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.

British Mps Concerned About More Aid Money Lost to Corruption

The British Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee has published a report warning the government against focusing development aid on high-risk countries, suggesting that it would lead to more aid resources being lost to corruption.

The report was a response to the announcement by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) regarding its plans to direct aid flows more strongly towards fragile countries such as Somalia and Pakistan.

The document also argued that the decision to direct a larger share of aid through multilateral institutions would make aid flows more vulnerable to fraud, as this means that the British government would have reduced control over how the money is spent and how funded projects are monitored.

International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell responded to the report highlighting that the current government has a great concern about corruption related to development, and that it has taken measures to minimize it by conditioning aid spending on project results and by stablishing an independent aid watchdog to monitor finances in the development assistance department.

International civil society organizations such as Save the Children, Mango and Transparency International UK have also reacted critically to the report and expressed concern about the risk that it would keep the government from targeting aid to the countries most in need.

Read the full article UK overseas aid lost to fraud ‘could rise’ on bbc.co.uk. A press release about Mango’s and Transparency International UK’s opinion on the report is available on transparency.org.uk. The picture shown above is also featured in the article by BBC.

Uncac Coalition Publishes Civil Society Review Reports

The UNCAC Coalition has published on its website a series of reports prepared by civil society organizations to assess their country’s performance with regards to compliance to the UN Convention against Corruption and to the review process initiated in 2010. Reports from the first review cycle already cover 15 countries.

The reports have been made available shortly before the beginning of the 4th United Nations Conference of State Parties to the the UNCAC, to take place in Marrakesh, Morocco between the 24th and 28th of October. During the event, more civil society reports will be made available to the public on the website.

The documents can be accessed here.

TI Russia to Monitor Corruption in State Enterprises

Transparency International’s National Chapter in Russia announced today that it will be assessing state companies in the next months, in order to verify whether anti-corruption measures have been put in place in those institutions and also whether they have been effective or not.

According to Elena Panfilova, head of the organization, their analysis will also look into state companies’ business transactions and check for possible irregularities.

TI Russia has already checked the state civil nuclear company Rosatom this year and problems in procurement processes have been identified. The institution has notified the company and sent a list with recommendations.

Read the full article Russia’s anti-corruption watchdog to check state companies in 2011 on en.rian.ru. The picture featured above is from forbes.com.

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.

Activists Call on Uncac Parties to Pressure Morocco

The pro-democracy organization Mamfakinch sent this Tuesday an open letter to representatives of State Parties to the UN Convention against Corruptin (UNCAC), who are gathered in Marrakesh for the 4th UNCAC State Parties meeting until October 28th. In the letter, the organization emphasizes that Morocco has not been fulfilling its promises to improve control of corruption and that other State Parties to the convention should put pressure on the Moroccan government to strenghten anti-corruption policies.

According to the document, posted on Mamfakinch’s website, corruption is widespread in the country as has become worse in the last decade. Its authors highlight particularly that measures such as the creation of an anti-corruption body and the adoption of some anti-corruption laws have not been effective in tackling corruption.

Moreover, they criticize the government for its lack of transparency and reluctance to consult with civil society organizations during the UNCAC review process.

Read the article Activists urge Morocco to clean up its act on corruption on trust.org. The pictured shown above is also featured in the article and is credited to Reuters. The full version of the open letter is available on mamfakinch.com.

TI Sri Lanka Releases Reports on Country’s Governance

Transparency International’s national chapter in Sri Lanka releases this week two new reports analyzing the country’s governance structures and anti-corruption institutional framework: the National Integrity System (NIS) assessment and the Governance Report for 2010.

The National Integrity System (NIS) assessment is based on a methodology implemented by Transparency International and evaluates 13 institutions considered to be the main pillars to the country’s integrity system. Apart from basic institutions such as the three government branches and the electoral commission, the study also takes into account the Human Rights Commission and the Commission Investigating Allegations Against Bribery and Corruption active in Sri Lanka. Important actors such as political parties, media, civil society and the business sector are also integrated to the assessment.

