When it comes to ending corruption, is there light at the end of the tunnel?
18 Dec 2017 by Irakli Kotetishvili, policy specialist on anti-corruption and public administration at UNDP.
Since passing the United Nations Convention Against Corruption in 2003, the world celebrates International Anti-Corruption Day on 9 December every year. But do we really have anything to celebrate?
Have we, society as a whole, managed to combat corruption or at least minimize its negative impact?
Countries in our region widely differ on their progress in fighting corruption. In Europe and Central Asia, 1 in 3 citizens still think that corruption is one of the main problems facing their country.
At UNDP, we work with countries and territories in the region to help curb corruption at all levels – that it to say, we work with local authorities in municipalities and governments.
- In Albania, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine, one-stop shops now allow citizens to receive many public services in one place and save money, time and energy when collecting various documents from multiple public institutions. The approach also helps cut the red tape and minimize corruption risks.
- In Ukraine, we have been working since 2015 with the Ministry of Justice and other Ukrainian central government institutions on reforming anti-corruption legislation, inlucidng, protective mechanisms for whistleblowers, enhanced rules for conflicts of interest and new regulatons on asset declarations.
We also helped to launch online asset declaration system, which already recorded more than 1,5 million asset declarations of public officials to date. Considered a huge breakthrough in the anti-corruption ecosystem, the platform shed light on public officials’ financial situation, which had never been published before. This reform also captured the attention of international media, such as, CNN, BBC and many others.
- In Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, civil servants at the local level were not always able to identify the corruption risks in their cities and municipalities, and when they did, they were not clear on how to address them. That’s why we began to deliver trainings. Since then, Straseni, a municipality in Moldova, has already adopted an integrity plan, which will shortly be followed by Kutaisi, the second largest city in Georgia in February 2018.
- In Albania, increased bureaucracy around access to public data has been a major challenge. We worked with the Municipality of Tirana to launch an Open Data Portal where citizens can receive information on all municipal services online. Similarly, in Kosovo*, we helped launch a similar data visualization website, which analyzes public procurement data and provides a red-flag system that can highlight transactions with potential corruption risks.
Can we achieve corruption-free cities?
When it comes to addressing corruption at the municipal level, we recently brought mayors together at a seminar on “Corruption-Free Cities of the Future” to take stock of what remains to be done.
What we’ve found is that political leadership that is willing to address corruption by mayors is absolutely essential. There is no way around it. However, once this leadership is there, action must be taken to institutionalize changes.
And although some risk areas, such as, public services delivery, are already being addressed through one-stop-shops in many places across our region, the approach is not yet systematic across all governments and requires a stronger push.
Public availability of essential municipally-owned data, as well as, centrally orchestrated procurements on the local levels, still remain largely unresolved in cities and municipalities. Some citites are really innovating in this area, with open data portals, and open budgets for increased transparency, which are proving to save money and ensure better urban planning.
But if we want to truly end corruption once and for all, we must demand and continue to work for a participatory process that engages civil society and experts.
When it comes to ending corruption, we might be seeing the beginning of the light at the end of the tunnel. But we have a lot more work to do if we want to get there.
For a quick overview of corruption in the region, check out this infographic.
* References to Kosovo on this website shall be understood to be in the context of Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999)