Anti-Corruption Agency Strengthening Initiative

Filed under - Politics and government

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What’s at stake?

Anti-corruption agencies play a pivotal role in enforcement, prevention and investigation of corruption. An effective anti-corruption agency is a huge strength in the fight against corruption – when they are independent of the government and empowered to investigate allegations, they have the potential to hold even the most powerful people in society to account. With over 100 Anti-Corruption Agencies (ACAs) around the world there’s massive potential to harness the power of agencies as indispensable partners in the fight against corruption.

However, creating an ACA is only the first step, and across the world a wide gap exists between a government’s commitment in establishing ACAs and the realisation of their mandate. There is no global standard for an ideal ACA and the effectiveness of many, if not most, ACAs is inhibited by limited resources, insufficient mandate to fight corruption and political interference from governments and their agencies. The latter is more so a reality when it relates to high profile corruption cases. In this context, increased international vigilance and support for ACAs can play a crucial role in improving ACAs’ independence and effectiveness.

The United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) envisages ACAs as a key player in the fight against corruption. The accompanying Jakarta Principles on ACAs provide a roadmap for strengthening ACA independence and effectiveness. In practice, however, assessment against these standards is sporadic, due in part to the lack of political will by governments to scrutinise their own oversight mechanisms. Another reason is the absence of a coherent and practicable way in which to measure ACA performance.

As public institutions funded by tax payers’ money to combat corruption, ACAs must be transparent, accessible and accountable to citizens. It’s vital that they operate with the utmost integrity, maintain a reputation of objectivity and professionalism and demonstrate effectiveness in their duties.

What we’re doing about it?

In late 2015, the Anti-Corruption Agencies Strengthening Initiative was launched, with the aim of engaging with ACAs to strengthen their effectiveness. Having identified ACAs as key partners in the fight against corruption, we are working in collaboration with governments who are ready to invest in improving their anti-corruption effectiveness by building strong oversight and enforcement mechanisms. Drawing on our international network of more than 100 chapters worldwide, the Anti-Corruption Agency Strengthening Initiative combines biennial assessments of ACAs with sustained engagement, dialogue and advocacy at both national and regional levels.

Who’s involved?

The ACA Strengthening Initiative kicked off in the Asia Pacific region and is being managed from our secretariat in Berlin by the Asia Pacific Department, in partnership with our national chapter in Bangladesh. Assessments, outreach and advocacy are implemented by Transparency International’s partners, contacts or accredited chapters in country in collaboration with ACAs. In some cases ACAs have committed a portion of their own budget to fund the initiative. In such cases a public memorandum of understanding is signed to define roles clearly and confirm the full independence of the assessment. Assessments themselves are carried out by Transparency International staff or independent consultants with expertise in anti-corruption and governance, and follow a consistent, robust and externally validated indicator framework.

The pilot assessment of the initiative took place in Bhutan in mid-2015, and our national chapters in Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Maldives, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Taiwan (Republic of China) carried out assessments of their respective ACAs between 2015-17.

Our approach

Transparency International adopts a cooperative approach to working with governments, supporting those who are serious and genuine about tackling corruption to become more accountable, effective and efficient. At the same time, we are ready to criticise governments who fail to deliver on promises of anti-corruption reform and to condemn any verified incidents of bribery or corruption within the government. 

The assessment tool for the ACA Strengthening Initiative was developed over a period of two years in consultation with numerous experts and practitioners around the world. The tool is designed to capture internal and external factors affecting the ACA as well getting a sense of the ACA’s reputation and actual performance.

Transparency International will work closely with ACAs to understand and improve their ability to combat corruption through a series of connected and complementary actions:

  1. Carry out biennial independent assessments of the capacity and performance of ACAs to identify strengths and weaknesses, and formulate recommendations for reform.
  2. Produce regional analyses of ACA assessments exploring trends, synergies and capturing best practices and lessons learned.
  3. Facilitate knowledge exchange and build a community of practice comprising ACAs across the globe, collaborating with regional and international bodies.
  4. Support ACAs to develop and monitor action plans to implement recommendations stemming from the assessment.
  5. Put pressure on governments to invest in stronger oversight and enforcement mechanisms, advocating for changes in the legislative and institutional framework which will create a more enabling environment for the ACA to function effectively.

Timeline and results

  • In June 2013, we facilitated an international experts’ meeting to brainstorm how to assess ACA performance. The discussion framed the first steps in taking forward the initiative, and culminated in the development of a basic assessment framework by anti-corruption expert Alan Doig.
  • From mid-2013 we began to explore the possibility of developing an ACA assessment tool and the concept received further interest, ideas and backing from ACAs in the Asia Pacific region during the ADB/OECD Anti-Corruption Initiative’s meeting for Asia-Pacific in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
  • In 2014 Transparency International commissioned anti-corruption expert Dr Jon Quah to further refine the framework, producing a set of indicators incorporating elements of our National Integrity Systems assessment methodology and other relevant tools and principles.
  • In April 2015, we organised a Focus Group Discussion in Bangkok, bringing together practitioners, researchers and ACAs to scrutinise the indicator framework and approach. Participants subsequently formed an Advisory Group to guide the finalisation of the assessment tool.
  • The assessment tool was applied to Bhutan’s Anti-Corruption Commission and lessons learned around the research framework, process and approach were captured and used to finalise the methodology in late 2015 in consultation with the Advisory Group.
  • In November 2015, the methodology for the initiative was finalised in the form of an Implementation Guide for country research teams.
  • On November 11-12 a two day kick-off training workshop took place, led by Transparency International Bangladesh, to train researchers from our national chapters in Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Maldives, Mongolia, Sri Lanka and Taiwan. These Chapters are carrying out assessments of their respective ACAs in late 2015 and early 2016.
  • The first report of the initiative – the Bhutan Anti-Corruption Commission Assessment Report – was launched on 10 December, 2015, in Thimphu, Bhutan. See examples of the media coverage here and here.
  • Over 2016-17, national reports were published in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Assessments were also undertaken in Mongolia and Taiwan (Republic of China) in cooperation with their national ACAs. 
  • Regional analysis comparing national findings in five countries across the Asia Pacific region was published in the regional report ‘Strengthening Anti-Corruption Agencies in the Asia Pacific’ in October 2017
  • The launch of the regional report was followed by a sharing and learning meeting between ACA Heads and Transparency International to discuss the findings and identify opportunities to improve.
  • In 2017, we commissioned a policy paper on ACAs in the Asia Pacific region, which has findings that are relevant for ACAs across the Asia Pacific region and globally.
  • Over 2017-18, Transparency International has engaged nationally, regionally and globally to share the results from Round 1 reports and advocate for legislative and policy reform in order to strengthen ACAs.
  • In 2018, Transparency International revised the ACA assessment methodology.
  • On December 13-14 a two day training workshop will take place in Jakarta, Indonesia, led by Transparency International Bangladesh, to train researchers from our national chapters in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Mongolia and Sri Lanka. These Chapters will carry out assessments of their respective ACAs in 2019 under Phase 2 of the initiative.

Read the full report: Strengthening Anti-Corruption Agencies in Asia Pacific




Alison Matthews
Asia Pacific Regional Programme

Country / Territory - International   |   Bangladesh   |   Bhutan   |   Indonesia   |   Maldives   |   Mongolia   |   Sri Lanka   |   Taiwan   
Region - Global   |   Asia Pacific   
Language(s) - English   
Topic - Accountability   |   Law enforcement   |   Politics and government   |   Public services   |   Tools   

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