The study takes as reference the period between December 2009 and December 2010 and it is the first ever published for Sri Lanka. The main findings are that the business sector is the pillar with the best capacity to fight corruption, whereas the media, the Bribery Commission and law enforcement agencies, among others, are relatively weak in that respect. Some of factors that explain these institutions’ defficiencies are insufficient financial and human resources, a weak culture of public accountability and the absence of whistleblower protection legislation.

The Governance Report, differently than the NIS assessment, is published annually by TI Sri Lanka in partnership with other authors and seeks to foster public debate on specific issues. The 2010 edition focuses on Centralization of Power as a topic.

Read the full article published on TI Sri Lanka’s website. The full versions of the NIS Study 2010 and the Governance Report 2010 are also available online.

TI Slovakia and Fair-Play Alliance Launch Open Contracts Portal

Transparency International’s national chapter in Slovakia and the civil society organization Fair-Play Alliance have launched on Monday the portal Open Contracts, which brings together all available information on public contracts on one single platform accessible to citizens.

According to TI Slovakia, the organization has pressured the government to publish data on state contracts, and although public agencies have been improving transparency about public spending, the information is scattered across thousands of individual websites. The Open Contracts portal aims at addressing that problem by aggregating the data and allowing users to find the information they are looking for more easily.

More information is available on TI Slovakia’s website (in Slovak only). The Open Contracts website is also available in Slovak only, but a translated version can be accessed here.

Us Accuses Equatorial Guinea’s Minister of Corruption

The government of the United States has filed civil complaints requesting the forfeiture of $70 million in assets owned by Teodorin Nguema Obiang Mangue (pictured here), a minister in Equatorial Guinea and son of the country’s President.

According to the forfeiture complaints, filed in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., Teodorin Obiang’s assets originate from misappropriation and theft of public resources from his country. They are founded on lenghty investigations that have found evidence of bank transfers from Mr. Obiang to US banks amounting to $75 million between 2005 and 2007.

This action by the US administration follows a similar one taken by France last month, when it decided to seize 11 luxury cars belonging to Mr. Obiang. Another request for asset forfeiture is under analysis by a court judge in Spain.

Read the full article US government seeks $70M from African official on hosted.ap.org. The pictured featured above is from bbc.co.uk and is credited to Global Witness.

Report Stresses Civil Society’s Role in Fighting Corruption

The non-governmental organization Tearfund launched this week the report Better together: evidence of the crucial role that citizens play in fighting corruption, during the conference of state parties to the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) in Marrakesh, Morocco. The report argues that anti-corruption efforts by governments could be more effective if they would focus on the involvement of citizens at the local level.

The document highlights that UNCAC has much potential to significantly reduce corruption, but its implementation still needs improvement. As evidence for UNCAC’s limited efficacy, the study mentions the fact that the majority of the 25 countries perceived to be the most corrupt in the world, according to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, have been parties to UNCAC since five years or more.

Examples of civil society anti-corruption initiatives are also discussed in the report to show that involvement at the local level is crucial to curbing corruption effectively, as citizens are in a better position to monitor officials in their communities than central governments are.

Read the full article Fight against corruption needs grassroots support to have bite – report on trust.org. The picture shown above is also featured in the article and is credited to Reuters.

TI Georgia Releases National Integrity System Assessment

Transparency International’s national chapter in Georgia has released earlier this week a new National Integrity System country assessment based on the period between 2009 and 2011. The report shows that the government’s drive to fight corruption in the past years has brought positive results on some fronts, but important weaknesses remain.

The National Integrity System (NIS) assessment is based on a methodology implemented by Transparency International. The study analyzes 12 institutions considered to be the core of Georgia’s integrity system. The main findings point to improvements in the Executive’s and law enforcement agencies’ capacity to fight corruption. At the same time, however, the Executive has grown stronger than the other government branches, which raises concerns about the potential for abuse of power in the government.

