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Anti-corruption in the OGP: Opening up money and politics to ensure fairness and equality

José María Marín

Money in politics is a complex policy area and can be a sensitive subject. Improper use of money in the political system can influence election outcomes, set the public agenda and affect government decision-making. One approach to mitigate the risks of undue influence and corruption has been to ban and limit certain sources of funding from the private sector. This approach has had mixed results and some experts have advocated for increased transparency in financing instead. This shift towards more transparency in political financing makes the Open Government Partnership (OGP) a natural forum for governments and civil society to debate and develop common standards and inspire one another with good practice.

Transparency International and the OGP held a session during the 2018 International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) in Copenhagen where we asked a group of bright minds what’s in store in 2019 for anti-corruption and the OGP. One of the areas discussed and the focus of this blog post is how political integrity can be addressed within the OGP.

You can read more about Transparency International and the OGP’s collaboration in the opening post to this blog series.

To date, at least 13 OGP member countries have committed to promote transparency and accountability in political financing. One of the most recent examples can be found in Argentina where in its 2017–2019 action plan the country committed to reform — in consultation with the public — its political parties financing scheme. Such commitments on opening up political finance can inspire other OGP members to pursue more widespread and ambitious commitments on this critical issue for fighting corruption.

Some ideas that came out of the 2018 IACC discussion group on how to open political financing included:

i. Opening the debate on reform
Political finance reform entails self-regulation. In other words, politicians are asked to set the rules of their own game. The OGP allows for a broad forum to debate and define political integrity rules and standards that promote equitable participation in politics and avoid the most harmful temptations of money. In that respect, the OGP empowers civil society to take a leading voice to advocate for and promote progressive commitments.

ii. Developing new policy recommendations
The OGP can provide a space for continuing to develop policy recommendations on political financing that revolve around the modes of governance — transparency, participation, accountability — as an alternative to regulation. OGP action plans provide an opportunity for governments to implement innovative approaches to making political financing more transparent and accountable. Perhaps we could see in the future a standard on open political financing.

iii. Increase policy coordination
The OGP can be a forum for coordination on different policies that have an impact on political integrity, such as asset disclosure, public procurement and budget monitoring. Commitments can be debated and analysed through a political integrity risk lens to ensure that they are coherent with efforts to prevent policy capture. In practical terms, this means that civil society has the space to advocate for changes that will allow for information on government contracts, officials’ asset declarations and financial contributions to political parties, which can be used to paint a complete picture of the flow of money between the public and private sector. It is important to remember that political integrity is an issue that should be tackled during and outside of electoral periods as “favours-for-favours” arrangements are conceived prior to elections but are settled after them.

Participants and partners of the OGP can use the platform to advance the conversation at national and international levels on how to ensure political integrity. This includes new rules on transparent and accountable political financing and ensuring coordination on measures that can have a significant impact on political integrity. The OGP provides a space for civil society to advance politically sensitive issues, such as money in politics, and ensure they get to the top of the agenda of urgent policy reforms.

For recommendations on political financing for OGP action plans, check out our policy brief.