and social elements, remains an important obstacle to fighting corruption in Central America.

The author mentions that the social and political context in many countries in the region creates significant disincentives to potential whistleblowers, especially due to the prevalence of violence and organized crime, which create real threats to the lives of individuals willing to reveal corruption and wrongdoing. Cases of whistleblowers who are threatened and intimidated by criminals are not uncommon.

This issue was addressed at the Central American and Dominican Republican Forum for Transparency, where many civil society representatives pointed out that commitments to protect whistleblowers deriving from the Inter-American Convention against Corruption were not being satisfactorily met by many governments in the region. 

Participants at the event produced a series of recommendations, including concerns about effectively protecting the identity of whistleblowers, creating legislation applicable both to the public and the private sectors and extending protection to witnesses and victims as well, among other things. The need to associate such measures to efforts to strengthen a culture of whistleblowing and the establishment of adequate structures for whistleblower protection was also stressed at the event.

Another article published on the blog, by Anja Osterhaus, calls attention to the fact that lack of adequate whistleblower protection still remains a weakness in many developed countries as well. In a recent case in Germany, a nurse uncovered mistreatment of elderly patients and was later fired by her employer. When she later tried to sue the company, she realized that the entire German legal system did not have any provision to protect her from losing her job. Weak mechanisms to enforce protection of whistleblowers are also the case in other European countries.

However, a recent positive development was the commitment by G20 countries to implement more comprehensive whistleblower protection legislation following a compendium of best practices and guidelines drafted by the OECD. The concern that remain is whether this commitment will be fulfilled and stronger measures to protect whistleblowers will be effectively implemented by the countries.

Read the articles “Blowing the whistle in Central America: not as easy as it sounds” and “German nurse shows need for G20 check-up” on blog.transparency.org. The picture featured above is from cpsu.org.au.

Integrity Clubs Raise Awareness Among Students in India

The Central Vigilance Commission, an anti-corruption government institution in India, has called on schools associated with the Council of Indian School Certificate Examination (CISCE) and the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) to found student integrity clubs, with the objective of raising awareness among students about the need to fight corruption.

The Commission’s efforts to implement this project follows a successful pilot run in New Delhi. According to Gerry Arathoon, secretary at CISCE, the initiative is based on an idea to establish co-curricular activities that promote moral and anti-corruption values among students. Participants in the clubs should engage in activities such as visiting government offices and encouraging individuals to say no to corruption.

Many schools have welcomed the initiative and some have already engaged in activities, such as debates and discussion groups, to sensitize students about corruption and keep them informed about a debate that has gained much strength in India in the last year.

Read the article “Students turn anti-corruption champions” on dnaindia.com. The picture featured above is from bbc.co.uk and is credited to Prashant Ravi.

I Paid a Bribe Initiative Launched in Kenya

The “I Paid a Bribe” project, a successful initiative implemented in India by the NGO Janaagraha, has now for the first time been replicated in another country, and is being implemented in Kenya since last December. According to Anthony Regui, the founder of the initiative in Kenya, the website (http://www.ipaidabribe.or.ke/) has already registered 300 bribery reports.

The Kenyan version is based on the software used by the Indian project and guarantees anonymity to users who report their cases. One of the main objectives of the initiative, as in the Indian case, is to generate information about how and where bribes take place.

In addition to the reporting system, the website also offers a section where people write about their experiences in avoiding bribes, and a third section with stories about positive examples of honest public officials and good public service delivery.

Read the full article “Kenyan activist launches anti-bribe website” on dailybulletin.com.

 

Human Rights Watch Publishes Feature on Russian Civil Society

Human Rights Watch released recently a feature on the development of Russian civil society in the last years and its current situation. An article by Carroll Bogert, deputy executive director of the organization, emphasizes how civil society has grown since the collapse of the Soviet Union and how active it has become, as shown by the numerous demonstrations following fradulent elections last December.

