Ukrainian Citizens Fight Lack of Transparency in Public Procurement

A document published last week by the Creative Union TORO (logo pictured here), currently Transparency International’s contact group in Ukraine, reports about their successful initiative to counter a new public procurement bill that would make contracting procedures less transparent.

According to TORO, bill 7532 introduced in 2010 would potentially aggravate even more the numerous inefficiencies that exist in the Ukranian public procurement system, among which the lack of an effective tender control mechanism.

This situation gave TORO an incentive to start a Civic Alliance for the integrity of public procurement in Ukraine, in which several non-governmental organizations took part. Created in February 2011, the alliance began issuing a statement to position itself against the bill and presented a petition to block its adoption.

In June, the movement sent a letter to the President with a list of recommendations for ammendments to the bill. In parallel the alliance also conducted various activities to increase public pressure around the issue. Finally, the movement’s requests were welcomed by the President, who included the recommended ammendments to the final version of the law.

Read the full text Civil Society Unites to Fight Corruption on TORO’s website.

Switzerland Working on Recovery of Ousted Arab Dictators

A Swiss official stated yesterday that Switzerland is collaborating with the current governing bodies in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya to allow the recovery of around $850 million of assets deposited in accounts linked to those countries’ previous rulers.

Since the beginning of the Arab Spring, the Swiss government had ordered banks to block accounts under suspicion of connection with former Lybian leader Muammar Gaddafi. Part of those funds has already been made available to the country’s new authorities.

Nevertheless, Valentin Zellweger, head of international law at the Swiss Foreign Ministry, emphasized that the asset recovery process is expected to take a long time. Previous cases like those of Philippine’s Ferdinand Marcos and Nigeria’s Sani Abacha have shown that the Swiss legal system provided them with numerous opportunities of appealing against unfavorable decisions, and the same should be observed in the case of Ben Ali, Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Gaddafi.

Read the full article Swiss say trying to release dictators’ stashed loot on trust.org. The picture above is also featured in the article and is credited to Reuters and Denis Balibouse.

South African Ngo Launches National Whistleblowing Week

The South African organization Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC) has announced the launch of the National Whistleblowing Week (logo pictured here), which will begin on October 17th. The main objective behind this initiative is to provide citizens with information about existing procedures to report corruption cases.

According to Alison Tilley, ODAC’s Executive Director, the premise behind the event is that the action of each individual in the fight against corruption matters and must be fostered. He also mentioned that the week comes at a moment of vulnerability of existing whistleblower protection legislation, with the pending passing of the Protection of State Information bill.

Read the full article National Whistleblowing Week Launched on ODAC’s website. More information on the event is available at www.blowthewhistle.org.za.

Zambia’s New President Pledges to Fight Corruption

In his first address to Parliament this Friday, Zambia’s new president Michael Sata (pictured here) pledged to take stronger measures to fight corruption. Mr. Sata said that his administration will seek to strengthen anti-corruption legislation and investigate corruption accusations against the previous government.

One of the measures mentioned in his speech was restoring abuse of office as a criminal offense, a legal provision that was repealed by the former government.

Mr. Sata has already began anti-corruption efforts by removing Godfrey Kayukwa as head of the Anti-Corruption Commission. His decision was motivated by accusations that Mr. Kayukwa, considered to be close to former President Rupiah Banda, had mishandled corruption investigations by the Commission.

Read the full article Zambia’s new president vows corruption crackdown on rnw.nl. The picture of Mr. Sata shown above is from africareview.com.

First Conviction Under Uk’s Bribery Act

The United Kindgom’s new anti-bribery legislation, which came into force last July, is being enforced for the first time against a London court official, who pleaded guilty today to resquesting and receiving a bribe and to a count of misconduct in public office.

Munir Patel admitted asking for a £500 bribe to remove a driving offense from an individual’s record at the courthouse where he worked. He shall be sentenced at another hearing scheduled in November.

The Bribery Act drew much attention at the time of its adoption, due to its being one of the world’s strictest anti-bribery legislation, as it foresees that companies are obligated to ensure internal controls to prevent bribery on their behalf in other countries.

