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TI calls for public tenders and transparent budgeting in tsunami reconstruction efforts

Transparency International calls on the international donors meeting in Geneva today to prioritise direct disaster aid and to introduce transparent tendering in reconstruction efforts

International donors should take all possible steps to prevent corruption and diversion of aid from its intended recipients in tsunami-stricken regions in the Indian Ocean, said Transparency International (TI), the leading global non-governmental organisation devoted to combating corruption, today.

Commenting on the risk of corruption in aid operations, TI Chief Executive David Nussbaum noted the absence of civil society organisations at the UN donors' conference in Geneva today, saying that "civil society participation is an essential first step towards full transparency and accountability". He continued: "Governments meeting to consider reconstruction plans must make a commitment to working with non-governmental organisations as well as government authorities in effectively targeting aid, and in ensuring the flow of aid to those in need."

"Over the coming weeks, the priority will become reconstruction efforts on the ground," said Nussbaum. "It is crucial that the private sector, local authorities and international donors agree on a transparent system of tendering and reporting on expenditure," he added. "This is not only necessary to avoid corruption and diversion of funds, but also to ensure value-for-money and safety and quality standards in the construction process."

TI believes that dedicated disaster relief and reconstruction efforts should be subject to effective monitoring, such as the donation-tracking scheme announced by the UN's Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Jan Egeland. The emphasis throughout the coming months should be on providing maximum access to information about both sources and expenditure of funds. Independent monitoring of aid disbursement and project implementation is essential. Civil society organisations in Indonesia and Sri Lanka and other recipient countries should be part of the monitoring process. Such organisations should also promote public participation in decisions about aid allocation and project design. The military should be subject to the same scrutiny as other public bodies and relief organisations.

Governments must also consider the vulnerabilities of different aid pathways. "Debt relief is no substitute for effectively targeted disaster relief and expert assistance in the worst-affected areas," said Peter Rooke, TI's Regional Director for Asia-Pacific. "To the extent that debt relief is given, experience shows that, as with direct budgetary support to governments, it makes most sense where a government has made a major commitment to high governance standards, in particular budget transparency, and to civil society monitoring of expenditure allocation," he said.

TI Sri Lanka has issued a call for politicians, both government and opposition, and all Sri Lanka's communities to unite together around a "national strategy on relief distribution and reconstruction to be planned and implemented with the participation of all sectors, and the effort should be properly co-ordinated to achieve optimum benefits to the victims and affected areas". It has offered the President of Sri Lanka its assistance in efforts to ensure transparency and accountability. TI Indonesia is also very involved in the emergency operation undertaken by the Coalition of Indonesian NGOs for Humanitarian Operation in Aceh, including establishing a management system for operations in the western coast of Aceh.

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