Bogert also highlights the challenges that civil society organizations continue to face in the country. One example is the law introduced in 2006 by Vladimir Putin to regulate the non-profit sector. NGOs claim that this new legislation increased red tape to intentionally reduce their independence and eventually make it impossible for them to survive, but fortunately the vast majority of independent groups has managed to continue with their activities.

Another major problem threating Russian activists is the violence directed towards investigative journalists, human rights activists and whistleblowers. Many of them have risked their lives, and cases of murder are not uncommon. Civil society activists are also often attacked through legal means, by unfounded lawsuits that aim at suffocating them and their organizations financially.

Despite all these obstacles, one promising factor that has developed recently is the increase in internet access and the establishment of the internet as a place for the circulation of independent and critical information, in contrast to the traditional media, that has been kept under pressure by the government for years. As information flows on the internet are harder to circulate, this should give civil society more room to raise awareness and mobilize support in the next years.

Read the full article “Acting up. A portrait of Russian civil society, age twenty” on hrw.org. The feature also includes photos and videos with profiles of a number of civil society activists. The picture featured above is from rferl.org and is credited to RIA Novosti.

Ti Slovakia Launches Public Procurement Portal

Transparency International’s national chapter in Slovakia has launched a new online platform that discloses information on public procurement procedures since 2005. The website, called “Open Public Procurement“, gathers data on more than 30,000 contracts worth more than 22 billion euros.

The website provides detailed and aggregated information sorted according to procurers, suppliers, sectors and regions. The objective of this initiative is to offer users with information to analyze competitiveness of public procurement or elements of market concentration.

Read the press release “Transparency Launched Open Public Procurement Site” on transparency.sk.

the Use of Social Media to Fight Corruption

An article by Giulio Quaggiotto, published on UNDP’s Voices from Eurasia, discusses the use of social media to fight corruption and promote transparency. Mr. Quaggiotto refers to projects presented at a regional conference organized by UNDP in Belgrade earlier this month and raises some important questions about how these platforms can be used most effectively and what lessons can be learned from previous initiatives.

According to contributions from participants at the event in Belgrade, main issues associated with the success of such initiatives are linked to how their impact is defined and measured and whether their sustainability can be guaranteed. Additionally, an important element of success is the ability of social media initiatives to foster and monitor the participation of citizens and generate response from governments.

The discussion with participants led to conclusions focusing on the importance of differentiating projects made to reach citizens at large and the ones that target rather specialized audiences of individuals with more specific knowledge about public information and the functioning of public administrations. Some examples are websites dedicated to publishing data on public procurement or budgeting processes, which might only attract a small numbers of users, who can nonetheless perceive and expose irregularities and thereby successfully create pressure for action by government. On the other hand, some initiatives also manage to use creative formats of displaying complex information, in order to make it more attractive and easily understandable to the general public.  

One important weakness pointed out in most projects was that, although they commonly make use of popular online platforms, efforts to promote them and make them known by the anti-corruption community at the regional and international levels are still needed to allow for the identification of best practices and ideas worth replicating in different contexts.

Read the article “Social media for anticorruption: from ‘why’ to ‘how to'” on europeandcis.undp.org.

National Integrity System Assessment for Czech Republic Launched

Transparency International’s national chapter in the Czech Republic released recently a National Integrity System assessment showing how “healthy” the main governance institutions in the country are, considering their resources, accountability, transparency and role in fighting corruption. The study showed that corruption in public procurement remains one of the main problems to be tackled.

According to the report, the “healthiest” institutions are the Ombudsman and the Supreme Auditing Office. These are, however, like islands of integrity in a system where fundamental institutions show weaknesses. The state prosecutor’s office, for instance, received the lowest score, mainly due to its lack of independence from political parties. On a positive note, however, this institution is currently undergoing important reforms expected to bring improvements in its performance.

A cross-cutting issue identified in the report refers to the accountability of institutions, which seems to be not so clearly defined in the case of institutions such as the police and the civil service. Both the concepts of accountability and integrity are not well translated into legal provisions applicable to the public sector, and this reveals the need for a broader debate on how regulations should more clearly reflect these principles.