Additionally, the study found evidence that political parties, civil society and the media are still weak and have limited capacity to contribute to the fight against corruption.

Read the press release on TI Georgia’s website. The full report is also available on the website.

Anti-Graft Agency to Arrest Four Ex-Governors

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nigeria’s anti-graft agency, has begun operations to monitor four former governors, namely Danjuma Goje (Gombe), Gbenga Daniel (Ogun), Adebayo Alao-Akala (Oyo) and Akwe Doma (Nasarawa), and request their immediate arrest for involvement in money laundering and other financial crimes, according to a senior official.

Danjuma Goje has been accused of inflating a number of contracts while governor of Gombe State. In the case of Gbenga Daniel, several corruption allegations are being investigated, among which the illegal withholding of federal fund allocations to local governments.

Adebayo Alao-Akala was probed due to irregularities in the award of a book publishing contract and also other corruption accusations. Former governor Akwe Doma is accused of using backdated documents to siphon money from the state administration.

The investigations against them add to many other probes against state governors. The EFCC is already prosecuting 14 ex-governors on charges of corrupt enrichment.

For the full article on allafrica.com, please click here.

Study Shows Sharp Increase in Media Coverage of Corruption

The Centre for Media Studies (CMS) (logo pictured here) has released a new report about media coverage of corruption between 2005 and 2011. The study shows significant increase of coverage in those six years, especially in the case of television news channels, where coverage has increased eleven fold.

According to CMS director PN Vasanti, an important part of this dynamic took place between 2010 and 2011, when coverage by news outlets doubled. Particularly noteworthy was the impact of Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption campaigns and hunger strike on the overall coverage of corruption-related topics. During the period between July and September, when this story developed, coverage by TV news channels more than tripled.

For the full article on rapidtvnews.com, please click here. The picture above is from indiatvnews.com.

2011 Financial Secrecy Index Is Published

The second edition of the Financial Secrecy Index was published yesterday by the Tax Justice Network. The index scores and ranks 73 jurisdictions according to their level of banking secrecy. This year’s ranking shows that some OECD and EU members are among the most secretive jurisdictions.

Studies accompanying the index also show that recent efforts to reduce secrecy in the so-called tax havens have been unsuccessful in effectively fighting secrecy. Recent initiatives have focused in creating incentives for those countries to sign information-exchange agreements, but pitfalls to these approach include inedequate standards applied to the agreements and also room for secrecy jurisdictions to circumvent their commitment with new secrecy arrangements.

For the full article on the release of the index, please click here. The picture shown above is from cnbc.com.

Ugandan Ministers Indicted for Graft

Three Ugandan ministers were charged with corruption yesterday, accused of fraud in contracting procedures for a $4.9 million infrastructure project executed for the 2007 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kampala. Their indictment follows the arrest of former Vice President Gilbert Bukenya earlier this week, investigated for profiting from a $3.3 million contract for the procurement of limousines also related to the event.

The indictments were received with praise by the anti-corruption community in the country, considering the officials’ high level positions and their close connection to President Yoweri Museveni. Nevertheless, negative reactions to the case were also seen in the capital, particularly from the Buganda ethnic group, to which Mr. Bukenya belongs. They argued that the investigation against him is politically motivated.

For the full article on globalpost.com, please click here. The picture shown above is also featured in the article and is credited to Roberto Schmidt, AFP and Getty Images.

Local Italian Tv Channel Raises a Voice Against the Mafia

An article by Dany Mitzman takes a closer look into Telejato, a small Sicilian TV channel that has emerged as a single voice against the mafia in the region. Located in Partinico village close to Palermo, the TV station focuses on anti-mafia and corruption-related stories on its daily news bulletin.

