Countries must be more transparent when investigating transnational corruption

Countries must be more transparent when investigating transnational corruption

Recent news about the Odebrecht system of bribery payments, published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, emphasises the complexity of grand corruption cases. It underlines the importance of supporting supervisory and justice systems, and of giving their institutions independence.

The new information also demonstrates the need for transparency and accountability from these institutions so that the public can assess their performance, checking whether or not they are complying with their institutional duties.

The new reports are based on information leaked from Odebrecht’s secret communication system, Drousys, and obtained by the Ecuadorian news agency, Mil Hojas.

Odebrecht’s corrupt activities

Odebrecht may not have fully disclosed its corrupt activities, as required by a historic agreement issued in December 2016. In this agreement, the Brazilian construction company admitted paying $788 million over 15 years (between 2001 and 2016) to authorities and political parties in Brazil and in eleven other countries – nine in Latin America (Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama and the Dominican Republic) and two in Africa (Angola and Mozambique).

However, there is very little detailed information publicly available on these payments; it is not known specifically which works were obtained through the payment of bribes or which authorities from the various countries mentioned received illicit payments. Nor has Odebrecht publicly admitted, to date, to bribing for some of the works which were apparently targets of corruption.

The complexity of identifying those responsible for the crimes - together with uncertainties about the crimes' full details - represents an enormous challenge for the various countries affected.

It will require significant investment in technical training and, more importantly, in independence, for the entire corruption network to be dismantled and for those responsible in all of these countries to be identified and held accountable for their wrongdoing.

More openness needed

There is little information publicly available to gauge the capacity, autonomy and compliance of the various countries' investigatory bodies and judiciaries responsible for bringing the corrupt to justice.

In May, the Brazilian publication, JOTA, and Transparency International obtained data that helped to clarify this scenario. It revealed that the number of requests for information issued to Brazil by the countries affected in the Odebrecht case varied significantly from country to country. Peru has requested information the most to support its investigations: 68 requests for cooperation in two years (2017 and 2018). On the other hand, Guatemala and Venezuela each only sent two requests to the Brazilian authorities, and Mexico and the Dominican Republic each only sent three.

In the face of the enormous and complex challenges, the various countries’ institutions must provide the public with comprehensive information and increase their levels of transparency and accountability. A first step is to disclose statistics on requests for international cooperation. This will provide some insight into the justice systems’ full activities in cases of transnational corruption.

Broad international consensus

There is broad consensus among the international anti-corruption community about the need for openness in this area. In June 2019, a group of 140 experts including government representatives, investigators and leaders of civil society organisations from more than 50 countries, met in Oslo, Norway, to discuss grand corruption and to issue recommendations.

Recommendation 44, on mutual legal assistance, is as follows: "Central Authorities for mutual legal assistance [(MLA)] or other competent authorities should pro-actively and in a timely manner assist requesting States in cases of corruption involving vast quantities of assets to meet the national requirements for MLA, including by, where feasible, providing a contact person. Statistics on MLA requests made, received and successfully responded to, should be collected and published."

Countries must urgently deliver accountability on their performance at investigating and sanctioning crimes of grand corruption. Disclosing statistics about requests for international legal cooperation for cases of grand corruption is vital. Brazil discloses aggregated statistics of cases of international cooperation, but more detailed and specific disclosure is required to precisely identify how international cooperation is working. Other countries do not even disclose aggregated data.

In light of the new Odebrecht revelations, this step is urgent for the ten Latin-American countries and the two African countries where the transnational corruption occurred.

This article, by Transparency International - Brazil's Fabiano Angélico, was originally published in Portuguese by JOTA.

Photo: Dan Gold on Unsplash

For any press enquiries please contact


Support Transparency International

Support Us

What people think: corruption in the Middle East & North Africa

Momentum has been building against corruption for years in the Middle East and North Africa. From Lebanon and Sudan, where millions of people took to the streets earlier this year to speak out against their governments, to the Arab revolutions that toppled corrupt leaders nearly a decade ago, people are fed up with rampant corruption across the region.

Wasta: How personal connections are denying citizens opportunities and basic services

In many Arab countries the use of personal connections, or “wasta” in Arabic, is a common practice and a social norm. People use their family or social contacts to skip the line and gain quicker and better access to basic goods and services. How much you can increase the speed and quality of your service often depends on who you know – the higher the better, of course.

Sextortion: Middle East and North Africa

Sextortion is one of the most significant forms of gendered corruption and although women’s rights have advanced unevenly across the Middle East and North Africa, positive momentum has been building in the region over the last decade.

Lack of political integrity is undermining trust in democracy in Middle East and North Africa

The Global Corruption Barometer – Middle East and North Africa 2019 reveals that leaders in the region are perceived as acting in their own self-interest at the expense of the citizens they are meant to serve. This has serious consequences for trust in democratic institutions.

آراء المواطنين:  الفساد في منطقة الشرق الأوسط وشمال أفريقيا

لقد تزايد زخم التنديد بالفساد خلال السنوات الماضية في منطقة الشرق الأوسط وشمال إفريقيا. وضاق الناس ذرعا بالفساد المستشري في مختلف أنحاء المنطقة، من لبنان والسودان، حيث خرج ملايين الناس إلى الشوارع في مطلع هذا العام للتنديد بصوت عال بممارسات حكوماتهم، إلى الثورات العربية التي أطاحت بالزعماء الفاسدين منذ زهاء عشر سنوات.

الرشوة الجنسية: منطقة الشرق الأوسط وشمال إفريقيا

على الرغم من تفاوت التقدم المُحرز على مستوى حقوق المرأة في مختلف أنحاء الشرق الأوسط وشمال إفريقيا، شهدت المنطقة زخما إيجابيا تنامى تدريجيا خلال العقد الماضي. إذ أصبح عدد أكبر من النساء يُعبّرن عن أنفسهن داعيات إلى تعزيز تمثيل المرأة في الحكومة وتجريم العنف المنزلي وتحقيق المساواة في الحقوق للنساء والفتيات، إلى جانب عدد من المسائل الأخرى التي تهم المرأة. وتُناضل النساء في مختلف دول المنطقة من أجل إعلاء كلمتهن.

حرمان المواطنين من مختلف الفرص والخدمات الأساسية  بسبب استغلال آخرين لعلاقاتهم الشخصية

يُعتبر استغلال العلاقات الشخصية في البلدان العربية، أو ما يُعبّر عنه بالواسطة، مُمارسة منتشرة ومُتعارف عليها اجتماعيا. إذ يستغل مختلف الأشخاص علاقاتهم الأسرية أو الاجتماعية لعدم الوقوف في الصف وللوصول على نحو أسرع وأفضل إلى المدارس أو الجامعات أو المستشفيات أو الوظائف، و"لتعجيل" الإجراءات الإدارية في المؤسسات الحكومية مثل تجديد وثائق الهوية أو شهادات الميلاد. وتعتمد عادة سرعة حصولك على الخدمة وجودتها على الشخص الذي تعرفه؛ فبطبيعة الحال، كلما كان في منصب أعلى كان ذلك أفضل لك.

Social Media

Follow us on Social Media