Read the article “Health Czech! Any surprising results from the Czech Integrity System assessment?” on blog.transparency.org. The full study is available in Czech on transparency.cz.

Yemeni Public Raises Voice Against Corruption

An article by Abubakr al-Shamahi discusses how political tension seems to be increasing recently in Yemen, where the past weeks have seen demonstrations escalate onto strikes that have managed to create great pressure on the government to combat corruption more strongly.

The protests have been motivated mostly by economic inequality and represent a reaction directed against politicians and state officials seen as corrupt. One example was the strike of Yemenia Airways employees, who successfully pressured for the removal of the company’s director, which took place two days after the strike began. Widespread corruption in the company’s management has led it close to bankruptcy.

Other public employees, including traffic and police officers, followed with demonstrations and strikes, and as a symbolic gesture prevented the heads of their departments, many accused of corruption, to access the offices. Anti-corruption manifestations spread even into the Military, where soldiers pushed for the dismissal of General Ali Hassan al-Shater, know to be an important ally to the government. The government did not resist the pressure and announced that al-Shater will be replaced.

These movements have also revealed a leading role of the youth, especially students, in mobilizing the public to protest. One example was the “Life March”, which took place over a 250km-long way from the city Taiz to Sana’a, in protest against lack of democracy in the country. They could be a sign of important changes with regards to people’s acceptance of corruption and the way the government deals with it.

Read the full article “New ‘parallel revolution’ against corruption” on aljazeera.com. The picture above is featured in the article and is credited to EPA.

Efforts to Increase Transparency in Brazil

In 2011, Brazilian politics was tainted by the resignation of six ministers accused of corruption. However, the same year also had important developments toward increasing transparency, such as the passing of an Access to Information law, Brazil’s leading position in the launch of the Open Government Partnership and civil society initiatives to disseminate public information.

After years advocating for a Freedom of Information law, Brazilian activists saw its passing at last, but not without controversial debates in Parliament. Former President and now Senator Fernando Collor de Mello, for instance, argued against the proposed bill, claiming that it would be detrimental for government efficiency. He also positioned himself in favor of keeping sensitive documents under permanent confidential status. In the end, Congress decided for the passing of the law, establishing confidential status for secret documents for a maximum period of 25 years. The new law shall come into force next May.

In parallel, an online movement to develop and promote tools for the dissemination of public information has grown. One of the resources created is called “Queremos Saber” (“We Want to Know”), which provides the public with a single platform to send queries to public officials. If the requests for information are denied, the website makes it public. This and other initiatives also aim at tackling a recurrent problem regarding access to information, namely the fact that the government does makes large amounts of data available, but often in a format difficult to analyze and interpret.

A group of Members of Parliament is actively engaged in increasing transparency concerning votes casted by MPs in Parliament. The present Constitution allows for votes to be secret in certain circumstances, but the Parliamentary Front in Defence of the Open Vote advocates for an amendment to determine that MP votes in all matters shall be public. A large share of representatives and senators has adhered to this movement, but more votes would be needed to pass it in both Houses.

After Brazil’s early involvement in the making and launch of the Open Government Partnership, the country should also face more international pressure to continue on this path and develop further measures to promote government transparency.

Read the full article “How Brazil is opening up access to official information” on bbc.co.uk. The picture above is featured in the article and is credited to AFP.

Vietnamese Reporter Arrested After Exposing Police Corruption

The journalist Nguyen Van Khuong has been arrested in Ho Chi Minh City under charges of bribery, after exposing corruption within the traffic police in the newspaper Tuoi Tre. Khuong is known for his investigative work and has published many articles uncovering corruption in the police. He shall remain in custody for four months, until the investigation on his case is concluded.

According to the accusation against him, Khuong bribed a traffic police officer for the release of an impounded vehicle. The bribe took place as part of undercover investigative reporting, in which he pretended to be a traffic offender in order to obtain evidence of corruption in the police.

Reporter Without Borders expressed strong criticism about his arrest, claiming that his actions were taken in the public interest, and not for personal gain.