Read the full article London Court Clerk Pleads Guilty in First Bribery Act Case on bloomberg.com. The picture above is from trust.org and is credited to Reuters/Sukree Sukplang.

Brazilians Are Becoming Less Tolerant With Corruption

In the last months Brazil has shown signs that its society is no longer willing to accept corruption as it did in the past. At the same time, the current administration’s readiness in letting go high-level government officials accused of corruption demonstrates that it shares the population’s view.

Since the beginning of Dilma Rousseff’s term last January, the President already fired four ministers and many other top-level government employees. This anti-corruption surge is uncommon when compared to previous governments. Ms. Rousseff’s timely reaction to the scandals has even helped increase voters’ satisfaction with the government.

In the meantime, the number of anti-corruption demonstrations in major Brazilian cities has been increasing. Independence Day celebrations on September 7th were marked by protests in six cities, and on October 12th, a holiday dedicated to the country’s Patroness Saint, the pictured repeated itself in 18 cities.

According to Marcos Fernandes, an economist from the think thank Getulio Vargas foundation, the flourishing of anti-corruption activism reflects a new-found concern in the country’s growing middle class about how public resources are being used. He emphasized that this group is motivated mostly by their interest in practical issues such as the efficient provision of public services, and that they are becoming aware of their right to demand that from governments.

Gil Castello Branco, founder of a civil society watchdog group focused on transparency about government expenditures, also highlighted how recent brazilians’ realization that they are entitled to accountability from their representatives. He added that this civil society engagement is needed for concrete results in anti-corruption.

Read the full article Brazil takes hard line on corruption on hosted.ap.org. The picture shown above is from riotimesonline.com and is credited to Agencia Brasil/José Cruz.

Editorial Calls on Uk Prime Minister to Strengthen Lobbying Regulations

An editorial published in The Observer called on United Kingdom’s Prime Minister David Cameron (pictured here) to fulfill a previous promise to fight corruption in lobbying through increased transparency about this activity, following the recent scandal that led to former Defense Secretary Liam Fox’s resignation.

According to the article, Cameron had already raised attention to corruption in the spurious deals between lobbyists and government officials 20 months ago, when he was still a Member of Parliament. Later on, in a speech as Prime Minister, he vowed to implement a compulsory registry system to function as a public record for all lobbying activities, including identity of clients and contact with officials.

The editorial makes use of the recent case of ex-Defense Secretary Liam Fox, who resigned after it became public that a close friend of his had been financed by companies with interest in the defense sector, to argue for the need to tighten regulation on lobbyism.

It also mentions that, in addition to corrupt deals that may emerge from the lobbying industry, increased transparency is needed to avoid that lobbying activities undermine democracy and the public interest.

Read the full article Honour the pledge to clean up lobbying, Mr Cameron on guardian.co.uk. The picture of Mr. Cameron featured above is from telegraph.co.uk and is credited to Getty.

Cuban Government Investigates British Company on Corruption Allegations

Cuba’s recent anti-corruption investigations into relations between state businesses and foreign companies now hit the British investment fund Coral Capital and led to the arrest of its chief executive last week. The government has not yet disclosed the accusations against the companies.

The move against Coral Capital resembles measures to shut down two Canadian trading firms in the last couple of months. In their case, the arrest of Vice Minister for sugar Nelson Labrada suggested that the investigations were related to purchases from the Canadian companies, but the specific accusations were not made public.

Efforts to fight corruption in Cuba have been a priority in Raul Castro’s government since he took power in 2008. In 2009, he established a Comptroller-General’s Office to assist the government in its anti-corruption policies.

Read the full article Cuba probes British fund, arrests top executive on reuters.com. The picture featured above is from trust.org and is credited to Reuters/Enrique de la Osa.

Former Chief of Navy Appointed As Chair to Pakistan’s Anti-Corruption Agency

President Asif Ali Zardari has appointed Admiral Fasih Bokhari, the former chief of Pakistan’s Navy, as the new chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the country’s anti-corruption body. The post had been vacant since March and the NAB had been inactive during the past three months.