Telejato’s success can be attributed to Pino Maniaci, the journalist in charge of the news program. He claims that all local residents, including mafia members, watch the bulletin. Mr. Maniaci is seen as a pioneer for courageously reporting about mafiosi and being the first to publicly disclose their identities. Such boldness has already costed him several life threats and a murder attempt, but he is proud to keep making an effort to counter the mafia power in Southern Italy.

For the full article on bbc.co.uk, please click here. The picture shown above is also featured in the article.

Colombian Government Adopts Zero Tolerance Against Corruption

Colombia’s current administration is taking measures to fulfill its pledge to turn the fight against corruption into a main priority. However, for Miguel Francisco Prado, head of the government’s anti-corruption body, efforts to better monitor state funds and contracting procedures are needed to combat graft more effectivelly.

The government has so far focused on targeting high-profile corruption cases through investigations conducted by a special taskforce with top-level officials from enforcement agencies. According to Prado, coordination between different agencies has been working much better than expected.

This strategy appears to be successful as the number of politicians and government officials arrested on corruption charges increases. Recent examples are the conviction of a former intelligence chief for involvement with paramilitary groups and the recent arrest of Bogota’s mayor for fraud in public work contracts during his administration.

Nevertheless, Prado highlights that the government must focus more strongly on vulnerable areas, such as public contracting. He emphasizes the need to increase transparency and allow the public to better monitor the government’s procurement decisions. He also raises attention to the importance of monitoring the use of state resources, particularly in the oil and mining sector, which is similarly much vulnerable to corruption.

For the full article on trust.org, please click here.

the Relationship Between Gender and Corruption

An article by Farzana Nawaz posted on Transparency International’s blog discusses the connection between corruption and gender-related issues. Some of the questions that the article addresses relate to whether women perceive corruption differently than men, and whether they are less susceptible to corruption as well.

Ms. Nawaz mentions that academic research has explored this topic only very recently, and that two main lines of research may be identified, one focusing on a potential positive anti-corruption effect of promoting women’s involvement in public administration, and the other on the specific impact of corruption on women and other vulnerable groups.

Some studies, for instance, have shown evidence that higher representation of women in government is associated with lower levels of corruption. Nevertheless, there are scholars who argue that this conclusion masks another mechanism, namely that the imbalance in gender relations determines women’s limited access to corruption networks.

For the full article on blog.transparency.org, please click here. The picture shown above is also featured in the article. The discussion continues on a longer article available here.

Police Raids Former Indian Minister’s Home

The homes of ex-minister Dayanidhi Maran (pictured here) have been searched by the Indian police as part of an investigation into his alleged involvement in the 2G license corruption scandal. Mr. Maran was Minister of Communications and Information Technology until 2007 and later occupied the position of Minister of Textiles, from which he resigned in July after being connected to the scandal.

Mr. Maran is accused of coercing the founder of Aircel mobile company to sell his share to the Malaysian firm Maxis. According to the investigators, Maxis would have paid kickbacks to Maran’s brother, Kalanidhi Maran, through his SUN TV network. A case against both of them has already been filed under the Prevention of Corruption law.

Read the full article Indian ex-minister Dayanidhi Maran’s homes raided over graft on bbc.co.uk. The picture of Mr. Maran shown above is also featured in the article and is credited to AFP.

Mass Investigation Against Police Officers in Mexico

The northern Mexican city of Linares has begun to investigate its entire police force for corruption and connections to criminal groups. The decision to conduct the investigation was triggered by an increase in kidnapping and extortion occurrences in the city.

According to the town’s mayor, Francisco Quintanilla, over 100 city police officers were transported by bus to another town, where they will be held in custody while the investigation is running. In the meantime, Linares will be patrolled by soldiers and state police officers.

Read the full article Mexico city’s police force held for investigation on hosted.ap.org. The picture shown above is from mexico.cnn.com.