Read the full article “Newspaper reporter arrested for undercover investigation of police corruption” on en.rsf.org. The picture above is from talkvietnam.com.

 

Initiatives to Increase Transparency in Elections in Latin America

An article by Marta Erquicia on Transparency International’s blog talks about civil society initiatives to monitor elections in four Latin American countries in the last months. The projects focused on the use of new technologies and social media to provide information to the public and collect reports of electoral violations.

In Argentina, for instance, TI’s national chapter Poder Ciudadano launched the campaign “Quién te banca?” (“Who is supporting you?”) to inform citizens about campaign funding and spending. Another initiative in partnership with other NGOs, called “Vota Inteligente”, published election programmes as a way to make voters better informed about what candidates stood for. A web platform allowed voters to identify candidates whose political positions were closest to their own.

In Nicaragua, an online application was created by the organization Etica y Transparencia to allow voters to report violations on election day. A similar initiative was implemented in Guatemala, where over 500 complaints were registered.

TI’s national chapter in Colombia also created an innovative tool to increase transparency about campaign funds. The software Cuentas Claras became very successful as a campaign finance reporting system, as it was used by many candidates and was later adoped by the National Electoral Council as the official application to ensure accountability of election campaigns.

Read the full article “Latin American elections: how to use social media to promote transparency” on blog.transparency.org. The picture featured above is from elespectador.com

Lokpal Bill Approved by Indian Cabinet

India’s Cabinet approved yesterday a bill to establish an ombudsman body to fight corruption in the country. The bill shall be presented in Parliament tomorrow and is expected to pass before the end of the current legislative session. However, anti-corruption activists and the opposition questioned the bill’s provisions and claimed that it will create a toothless agency.

One of the main controversial points regarding the approved bill refers to the fact that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), India’s main criminal investigation agency, will maintain its powers and the new Ombudsman agency will only have the authority to refer cases to CBI for investigation.

Another critical point is related to the government officials that will not fall under the scope of the new agency. The bill established that a serving Prime Minister may be the target of corruption probes, but members of CBI and low-level bureaucrats will be outside its jurisdiction.

Activists led by Anna Hazare strongly criticized the bill and continue to advocate for the Lokpal body to be established as an independent agency with investigative capacities. Mr. Hazare vowed to begin a three-day hunger strike on December 27th to pressure the government to accept the bill proposed by him and his supporters.

Read the full article “Indian Cabinet’s Anti-Graft Bill Brings Vow of Further Protests” on bloomberg.com. The picture featured above is from bbc.co.uk and is credited to the Associated Press (AP).

Russian Ngo Launches Anti-Corruption Program

The Russian organization “Committee for Fighting Corruption” has developed a new program entitled “World Without Corruption”, which is focused on the collaboration between civil society and the private sector towards strengthening the implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) until 2020. The program has received the collaboration and support from international experts and activists and is being implemented within the scope of the UN Global Compact network in Russia.

In an article published on the website “Russia beyond the headlines”, Anatoly Golubev, founder and Chairman of the Board of Committee for Fighting Corruption, highlights the need for collective action to tackle corruption, including the involvement of multiple sectors of society, such as the media, academia, unions and religious organizations, all of which can make valuable contributions towards the goal of reducing corruption in a country.

Mr. Golubev also emphasizes that civil society efforts to fight corruption should be developed in partnership with the business sector, which is in its majority negatively affected by corruption and is therefore “the main and natural ally of civil society in their fight against corruption”.

Read the full article “Russian NGO Pitches Anti-corruption to UN” on rbth.ru. The picture featured above is from forbes.com.

 

Should Monitoring of Transparency Be Kept Secret? – by Alina Mungiu-Pippidi and Christopher Walker

In a laudable effort to raise awareness about corruption and to mobilize to combat it, the United Nations General Assembly designated December 9th as International Anticorruption Day. The UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), which came into force in December 2005, has been ratified by some 140 countries to date. Given the turbulent economic climate and increasingly sour mood around the globe in developing and developed countries alike toward venal political leadership and business, meaningful anticorruption efforts can have an important salutary impact in giving citizens a stake in their governance and reducing cynicism.