The appointment raised a controversy from the opposition party PML-N, which claimed that the legal process for the nomination as established in the Constitution was not observed. According to opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the PML-N raised objections to the appointment of Admiral Bokhari when first consulted by President Zardari, and replied requesting broader consultations with the opposition in order to find a more suitable candidate. Nevertheless, the President failed to give the opposition a reply about their request. The PML-N further threatened to challenge the appointment before the Supreme Court.

Admiral Bokhari is the fifth NAB chairman to come from the military. Since its inception in 1999, the NAB has had only two civilian chairmen.

Read the full article Pakistan: Former head of navy assumes helm of anti-corruption agency at adnkronos.com.

Kosovo Democratic Institute Releases New Report on Corruption and Organized Crime

The Kosovo Democratic Institute (logo pictured here) published last week a new report entitled Illegal Millions, which discusses the implications of a Law against Organized Crime and a Law on Confiscation of Property Acquired Illegally for the fight against corruption and organized crime in the country.

The report was launched at an event held on October 12th at AAB-riinvest, where students and representatives of several organizations participated in a roundtable on the subject Organized crime and illegally acquired property, an obstacle for the development of Kosovo.

During the discussion, some arguments were made in favor of the passing of further legislation to address those problems in Kosovo, and also of strengthening implementation of existing laws. The event was organized as part of the project Advocacy for the completion of the package of anti-corruption laws in Kosovo, supported by the British Embassy.

Read the full text Illegal millions – destroying the future on KDI’s website. The report Illegal millions is available in Albanian, English and Serbian.

New Resolutions Adopted at TI Annual Meeting

Transparency International held last week its Annual Membership Meeting, where representatives of National Chapters and members from a total of 106 countries attended to discuss the Movement’s present and future strategies. The participants adopted five resolutions that will orient the organization’s advocacy work in the next year.

One of the resolutions addressed the need for accountability and anti-corruption issues to be incorporated into the discussions about increasing aid effectiveness. A second resolution focused on the importance of initiatives to strengthen accountability and good governance in the Middle East and North Africa region.

A document demanding the implementation of anti-corruption mechanisms in climate governance structures was also part of the outcome of the Annual Meeting. Another resolution listed seven priority areas which must be addressed by the G20 countries in order to increase financial transparency, tackle foreign bribery and make stolen asset recovery measures more effective.

Finally, the participants of the meeting came to an agreement about six points that shall be submitted to the next session of the Conference of States Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), with a special focus on demands to open up the UNCAC review process to civil society participation.

A full summary of the results from the Annual Membership Meeting is available in the text Working together towards change, published on TI’s website. Some of the resolutions are already available on the same webpage.

TI Bosnia & Herzegovina Comments on Eu Report

Transparency International’s National Chapter in Bosnia & Herzegovina published last week a press release commenting on a report on the country’s progress in anti-corruption, published by the European Commission. The report showed a disappointing picture about anti-corruption measures in Bosnia & Herzegovina, and pointed out in particular that political will to improve control of corruption is lacking.

According to the report, insufficient enforcement of anti-corruption legislation is one of the main obstacles to fighting corruption more effectively. Additionally, the anti-corruption legal framework still lacks harmonization across levels of government. The assessment for 2011 reiterated some problems already identified in the reports published in previous years, such as inefficiencies in the Judiciary that contribute to delay the prosecution of corruption cases.

Among the report’s recommendations was the need for a more precise and thorough regulatory framework for political party financing and stricter enforcement of the legislation in this area.

Read the full text Step backward in fight against corruption available on TI-Bosnia & Herzegovina’s website.

Corruption and the Oil Industry

An article published on the Ecologist explores the topic of corruption in oil-rich countries. According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, many of the largest oil producers and exporters are ranked quite low, some of them at the very bottom. What lies behind this connection?

The text mentions how many oil-rich countries continue to have alarming levels of poverty and income inequality, despite decades of high revenues originating from the resource sector. An example is Nigeria, where there is evidence that foreign oil companies maintained close relationships with the military government to protect their interests.

