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‘Building political will to fight corruption’ vital in South Asia, concludes TI workshop on National Integrity Systems

Reform of the judiciary, creation of permanent anti-corruption institutions, a clampdown on political corruption, and transparent rules on public procurement identified as priority areas to strengthen National Integrity Systems of Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka

“The absence of political will is a critical constraint that hinders the effective implementation of anti-corruption reform in South Asia,” according to a statement issued today by five national chapters of Transparency International after a TI South Asia regional workshop on National Integrity Systems, held in Karachi, Pakistan on 18-20 December 2004. The workshop, building on the TI National Integrity System country studies completed in the course of 2004, was supported by the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DfID).

TI’s national chapters in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have identified the judiciary, anti-corruption institutions, political and parliamentary reform, and public procurement as priority areas in need of attention if progress is to be made in tackling corruption at the national level. TI is the leading global non-governmental organisation devoted to combating corruption. (The full statement follows at the foot of the press release.)

“It is crucial to build political will to fight corruption, and to play a full part in regional and global initiatives to fight corruption, not least by signing and ratifying the United Nations Convention against Corruption,” said TI today. While Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have signed the Convention and Sri Lanka has ratified it, Bangladesh and India have not yet signed it more than a year after the Convention was opened for signatures.

“TI is also urging the government of Sri Lanka to join the other four governments in their endorsement of the Asian Development Bank-OECD Anti-Corruption Action Plan for Asia and the Pacific, and pushing for all five South Asian governments to use regional bodies such as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to develop a regional programme against corruption, including mutual cooperation in enforcement matters.”

In their joint statement, the five TI national chapters called for “rational and transparent recruitment processes” in the judiciary, for country-specific strategies to address weaknesses in the judiciary, for lower courts to be independent of the executive, and for special anti-corruption courts to be considered to expedite decisions in corruption cases.

The workshop also concluded that anti-corruption bodies should be permanent and independent “with a constitutional mandate”, and for their design, and the monitoring of their work, to include the participation of civil society groups.

Multi-party democracy must be underlined as an essential ingredient of pluralism, the pursuit of development goals, and further progress in the fight against corruption, concluded the workshop. Reforms in political culture, including the depoliticisation of the civil service, mandatory asset declarations by elected officials backed up by codes of conduct, and the reform of election commissions, were identified as priorities. The workshop also called for a strengthening of the powers of parliamentary committees, and for the prohibition of anyone with a criminal conviction from standing for public office.

Country-specific national procurement rules “must be transparent, updated and strengthened,” according to the statement. “Civil society should continue to exert pressure on the public and private sectors to ensure transparency in procurement and should be encouraged to play a monitoring role.”

The National Integrity Systems TI Country Study Reports can be downloaded at: www.transparency.org

Full statement

We, Transparency International (TI) National Chapters in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, as well as other stakeholder participants, met in Karachi from 18 to 20 December 2004 to discuss the outcomes of National Integrity System (NIS) Country Studies of our countries carried out in 2003/04, as well as a Regional Overview Report synthesising the country studies and other relevant issues.

1. We note that Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are signatories to the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and that Sri Lanka has ratified the convention. We urge the governments of Nepal and Pakistan to ratify, and those of Bangladesh and India to sign and ratify the convention as soon as possible. All of the governments should implement the convention fully as it represents an international standard all countries should abide by.

2. We also note that Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan have endorsed the ADB-OECD Anti-Corruption Action Plan for Asia and the Pacific. We urge the government of Sri Lanka to do so, and for all governments to actively implement the plan.

3. We urge all South Asian governments to use regional bodies such as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to develop a regional programme against corruption, including mutual cooperation in enforcement matters.

4. We conclude that the absence of political will is a critical constraint that hinders the effective implementation of anti-corruption reform in South Asia.

Our specific recommendations for strengthening National Integrity Systems in South Asia in some key areas are as follows:

Judiciary

• Different challenges are faced by the judiciary in the various countries of South Asia. Country-specific strategies must be developed to address respective weaknesses.

• The judiciary must effectively regulate its members through supreme judicial councils or other mechanisms.

• Rational and transparent recruitment and promotion processes must be devised and implemented. Judges should be recruited and promoted on merit.

• The judiciary should be more responsive to the needs of justice through coordinated training, administration and interaction with non-judicial bodies.

• Court administration should be streamlined and delays should be minimised.

• On retirement, judges should not be eligible for appointments of a political nature.

• Judicial systems should be adequately resourced and salary structures improved. Both judges and court staff should receive adequate remuneration.

• Access to justice for ordinary people should be a priority.

• Associations of lawyers should promote high standards of integrity among their members.

• Lower courts must be independent of the executive.

• Special anti-corruption courts can be useful to expedite decisions in corruption cases.