So it is rather curious and disappointing that the first review reports of the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) regarding the convention’s implementation are not going to be made public if governments do not want to. In essence, this review of performance in improving transparency is, well, being kept secret.

Why is this important?

Apart from the obvious problematic optics, this approach strikes a blow at the heart of a potentially successful anticorruption initiative.

A report by Hertie School of Governance released by NORAD in 30/09/2011 indicates that to date there is no statistically significant difference in progress between countries which adopted the UNCAC and those that did not. Tellingly, there was also no difference between those countries that established anticorruption agencies and those which did not. The crucial pieces to this puzzle that can propel anticorruption success are the depth of political will from governments. Over the longer term, wider society needs to be engaged and, in turn, drive demand for greater probity in order to secure durable anticorruption success. 

If we look at the recent history of democratic development, we see some important lessons, and should not be entirely surprised by the slow impact of the UNCAC. 

Five years after the 1948 adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, only a small group of countries in the world could be considered as fully respecting such rights. By 2010, according to “Freedom of the World,” Freedom House’s annual assessment of political rights and civil liberties, their number had grown to 87, representing 45 percent of the world’s 194 polities and 43 percent of the global population. This democratic progress can be attributed primarily to citizens who fought for democratic rights as part of a rise in demand for freedom in these countries. International pressures for norm adoption and their implementation also played a crucial role.

The story of UNCAC has some parallels. Many countries adopted ethical universalism as a norm, which simplifies the job of anti-corruption fighters because it provides them with legitimacy (few can still defend government favoritism as cultural exception) and tools (any citizen can monitor government if good freedom of information legislation is in place).  But it is also critical to generate significant domestic demand for new rules of the game. Without public participation in the reform process, sustained political will is unachievable.

As the Hertie School report observed: “Accountability to the entire society regarding the implementation of UNCAC is a minimal requirement in building the general accountability of governments. In this context, the ownership principle in donor sponsored anti-corruption must simply be interpreted as ownership by the society, not by the government.” 

If we combine findings from “Freedom of the World,” Freedom House’s annual assessment of political rights and civil liberties, with World Bank Governance Control of Corruption indicator we find 32 countries which are rated as Not Free and below the threshold of 60 on the Control of Corruption scale (0-100).  In other words, these are countries run by dictators and their cronies, who treat the state as their own patrimony. But their number is currently superseded by a new group of plural corrupt countries which in “Freedom of the World,” are categorized as Partly Free and Free, but rated below the threshold of 60 on the Control of Corruption.  There are over ninety such countries, making them the largest group in the world. Elections are held regularly in these countries, but groups competing for power only end up by spoiling the state in their turn. Statistical evidence from the same report shows that empowerment of the society, through NGO and community watchdog systems, Internet infrastructure and help for the independent media are the most effective anticorruption tools.

The potential of the UNCAC will be squandered if local media and civil society play only a marginal role, when they themselves should be the main monitors of implementation and users of institutional weapons provided by the treaty. The Convention will have an impact only if a critical mass in every society contributes to a check on the government. Grounding the oversight of implementation in domestic civil societies is the place to start.

 

Alina Mungiu-Pippidi is Chair of Democracy Studies and director of the ANTICORRP project at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. Christopher Walker is Vice-President for Strategy and Analysis at Freedom House. The picture featured above is from trust.org.

Massive Citizen Reporting Uncovers Electoral Violations in Russia

An article by Gregory Asmolov published on Global Voices emphasizes the role of citizens in uncovering numerous irregularities in the Russian Parliamentary elections last Sunday. According to the author, the use of technology made it possible to massively document evidence of election fraud and to question the legitimacy of the results.

