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UN Convention should reinstate corruption in political party funding as mandatory offence, says TI

The final talks on the UN Convention Against Corruption should make mandatory the criminalisation of corruption in party funding and private sector bribery, and provide for monitoring of implementation of the Convention

The seventh and final drafting session of the United Nations Convention against Corruption marks "the last chance to make corruption in political party finance a mandatory offence, and to ensure that an effective monitoring process is in place to monitor implementation of the Convention," said Peter Rooke, Transparency International (TI) Advisory Council member. He is an observer at the negotiations, which opened in Vienna today and are scheduled to conclude on 1 October.

TI Chairman Peter Eigen said today that "it is essential to have a requirement that all donations to, and expenditures by, political parties be made public in a timely and accessible fashion, and I hope the US Government has reconsidered its opposition to the mandatory clause supported by a majority of countries." He continued: "There ought also to be a prohibition of bribe payments to political parties and party officials to close the loophole arising when only bribes to public officials are prohibited." According to the Transparency International Global Corruption Barometer, a survey of the general public in 47 countries published in July 2003, three out of ten respondents singled out political parties as the institution from which they would like to eliminate corruption if they were given a magic wand. In the US, four out of ten respondents singled out political parties.

Peter Rooke stressed "the need for effective monitoring mechanisms to ensure that the Convention is properly implemented". Article 76 of the Convention establishes a Conference of State Parties to promote and review implementation, but provides for the establishment of a follow-up mechanism only if the state parties "deem it necessary". According to Rooke, "experience with other anti-corruption agreements clearly demonstrates that without monitoring, commitments are unlikely to be implemented. A strong process will assist governments in exercising that discretion in favour of higher standards, so the text should clearly state that there will be a follow-up mechanism and that all state parties will participate in it, and that civil society organisations will be given an important role in the monitoring process."

Eigen, attending the Vienna talks on 29 September, said that "the UN Convention includes welcome prohibitions on transnational bribery and the tax deductibility of bribes, as well as mandatory provisions on transparency in government procurement". The Convention, he said, "represents an important breakthrough in addressing mutual legal assistance, money laundering and asset recovery, where worldwide co-operation is essential." He continued: "It is particularly important that state parties provide full co-operation in criminal investigations of offences covered by the Convention, and make sure that dual criminality requirements do not impede mutual legal assistance." ('Dual criminality' is the requirement that the offence for which assistance is sought be an offence in the country from which assistance is requested as well as in the requesting country.)

TI is also calling on the state parties to support a threshold of 20 ratifications for entry into force of the Convention. "The UN Convention on Transnational Organised Crime, which finally comes into force today, required a threshold of 40," said Peter Rooke today. "It has taken two-and-a-half years to reach that threshold. It is extremely important that the delegates support the lower figure of 20 this week, so that the UN Convention Against Corruption can enter into force as soon as possible."

"The UN Convention marks the emergence of an international consensus on ways to prevent, criminalise, and sanction acts of corruption, to ensure but at the same time regulate the recovery of stolen assets, and to promote international co-operation to those ends," said Eigen. "The final session must now give the Convention teeth," he said, "by ensuring that key preventive measures are mandatory, in particular laws outlawing corruption in political party funding, asset disclosure by public officials, and private sector bribery. If laws are only discretionary, private sector corruption will have been officially classified as less needy of regulation than corruption in the public sector."

For TI's recommendations to the Seventh Session and earlier sessions of the Ad Hoc Committee for the Negotiation of a UN Convention Against Corruption, see:

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