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Everything you ever wanted to know about corruption, but were afraid to ask…

The National Integrity System Audit: an idea whose time has come

The National Integrity System concept, pioneered by Jeremy Pope, is an idea whose time has come. From presidential pardons to political party funding scandals, the integrity and accountability of public figures are not only fundamental to the legitimising principles on which a democratic society should be founded, but they also remain real issues of concern for everyone who wants a more open, more transparent system of government.

It is a society's underlying values and public awareness to ethical questions that underpin the pillars of an Integrity System and give the whole structure whatever strength it has, explains Jeremy Pope in the new, expanded edition of the Transparency International Source Book. Confronting Corruption: The Elements of a National Integrity System. From the executive, legislature and judiciary, through the private sector and watchdog agencies to an independent media and civil society organisations, each pillar, and its relationships to the others, is crucial to maintain the equilibrium of the system. If one or more pillars are built on sand, the burden imposed on the other pillars becomes progressively imbalanced until the whole edifice begins to topple, or even collapse. Whenever this happens, the rule of law collapses and with it the prospects for economic and social welfare.

From the pros and cons of asset-freezing when corrupt dictators loot their own national coffers and deposit money in western banks to auditing standards in transition economies, to strategies to fight customs fraud, the role of an Ombudsman and bribery in international arms deals, the new third edition of the Transparency International Source Book is an indispensable guide to the subject and has become a manual for anti-corruption practitioners and guardians of good practice in government and, increasingly, in the private sector. The first edition has been translated into about 20 languages, and adapted to the latest best practice in the local context. The approach is now being adopted by anti-corruption activists, policymakers, and aid agencies, including the World Bank.

"The Transparency International Source Book is an invaluable tool in combating double standards of corruption, in helping to build standards and in providing civil society no less than policymakers and implementers with a host of examples of best practice that any country will ignore at its peril."

Oscar Arias Sanchez,
Nobel Peace Laureate and former President of Costa Rica

When the pillars begin to topple… The country reports presented in The Hague this week conclude that in many countries the pillars are compromised by countervailing influences, a lack of commitment, unbridled self-interest, skewed formal or constitutional arrangements, failings in other pillars and, above all, the primacy of illicit political influence.Building on the concept, and with the assistance of the national chapters of Transparency International, 19 country "audits" were presented to the Global Forum II conference on Fighting Corruption and Safeguarding Integrity in The Hague on 28-31 May 2001. Entitled The National Integrity System: Concept and Practice, A Report by Transparency International for the Global Forum II Conference, the report was prepared by Alan Doig and Stephanie McIvor of the Centre for Fraud Management Studies, Liverpool John Moores University in the United Kingdom. As well as evaluating the effectiveness of each country's National Integrity System, the report looked at the extent to which the pillars of that system stand up in terms of their impartiality, credibility and effectiveness.

The importance of pillars of integrity is evident in the analysis of the National Integrity System in the Brazil country report: "The Judiciary is probably the weakest link in the control chain, since it is unable to convey to society the message that crimes of corruption are actually punished… The police suffer from political interference and is vulnerable to organised crime take-over."

The approach of the National Integrity System Audit is an holistic way of looking at the institutions and practices that collectively assure a society of its basic integrity. By looking at these institutions - the executive, the legislature, the judiciary, the watchdog agencies, the mass media, the private sector and civil society - it is possible to construct a framework within which to study the pluses and minuses in accountability and transparency. It enables us all to diagnose weaknesses and to address them in context and in a co-ordinated way. It provides a road map for those who are serious about addressing their country's deficiencies.

Introducing the country audits, Doig and McIvor cite from the new Transparency International Source Book: "What is the benefit of a sound and 'clean' Judiciary ready to uphold the Rule of Law, if there is corruption in the police, investigators, prosecutors or the legal profession? The Judges would simply not receive the cases they should hear; they would then sit in splendid isolation - honest, capable, yet able to achieve little." The audits show that the National Integrity System concept of Transparency International is an idea whose time has come.

The Transparency International Source Book 2000: Confronting Corruption, The Elements of a National Integrity System is available from Transparency International Secretariat, Otto-Suhr-Allee 97-99, 10585 Berlin, Germany. Tel: + 49 30 3438 2010, Fax: +49 30 3470 3912.

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Jana Kotalik
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Media Contact at Transparency International
Jeff Lovitt
Tel: +49-30 3438 2045