In these elections, citizen-based reporting produced a mass of material, including documents, photos and videos registering practices to manipulate the results, and these were immediately made available to a large public online. This was possible due to increased involvement of citizens in the election process, for instance as voluntary observers to the election committees. This kind of participation allowed them to closely follow what went on and led to reports of fraud, such as in the case of an observer who identified inconsistencies between the original concluding report in his voting section and the results published online by the election authorities. Opposition politicians, political activists and monitoring organizations were also highly active in reporting online about the problems they encountered.

The scale of these reports and their increased visibility through the use of social media contributed to quickly spread the perception of manipulation in the election results. In the following day, opposers of Vladimir Putin and Russia’s ruling party, United Russia, took it to the streets to protest against the results, and hundreds of participants in the demonstrations were arrested.

Nevertheless, the same tools were at the disposal of those arrested to register their experiences live and broadcast it immediately on the internet. Opposition politician Ilya Ponomarev, for instance, recorded and broadcasted the moments he spent in a police station. Anti-corruption blogger Alexey Navalny (pictured here), arrested and sentenced to 15 days in prison last Tuesday, posted pictures from inside the car in which he and other detainees were transported by the police.

Citizen activism in the Russian case has set an example of how society can complement traditional media and help disseminate important information of political events, thereby contributing to keep the public administration in check.

Read the full article “Russia: Election and the ‘Other Side of Panopticon'” on globalvoicesonline.org. The picture of Mr. Navalny shown above is from bbc.co.uk and is credited to Reuters.

Czech Paper Launches Petition for Tougher Stance on Corruption

The Czech tabloid Blesk, one of the most popular daily publications in the country, has launched a petition online demanding law enforcement agencies to conduct tougher investigations on corruption cases. The newspaper also published a list of the 20 most corrupt Czech politicians, based on a poll with 50,000 people.

The article annoucing the petition claimed that corrupt politicians have exerted influence on the police, the state prosecution and the justice system and that this is keeping such institutions from doing their part in fighting corruption effectively. The petition seeks to appeal to the readers to manifest their insatisfaction with the situation of corruption in the country. Recent opinion polls have shown that over 90% of the population believes that corruption is a serious problem in the country and only 24% believe that progress has been made recently in tackling the problem. 

Read the full article “Czech tabloid launches petition demanding authorities crack down on corruption” on ceskapozice.cz. The picture above is featured in the article and is credited to Blesk.

 

Mobile Legal Advice Centers Reach out to Rural Areas in Africa

Advocacy and Legal Advice Centers (ALACs) have become a central point of Transparency International’s national chapters’ activities in many countries. Their main objective is to empower victims of corruption and help them to make use of their legal rights. Some chapters in Africa have now taken a further step to make these initiatives more effective, by organizing mobile ALACs to reach remote locations where access to justice is much limited.

These mobile ALACs, which are usually organized once a month, seek to bring to citizens in rural areas the same services available in the cities, complemented by training on legislation applicable to corruption cases. This approach has counted on the collaboration of mayors, village chiefs, local media vehicles and even so-called “town criers” to give it more visibility and inform the local population when the ALACs are scheduled to come.

The experience so far has shown that the public is very receptive to the initiative and appreciates a space to communicate their issues and find assistance to solve their cases. A number of meetings are organized with local participants, in which they are informed about corruption issues and relevant legislation, and where they are encouraged to denouce corrupt practices that they may witness. Mobile ALACs also collect complaints by citizens and makes legal counselling available to them, at the same time protecting their anonymity.

Read the full article “Mobile ALACs in Africa: Giving Citizens from Rural Areas a Voice” by Laura Granado, available on blog.transparency.org. The picture shown above is featured in the article.

Civil Societys Achievements Against Corruption in 2011

An article by Christina zur Nedden, from the Communications Department at Transparency International, summarizes important achievements by civil society in fighting corruption during 2011 and highlights that many events this year have contributed to bringing corruption more strongly on the international agenda.

The author calls attention for the impact of the Arab Spring in giving unprecedented momentum to collective activism. Additionally, the regime changes in North Africa also raised important questions regarding the issue of recovery of assets stolen by dictators. In France, for instance, investigations on assets from Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria have already begun.