Another example of links between oil production and corruption is the fact that national oil companies, which control exploitation in many countries, are commonly among the least transparent state institutions. Lack of disclosure about revenues coming from oil exploitation can moreover give way to corruption by allowing elites to appropriate resources without being checked by any watchdogs.

Finally, the article mentions an initiative that is expected to bring some change to this sector, namely the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which binds signatories to implement measures for the disclosure of public funds coming from oil, gas and mining exploitation, both from public and private companies. However, only 35 countries have joined the initiative, and some important players still resist taking part in it.

Read the full article How oil and corruption have become so closely linked on theecologist.org. The pictured portrayed above is also featured in the article.

South Sudan Government Plans Clean up in Public Service

Deputy Information Minister of South Sudan, Atem Yaak Atem, has declared that the government of the newly independent state plans to substitute the majority of the country’s civil servants due to irregularities in their appointments. According to Mr. Atem, around 65% of all civil servants are unqualified and may have falsified their educational credentials to be eligible for public positions.

In the Ministry of Labor and Public Service, for instance, 21 senior employees who have forged academic degrees have already been identified. Mr. Atem mentioned that the government intends to pursue the prosecution of individuals in this situation under charges of fraud.

This is part of the government’s promise to fight corruption in the country. Other anti-corruption measures already announced include requirements for public officials to disclose information about their finances and strengthened regulations of land transactions.

Read the full article South Sudan to Clean Up Civil Service, Oust Unqualified Workers on bloomberg.com.

Romanian Judge Accused of Selling Verdicts

Romanian Supreme Court judge Gabriela Barsan has been investigated by prosecutors under the suspicion of receiving gifts such as jewelry and vacations in return for favorable verdicts. Last weekend investigators conducted a search a her home and confiscated a computer and some documents.

Following the search, her husband, Corneliu Barsan, who is a judge at the European Court of Human Rights, attempted to use his position to hinder the investigation against his wife, in that he claimed that the search violated the Vienna Convention, applicable to international officials. However, his argument was not successful at the Romanian Supreme Court, which decided yesterday to reject his claims and maintain that the search was legal.

Corruption is one of the issues that keeps Romania under close monitoring from European Union institutions, and has also been a main reason behind Romania’s denied admission to the European Schengen agreement.

Read the full article Romanian Judge Denied Immunity on reportingproject.net. The picture shown above is from freedomsphoenix.com.

TI Bulgaria Publishes Study on Vote-Buying

Transparency International’s National Chapter in Bulgaria presented yesterday a study based on a national survey about vote-buying. The survey results showed that 12% of Bulgarians would be willing to sell their votes, if given the opportunity.

In the survey 1% of the respondents were undecided, but according to TI-Bulgaria Program Director Katya Hristova, these individuals can also be considered as potential vote sellers. Among the remainder of respondents, 6.8% stated that they would not sell their votes only because the average payment is less than what they would be willing to receive.

Among the respondents who would consider selling their vote, 58.1% mentioned that they would be motivated to do so if they were in a condition of poverty. The rest of respondents said that they would be driven to selling their votes by a feeling of impunity and dissatisfaction with local authorities.

Ms. Hristova also expressed concerns about the meaning of these figures and the potential impact of vote-buying on election results in a scenario with low voter turnout.

Read the full article Transparency International-Bulgaria Reports Alarming Rate of Potential Vote-Sellers on novinite.com. The pictured featured above is from sofiaecho.com.

East African Bribery Index 2011 Released

The East African Bribery Index 2011 was launched today and showed that Burundi continues to be the country with the highest bribery prevalence (37.9%) in the region, followed by Uganda (33%) and Tanzania (31.6%). Rwanda is the least bribery prone country, with a bribery prevalence of 5.1%.

The index aims at measuring bribery levels in both the public and private sectors in the five countries in the region – Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania. The 2011 edition results from a survey conducted with almost 13,000 randomly selected respondents in all countries between February and May 2011.

The results also points out which institutions are considered to be most prone to bribery in each country. A general finding in this aspect was that police institutions were among the 10 most bribery prone institutions in all countries, with the exception of Rwanda, where insufficient bribery reporting for each institution generated statistically insignificant figures.

