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Corruption-busting tax inspector from Republika Srpska and whistleblowers in Kenya’s Goldenberg scandal win TI Integrity Awards

Transparency International pays posthumous tribute to a journalist from Bangladesh, an electrical engineer from Turkey, and a highway construction project manager from India

Dr Milica Bisic from Bosnia and Herzegovina, who took on entrenched interests to stamp out tax evasion in Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina, is one of the winners of the Transparency International Integrity Awards 2004. The other winners are whistleblowers who brought to light the Goldenberg scandal in Kenya.

David Munyakei, a clerk at the Central Bank of Kenya, provided Members of Parliament with documents revealing illegal transactions with Goldenberg International. Constable Naftali Lagat refused to obey Kenya's Director of Criminal Investigations' demand that he release to a director of Goldenberg International a consignment of smuggled gold he had intercepted at Kenya's Wilson Airport.

The TI Integrity Awards, an annual event open to nominations worldwide, recognises the courage of extraordinary individuals and organisations who have made a significant impact on reducing levels of corruption. The TI Integrity Awards selection committee is composed of leading anti-corruption activists from around the world, including TI Integrity Award 2001 winner Eva Joly, an investigating magistrate in the Elf-Aquitaine oil corruption case in France. This year the committee received valid nominations from more than 30 countries and every continent. TI is the leading non-governmental organisation fighting corruption worldwide.

The fifth annual TI Integrity Awards will be presented at the opening ceremony of TI's annual membership meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, on 8 October. In recognition of those whose bravery cost them their lives, TI is extending posthumous tributes to three courageous individuals.

These include Hasan Balikçi, a Turkish electrical engineer murdered as a result of his efforts to root out corruption in the state electricity company, and Satyendra Kumar Dubey, an Indian whistleblower who lost his life after making a complaint about corruption in the road-building project he was overseeing. Posthumous recognition is also extended to Manik Chandra Saha, a brave Bangladeshi journalist whose frequent reports on crime and corruption in politics led to his death.

Speaking in Nairobi today, TI Chairman Peter Eigen praised the determination and courage of the winners: "The African Union has estimated that corruption costs Africa alone in excess of $148 billion every year. This is not money that goes to build schools and hospitals but goes to make the corrupt richer, and robs the poor of essential services." Eigen continued: "Corruption hurts everyone, and therefore it is through the actions of courageous and determined individuals who share a passion for justice that the fight against corruption continues. This year's winners are a source of inspiration to all of us as they have gone above and beyond their sense of duty to ensure that the corrupt have no one to bribe and nowhere to hide."

Dr Milica Bisic from Bosnia and Herzegovina, is Professor of Economics at the University of Belgrade and former Head of the Tax Administration in Republika Srpska. After years of a devastating war, the tax administration was among those institutions where corruption was the most rampant in Republika Srpska. Dr Bisic fearlessly took on corruption in this system, clamping down on those benefiting from a shadow economy by refusing to pay their share of taxes. For the first time, the process of forcible collection of taxes was applied to large businesses. Many have since been charged with tax evasion and have closed down.

Dr Bisic was nominated by TI's chapter in Bosnia and Herzegovina. According to Boris Divjak, President of TI Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dr Bisic gave the tax administration credibility and respect in the eyes of the public: "Confidence in the tax administration has not only doubled but corruption in this sector perceived by citizens is now so low because of the efforts of one person, Milica Bisic, who all alone managed to establish an institution with integrity, an institution that will work for the benefit of the people. Dr Bisic has brought this country a long way and we salute her."

Dr Bisic has implemented a series of administrative and legal reforms which will have a lasting impact on the tax system in Republika Srpska, and she introduced a new control system for tax collectors in order to reduce the incidence of bribery in the tax administration system itself.

Constable Naftali Lagat and David Munyakei from Kenya helped to expose the Goldenberg scandal, one of the largest and most complex financial scandals in Kenyan history. Munyakei, then a clerk at the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK), noticed that a company called Goldenberg International was receiving unusually large sums of money for the alleged export of gold and diamonds. He blew the whistle on the Goldenberg scandal by providing CBK documents to opposition members of parliament. These documents revealed illegal transactions between the Central Bank and Goldenberg International. The courage to disclose these corrupt practices resulted in Munyakei's arrest, sacking, and possibly the loss of his only parent.

Constable Lagat was one of the police officers on duty at the airport one night in 1991 when a director of Goldenberg International arrived, carrying a suitcase full of gold. Constable Lagat bravely refused orders from senior officials whom he suspected of trying to cover up illegal actions. Even after he was forced to appear before the Criminal Investigations Department the Constable did not budge, refusing to give into corrupt officials as he felt that he would be breaking the rules.

"The Goldenberg scandal made Kenya a poorer country, financially, structurally and morally," according to TI Kenya's Executive Director, Gladwell Otieno. She said: "Acts of corruption like this one owe their exposure to the courage and integrity of only a few individuals such as Lagat and Munyakei. The TI Integrity Awards recognise that - perhaps even more important than laws administered from the top - ultimately it is individuals adhering to their principles and fighting against corruption that will turn the tide in Kenya."

The TI Integrity Awards committee also singled out three individuals for posthumous recognition of their bravery in taking a stand against corruption. They are:

Hasan Balikçi, a Turkish electrical engineer for the state-owned company, Turkey Electric Distribution A.S. (TEDAS), was murdered in October 2002. Balikçi was responsible for rooting out those responsible for stealing billions of dollars from this important national utility. However, his revelations about corruption by businessmen and officials cost him his life. His death not only led to a huge public outcry and increased awareness about corruption in the energy sector; it also prompted the strengthening of laws regulating corrupt activities in this sector.

Satyendra Kumar Dubey, former Deputy General Manager of the National Highway Authority in India, was overseeing a road project worth billions of dollars when he was killed on 27 November 2003, at the age of 31. His was murdered after his name was leaked in connection with a complaint about corruption he had sent to the prime minister's office and the road network authority. His death caused an outcry of condemnation and sympathy in a country where public money is frequently siphoned off from large government projects through corruption and where there is widespread indifference among officials unaccustomed to having to justify their actions publicly. As well as emerging as a focal point for resistance to corruption and dishonesty, Dubey's death has led to renewed demands for laws to protect whistleblowers.

Manik Chandra Saha, a journalist and social activist in Bangladesh, frequently reported on crime and political corruption for the New Age newspaper and for the BBC Bengali Service. His resolute determination to expose injustice made him enemies and he received numerous death threats, spending much of the year under police protection, before he was killed in a bomb attack on 15 January 2004. His death brought thousands of mourners out into the streets, and his murder drew condemnation from Reporters without Borders and the Bangladesh Centre for Development, Journalism and Communication.

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