Initiatives by some of TI’s chapters are also mentioned, in particular projects directed at increasing transparency of expenditures in social programs, as a means of reducing corruption that directly affects the most vulnerable groups in several countries, such as Bolivia, Peru and India.

Among other achivements, this year also saw a successful campaign for increased aid transparency, promoted by a numbers of international organizations in order to pressure governments to adhere to a new set of standards in reporting about their aid flows. 

The full article “Fighting corruption in 2011” can be read on blog.transparency.org. The picture above is credited to Reuters.

Anti-Corruption Activism in India on the Rise

Anti-corruption activists in India are becoming more and more creative and finding original – and unconventional – ways to express their discontent with the situation in the country, where several corruption cases have been uncovered this year and the government has hesitated to adopt an anti-corruption law.

Recent scandals, such as the ones involving licenses to mobile phone services and the organization of the Commonwealth Games, have shown that corruption is still a big problem in India. However, corruption seems also to be widespread at the local level, where citizens often have to pay small bribes for access to basic public services.

Despite claims that petty corruption in India is in fact generally accepted by the population, numerous anti-corruption demonstrations have shown otherwise. Some examples include complaints to public offices, letters to newspapers about corruption cases and also barricades by students to keep bureaucrats from leaving their offices. Last week, such manifestations reached an extreme point when citizens released 40 snakes in a local tax office, in protest against attempts by officials to bribe them.

These actions illustrates how Indian citizens are raising their voice against corruption, in attempt to bring change even with the limited power and resources that they have.

Read the full article “India’s vibrant anti-corruption activists” on bbc.co.uk. The picture shown above is featured in the article and is credited to Getty Images.

Ti Launches 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index

Transparency International (TI) released the 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index  last week, which measured the perceived level of corruption in 183 countries and territories based on data from 17 international surveys. The index scores each country on a scale from zero (most corrupt) to 10 (least corrupt). According to the results, two thirds of the countries scored in the bottom half of the scale and are therefore considered as significantly corrupt.

This year’s edition ranked New Zealand, Finland and Denmark at the top and Somalia and North Korea at the very bottom. A general trend to be observed is that many countries with the lowest scores are failed states or conflict-ridden countries, such as Sudan, Iraq and Haiti.

In its press release, TI called attention for the relevance of this index in 2011, when protests motivated by corruption and economic challenges multiplied all over the world. The Arab countries that experienced uprisings, for instance, scored below 4. European countries most affected by the current economic crisis, such as Greece and Italy, are also among the worst performers in their region.

Regarding the methodology used to put together this index, TI reminds users that it does not allow for comparisons of a country’s scores with results from previous years.

Read the press release “2011 – A crisis in governance: Protests that marked 2011 show anger at corruption in politics and public sector” and access interactive resources on the 2011 CPI’s page.

Most Countries Disrespect Their Own Freedom of Information Laws

A story published by the Associated Press (AP) last week revealed that most countries with Freedom of Access to Information laws do not follow them properly. In a test with over 100 countries with such legislation, more than half failed to provide the requested information and only 14 disclosed the data within the legal deadline.

The study was the first worldwide attempt to verify to what extent these laws are being effectively implemented. During an entire week in January AP journalists sent requests of information about terrorism arrests and convictions to 105 countries and the European Union.

In the small group of governments that processed the requests in a timely manner are, for instance, Guatemala, which sent the documents after 10 days, and Turkey, which needed only a week to reply. Canada and the United States, on the other hand, needed more that six months to provide the information, and in the latter case part of the data was censored. More than 40 countries never acknowledged the request or refused to provide the information on the basis of national security.

The results point out to a trend of countries’ adopting this kind of legislation as a result of pressure or incentives from international organizations, however without any intention of implementing it. In some countries, such as India and Uganda, there have even been cases of political persecution against individuals who tried to make use of right-to-know laws.