Anti-Corruption Institutions

• Anti-corruption initiatives should not be ad hoc, but should be driven by permanent and independent anti-corruption bodies with a constitutional mandate.

• For anti-corruption institutions to function properly, the existence of an independent judiciary and media is crucial.

• Civil society participation in the design, establishment and monitoring of anti-corruption institutions and their strategies is vital. Anti-corruption strategies should be designed to promote the participation of grassroots organisations.

• Civil society organisations must be transparent, non-partisan and accountable to their beneficiaries and clientele.

• Donors should assist the proper functioning of anti-corruption agencies and the effective implementation of national anti-corruption strategies. They should ensure that their own activities do not contribute to fuelling corruption.

• The terms and conditions of personnel working with anti-corruption bodies should ensure their personal safety and security of tenure.

• The role of the media is vital in generating broad support and pressure for anti-corruption reform. Media laws should be reviewed and, where necessary, revised to allow for journalist freedom to report on corruption. Freedom of information should be constitutionally ensured.

• Measures should be taken by civil society to secure political commitment for reform.

Parliament and Political Parties

• Political party and parliamentary reforms must be enforced to underline the primacy of multi-party democracy, aid the pursuit of development goals, and further progress in the fight against corruption.

• Political cultures and the hereditary nature of politics in South Asia must change if political corruption is to be challenged. Changes in the attitudes and conduct of legislators both within and outside parliament are key. Reforms in the functioning of political parties, the political process and political institutions are also crucial.

• Steps should be taken to reduce politicisation of the civil service and work towards its increasing neutrality.

• Constitutional reform should be introduced to prevent the abuse of power.

• Reform of election commissions is a crucial element. Regulations must be revised to ensure an open and fair electoral process. Electoral reforms should be introduced to address the high cost of electioneering and ensure a sufficient flow of information to the electorate about candidates.

• Civil society and media activism is crucial to addressing political corruption and for demanding greater democracy within political parties.

• A post for ombudsman of parliamentary affairs should be established.

• Implementation of the neutrality of the parliamentary speaker should be ensured.

• Regular asset declarations by members of parliament, ministers and their family members should be a mandatory requirement and should be enforced.

• Codes of conduct for ministers and member of parliament should be prepared and enforced.

• Checks and balances, including executive oversight, and other mechanisms should be in place.

• Parliamentary committees, particularly parliamentary accounts committees, should be strengthened and their proceedings open to the media and public. The proceedings of parliament should also be made open to the public and a means found for citizens to input into the issues discussed.

• The centralisation of decision making in government and within political parties, which often leads to undesirable patron-client relationships, should be minimised.

• Parties should not make corruption allegations only during electioneering or when they are in opposition. Governments should not enforce corruption laws selectively against political opponents.

• Jumbo councils of ministers lead to corruption and the number of ministers should be reduced.

• To reduce the risk of criminalisation of politics, anyone with a criminal conviction should not be allowed to contest in elections/hold public office.

Public Procurement

• Country-specific national procurement rules must be transparent, updated and strengthened.

• The procurement rules of donor agencies and institutions must also be transparent.

• Institutional capacity to enforce and implement procurement rules must be developed and strengthened. Recent developments in Pakistan and Bangladesh, including institutional arrangements, are examples of good practice if rigorously applied.

• Efforts should be made to learn from other international good practice, especially multilateral, those of institutions such as the WTO and UNCITRAL and relevant provisions of the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

• Regional initiatives at the South Asia level within and beyond SAARC should be taken for sharing experiences and learning from each other in this area.

• There are two-way links between political corruption and corruption in procurement. The reduction of corruption in one will assist in the reduction of the other.

• Civil society should continue to exert pressure on the public and private sectors to ensure transparency in procurement and should be encouraged to play a monitoring role.


For any press enquiries please contact

TI-S Berlin
Jeff Lovitt
Tel: +49-30-3438 2045
Fax: +49-30-3470 3912
press@transparency.org

Bangladesh
Iftekhar Zaman
TI Bangladesh
Tel: +880-2-9884811,
8826036
edtib@ti-bangladesh.org

India
Mr P.S. Bawa Vice Chairman
TI India
Tel: +91-11-2622 4519, 2512-9048
tindia@vsnl.com

Nepal
Ashish Thapa Executive Director
TI Nepal
Tel: +977-1-436 462
trans@tinepal.org

Pakistan
Shaukat Omari
Executive Director
TI Pakistan
Tel: +92-21-5803518
tiplr@brain.net
pkti-pak@khi.paknet.com.pk

Sri Lanka
J.C. Weliamuna
Executive Director
TI Sri Lanka
Tel: +94-1-853874
tisl@sltnet.lk