Other findings showed that the law enforcement, education and health sectors in public service have high occurrence of bribes. In addition to the sectoral dimension, the survey also took into account gender cleavages in bribery, and showed that women experience more bribe demands than men in the health sector, whereas the latter pay more bribes than the former in the water and educations sectors.

The index also reflected low reporting of bribery cases to public authorities in all five countries. A post on Transparency International’s blog addresses this particular issue and mentions that among the causes behind such low reporting rates are fear of intimidation and ignorance about where to report bribery incidents.

Read the full East African Bribery Index 2011 press release on transparency.org, and the article What stops East Africans reporting corruption? on TI’s blog. The full report on the Index is also available online.

Whistleblowers in India Risk Their Life

A report by Bloomberg journalists published yesterday shows an upclose picture of the risks incurred by whistleblowers in India. Since January 2010, already 12 whistleblowers have been murdered and another 40 assaulted after using the country’s Right to Information Act to access government documents.

Nevertheless, some activists highlight the importance of this piece of legislation, passed six years ago, in allowing the population to check on government actions. In some cases, information gathered through the use of the Act has exposed corruption and led to the resignation of several public officials.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared last week that the government is already working towards the passing of whistleblower protection legislation, which would guarantee their security and secrecy about their identity.

Read the full article Whistleblowers Murdered Show Hazard of Exposing India Corruption on bloomberg.com. The picture featured above is from publictrustofindia.com.

Head of Serbian Watchdog Discusses National Anti-Corruption Strategy

Zorana Marković, director of Serbia’s Anti-Corruption Agency, discussed in an interview last week the country’s accomplishments with its anti-corruption policies until now and the challenges that still remain and that shall be tackled by a new anti-corruption strategy for the next five years.

According to Ms. Marković, Serbia has been able to establish a strong legal framework to fight corruption and has put fundamental institutions in place to address the problem. Nevertheless, she pointed out that these institutions are still too weak to guarantee the enforcement of the existing anti-corruption legislation. Therefore the anti-corruption strategy for 2011-2016 to be presented to Parliament later this year focusses strongly on strengthening the already functioning structure in order to improve the government’s anti-corruption efforts.

Ms. Marković mentioned yet another important challenge that remains with regards to fighting corruption, namely the lack of whistleblower protection legislation. The proposition of such legislation will also be a priority for the anti-corruption agency in the near future.

Read the full article Serbia readies for long struggle against corruption on euractiv.com.

Czech Education Ministry’s Tender Investigated

The Czech Ministry of Education has been raided by the country’s anti-corruption police unit as part of an investigation on a large public tender for the delivery of a database to monitor public funds spent on research and development projects. The tender was still being prepared by the Ministry and was to be issued next month.

The investigators did not disclose what suspicions motivated the action. Analysts quoted by a national newspaper that reported the case mentioned that concerns about this tender might be related to a possible attempt to tailor the tender proposal in order to suit a certain provider, or to artificially raise the value of the contract.

A statement released by the Minister of Education, Josef Dobes, said that the police investigation refers to a contract from 2007 for the delivery of software services for research and development, which allegedly expired last September. Mr. Dobes claims that he opposed the extension of the old contract against the advice of ministry officials and decided to prepare a new tender for such services. He also declared that the tender is suspended until the investigation is concluded.

Read the full article Czech anti-corruption police raid Education Ministry on ceskapozice.cz. The picture shown above is also featured in the article.

World Bank and Olaf Sign Cooperation Agreement

A new cooperation agreement has been established between the World Bank’s Integrity Vice-Presidency (INT) and the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) with the objective of combating fraud and corruption in development aid more effectively. This agreement represents the first step in implementing a decision taken by both institutions last May, during the 12th Conference of International Investigators in Washington, where they agreed to enhance operational cooperation between the two services.

The agreement regards mainly cooperation efforts related to exchange of information and the conduction of joint investigations and strategic analyses. It also foresees exchange of staff and cooperation in training activities.