Read the full article AP Impact: Right-to-know laws often ignored on hosted.ap.org. More details about the results of the study can be accessed on AP’s Facebook page. The agency is also accepting suggestions for future information requests to be made in the next parts of their Freedom of Information project. The picture shown above is credited to AP.

TI Launches Portal on Measuring Corruption

Transparency International has launched GATEway, a new online portal dedicated to documenting and sharing existing knowledge on corruption assessment. The platform offers a collection of materials on different methodologies developed and applied to measure and analyze corruption.

The objective of this initiative is to provide civil society actors, government officials and researchers with easy access to different approaches, in order to enable them to identify the most appropriate tools that can be applied to their work.

The GATEway website already offers more than 250 tools to assess corruption, organized in a searchable database. It also includes guides on the different approaches documented, highlighting best practice and the strengths and weaknesses of each methodology. Additionally, the platform offers a space for discussions and contributions by users.

The full press release about the new project is available at transparency.org

Kosova Democratic Institute Publishes Report on Political Finance

The Kosova Democratic Institute (KDI) published earlier this month the report entitled Legislation and Practices in the Financing of Political Parties, developed as part of Transparency International’s CRINIS research project on political finance. The report highlights that finances of political parties in Kosovo continue to be characterized by lack of transparency and accountability, and that this has contributed to a generalized perception of political parties as the most corrupted political institutions in the country.

The publication analyzes last year’s financial reports of the six main political parties in Kosovo and assesses the country’s legislation on party finance and the performance of the main oversight body, the Central Election Commission (CEC). According to the assessment, regulation for book-keeping and scope of reporting by parties have good standards, whereas preventive measures, sanctions and efficiency of oversight by the CEC still need improvement.

The study also identified a gap between the legal framework for party finance and the actual practice by political parties, revealing a problem with the implementation of laws in this area. Another important conclusion stated in the document is the need for improvements in the regulation of funding by private donors and for the consolidation of the legal framework for political finance into a single piece of legislation.

Read the full article Political parties the ‘most corrupt institutions in Kosovo’ on reportingproject.net. The report is available on kdi-kosova.org.

Report Exposes Dimension of Corruption in Ben Ali’s Regime

A report presented last Friday by a National Investigation Committee in Tunisia revealed details about evidence of corruption and misappropriation by members of Ben Ali’s regime. The document concluded that corruption was widespread across state agencies, ministries and even the media.

According to Neji Baccouche, a legal expert who presented the Committee’s findings, around 5,000 files were examined and 320 were sent to the prosecutor’s office for further investigations.

The document also included a portrayal of Ben Ali’s and his wife Leila Trabelsi’s life style based on what was found at the former leader’s official residence. Mr. Baccouche suggested that the presidential palace be turned into a museum to remind the public of the corruption that characterized the old regime.

Read the full article Ben Ali Baba’s cave: Tunisia may turn palace into ‘corruption’ museum on middle-east-online.com. The picture shown above is also featured in the article.

Report on Corrupt Money Flows Shows the Need for Increased Corporate Transparency

The Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR) from the World Bank and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime published on Monday the report The Puppet Masters: How the Corrupt Use Legal Structures to Hide Stolen Assets and What to Do About It. The study is based on an analysis of 150 grand corruption cases from the last 30 years, complemented by an assessment of company registration procedures in 40 jurisdictions and the contributions of almost 80 experts.

The evidence provided by those sources shows that corrupt government officials involved in the selected cases consistently made use of institutional loopholes allowing the creation of intransparent organizations that help them cover up traces of illegal transactions.

Among the policy recommendations discussed in the report, there is emphasis on the need to increase corporate transparency by developing registries with more detailed ownership and control information. The report also mentions that the capacity of law enforcement institutions to investigate complex legal and financial structures must improve, in order to match the challenges imposed by such corrupt practices.

Read the full press release Corrupt Money Concealed in Shell Companies and Other Opaque Legal Entities, Finds New StAR Study. Emile van der Does de Willebois, senior Financial Sector specialist at the World Bank and one of the report’s author, also posted about it on Transparency International’s blog. The full report can be accessed on StAR’s website.