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How to make anti-corruption agencies accountable and independent

Anti-corruption agencies (ACAs) are key to the fight against corruption. This was recognised in the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, which was adopted in 2003 and now has 183 parties.

These publically-funded organisations investigate the corrupt and are supposed to be independent. At their best, these agencies act as a deterrent because they provide the evidence for the judiciary to take legal action against the corrupt. But to do this they need to be independent, publicly accountable and well-funded and staffed.

In Strengthening Anti-Corruption Agencies in Asia Pacific Transparency International publishes the findings of research into the strengths and weaknesses of ACAs in six Asian countries - Bangladesh, Bhutan, Indonesia, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It also makes general recommendations on how to increase the effectiveness of ACAs that are relevant throughout the world.

“This report shows how important political and government commitment is to ensure that ACAs do their jobs effectively. ACAs also need to demonstrate the courage and capacity to prosecute all, including the powerful without fear or favour,” said Iftekhar Zaman, executive director of Transparency International Bangladesh.

The report looked at seven key components of anti-corruption agencies and used a specially developed methodology to score how effective they are based on 50 different indicators.

We hope this report will help ACAs to share their experiences and learn from each other. This is key to building a stronger network of ACAs in the region.

The report makes the following key recommendations based on a study of seven key areas:

Governments and political parties:

  • The independence of ACAs should be ensured, in terms of the selection and appointment of the ACAs’ leadership and staff.
  • The law must grant ACAs extensive powers to investigate, arrest and prosecute.
  • ACAs must be allowed full freedom to discharge their legal mandate impartially, without interference from any quarters.
  • There must be an independent oversight mechanism to monitor ACAs’ functions and practices: for example, a parliamentary oversight committee and/or a committee comprising a cross-section of professional groups and civil society.
  • ACAs must be adequately resourced.

For the anti-corruption agencies:

  • ACAs must demonstrate their ability and willingness to investigate and prosecute those who are involved in grand corruption (the “big fish”), and to impose appropriate sanctions.
  • ACAs must lead by example and ensure that their officials and staff practice proactive disclosure of assets, undertake public reporting of their activities and guarantee public access to information.
  • ACAs must engage with citizens to educate them, through community relations programmes, on the negative consequences of corruption, and to mobilise their support for their anti-corruption activities.

“When government support is lacking, the battle is hard for ACAs to function independently and to get the resources they need to deliver well. On the other hand, when the ACAs themselves fail to make best use of their legal and institutional mandate, it is even worse,” said TI Bangladesh’s Zaman

Access the full report: Strengthening Anti-Corruption Agencies in Asia Pacific

Learn more about the Anti-Corruption Agency Strengthening Initiative.

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