Leonard McCarthy, World Bank’s Integrity Vice President, highlighted that both institutions already have a strong alliance based on their shared interest in fighting illegal activities.

Read the full press release World Bank and OLAF step up efforts to jointly combat fraud and corruption in development aid on europa.eu.

2011 Bribe Payers Index Launched

Transparency International (TI) released last Wednesday its Bribe Payers Index (BPI), which ranks 28 leading exporting countries according to the likelihood of their companies to pay bribes abroad. The index is based on a survey with 3,000 business executives from developing and developed countries.

The index shows that firms from Russia and China are considered to be the most likely to bribe abroad, whereas companies from the Netherlands and Switzerlan are the least likely to pay bribes in foreign countries.

The survey results used to produce the index also revealed that bribery by firms in foreign countries is a widespread practice. They commonly take place between companies and public officials and aim at securing public tenders, avoiding regulation or influencing governments policies. Particularly vulnerable to bribery are the public works and construction sector and the extractive industries. The study also shows that companies are just as likely to bribe other companies.

An article by Deborah Hardoon posted on TI’s blog discusses the survey’s results into more detail and compares each country’s BPI scores with their Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) scores and their volume of exports and investments abroad, thereby contextualizing their economic impact.

Another post on TI’s blog also discusses Russia’s having the lowest score among all 28 countries. According to Elena Panfilova, TI Russia’s Director, the Russian government has adopted many pieces of legislation to fight corruption in recent years, but the main problem lies in insufficient enforcement of those laws.

Read TI’s press release Companies from emerging giants China and Russia most likely to bribe abroad on transparency.org. The picture featured above is from themalaysianinsider.com.

India’s Anti-Corruption Movement Faces Internal Crisis

A group of anti-corruption activists led by Anna Hazare has created much commotion around India’s anti-corruption bill, but now they are drawing attention for other reasons, such as internal disagreements and questionable moves by some of its members.

Since Mr. Hazare and other allies recently campaigned against India’s ruling party in a by-election in Haryana state, some of the group’s leading activists have withdrawn their support from the anti-corruption campaign. According to Rajendra Singh and PV Rajagopal, two activists that decided to leave Mr. Hazare’s team, internal democracy in his group is lacking.

Meanwhile, doubts have arisen regarding the so-called movement’s cohesion and representativeness. Mr. Hazare’s team has shown signs that it is not as well organized as everyone thought, and other groups in the Indian society have shown some degree of distrust in what Hazare stands for. The question that remains is whether his campaign will be able to keep enough support from the population for the months to come.

Read the full article Will India’s anti-corruption campaign implode? on bbc.co.uk. The picture shown above is also featured in the article and is credited to the Associated Press (AP).

New Website Adds Transparency to Mining Sector in Dr Congo

The Carter Center has launched a website to make information about the mining sector in the Democratic Republic of Congo available to the general public. The new webpage (www.congomines.org), which includes data on hundreds of contracts and payments related to mining activities, is part of the Center’s project to improve mining governance in the country.

The initiative aims at providing relevant actors and watchdogs with information about the sector which could not be accessed otherwise. It attempts to directly tackle the longstanding lack of transparency that has been characteristic of this sector, which represents a significant part of the country’s economy. This problem became particularly evident earlier this year, when secret deals on the property of former state-owned mines came to light.

Read the full article DR Congo mining transparency site launched on bbc.co.uk. The picture shown above is also featured in the article and is credited to AFP.

Egypt’s Anti-Corruption Law Awaits Ratification

Deputy Minister for Political Development Ali al-Selmi declared yesterday that the current Egyptian government is expected to ratify in the next days an anti-corruption law that restricts the political rights of individuals convicted for corruption-related crimes.

Following the revolution that led to the end of Hosni Mubarak’s rule in the country, the law was conceived as an attempt to keep Mubarak’s former allies, many of which are now facing corruption charges, of running in the next elections for Parliament, to take place on November 28th.

Read the full article Egypt to ratify anti-corruption law in days-minister on trust.org. The picture shown above is also featured in the article and is credited to Reuters.