Ukrainian Opposition Leader Yulia Tymoshenko Convicted

Former Ukranian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko (pictured here) has been sentenced to seven years in jail on charges of abuse of power regarding a gas deal with Russia in 2009. Ms. Tymoshenko claimed that the accusations against her were politically motivated and that she will appeal against her conviction and take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

In addition to the jail sentence, the judge determined that Ms. Tymoshenko must reimburse the state in $186 million, equivalent to the alleged financial damage caused by the gas agreement. She was also banned from public office for three years.

The verdict was seen with critical eyes by Russia and the European Union. According to a EU representative, the outcome of the case should hurt Ukraine’s aspirations to EU-membership.

Read the full article Ukraine ex-PM Yulia Tymoshenko jailed over gas deal on bbc.co.uk. The picture of Ms. Tymoshenko shown above is from rt.com and is credited to AFP.

Afghan Government Lax on Corruption Investigations

Afghan President Hamid Karzai (pictured here) has publicly committed to fighting corruption in the country, but data on corruption investigations during his government put the credibility of his pledge into question. Since the creation of an anti-corruption task force in 2009, 2,000 investigations have begun, but no high-level government official has been prosecuted on corruption charges so far.

The recent closing of an important bribery investigation against Abu Bakr, former governor of Kapisa province and very influential politician, reinforces the perception that the Afghan government is not doing as much as it should to curb graft. According to a senior US official, two prosecutors involved in the investigation against Mr. Bakr have been demoted or transferred to remote locations.

Read the full article Afghanistan obstructs graft probes on hosted.ap.org. The picture of Mr. Karzai shown above is from guardian.co.uk and is credited to Shah Marai, AFP and Getty Images.

the Indian Dalit Community’s Success in Monitoring Public Spending

An article by Rebekah Kendal posted on the Open Budgets Blog today tells the story of the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights, a civil society initiative in India that succeeded in exposing the misuse of public resources by using media momentum and reporting on related corruption cases.

The campaign organized by the Dalit community, a traditionally marginalized group in the Indian social structure, began in 1998 and focused on budget monitoring to pressure the government to fulfill its constitutional obligation to allocate enough funds for the development of the Dalits.

After years of existence, the initiative finally succeeded in exposing the government’s reluctance in allocating funds to benefit the Dalit community, as they brought to public attention that those funds were being diverted to finance the 2010 Commonwealth Games, among other things. Since the Games had already been under media scrutiny due to another corruption scandal, the campaign was able to get their message across more easily and later gained the support of opposition parliamentarians.

An International Budget Partnership study about this case, written by Vimala Ramachandran and Sapna Goel, translates this experience in an interesting lesson for civil society at large: The campaign shows how the impact of CSO campaigns can be multiplied when they tap into the agendas of other powerful actors on the national and international stage.

Read the full article Make a scene when everyone is watching: The NCDHR’s Campaign 789 and the 2010 Commonwealth Games on openbudgetsblog.org. The article is part of a series about the impact of civil society’s efforts in monitoring government budgets.

South African Protection of State Information Bill Raises Concerns

Recent developments concerning the appreciation of the controversial Protection of State Information Bill in the South African Parliament have raised further concerns about transparency and freedom of information in the country.

The bill has been subject to strong criticism since its introduction in 2010. Opposers have claimed that it is undemocratic and that it goes against the Protection of Access to Information Act already in place in South Africa’s legal framework.

After some alterations to the most polemic provisions in its original version, the bill has been again withdrawn from the National Assembly for further consultations. Nevertheless, a committee to conduct consultation procedures was formed exclusevily with members from the governing party, leading to concerns from the opposition that the consultation process will not be open to the participation by the public and other political parties.

A Swiss Chamber representing swiss companies in Southern Africa has also express its concerns about the impact of the government’s efforts to push the bill through on the business environment in the country, which has already been negatively affected by recent corruption scandals.

Read the full article ‘Info Bill will hide corruption’ on iol.co.za. The picture shown above is also featured in the article and is credited to Reuters.