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Actions to Tackle Corruption

In support of Open Renewal, the Co-Chairs of OGP, the Republic of Korea and Maria Baron of Directorio Legislativo, have launched a global call-to-action for all OGP members in 2021 to use their new and existing action plans to make ambitious commitments that address core challenges. This includes anti-corruption, civic space and participation, and digital governance where they can share their expertise and experience. Read their letter to the community here.

Corruption is defined as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. It continues to be one of the greatest systemic problems faced by countries worldwide. Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) revealed a concerning trend that “most countries made little to no progress in tackling corruption in almost a decade.”

2020 brought unprecedented corruption-related challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly $11.7 trillion was spent by governments worldwide to address a range of issues resulting from the pandemic. However, issues like contract irregularities, missing government aid packages and medical supplies, bribery, money laundering, fraud, embezzlement, and conflicts of interest were exacerbated during the pandemic as corruption often thrives during emergency situations.

Corruption continues to undermine democratic institutions worldwide. Without strong commitments focused on political integrity, achieving OGP’s partnership-wide goals of economic recovery, tackling systemic inequalities, safeguarding threats to democracy, and having a more citizen-centered democracy will be even more difficult. These corrupt, interconnected practices — experienced by high and low income countries alike — have ultimately lowered the quality of public services, diverted aid away from those most in need, deepened inequality, and eroded the trust between citizens and the state.

As a community, OGP members have advanced a number of anti-corruption reforms. Domestically-owned OGP action plans have seen an increase in critical areas such as open contracting and public procurement, beneficial ownership, political integrity, and extractive industries. Historically, OGP commitments have focused more on prevention of corruption than on investigations and sanctions; however, many of the transparency and accountability policies have provided direct value to law enforcement, investigative journalism, and public mobilization around political transitions. 

As of March 2021, of the 722 anti-corruption commitments implemented by 91 members over the past ten years, 57 percent were considered “ambitious” and 21 percent showed strong results in opening up government, based on assessment by OGP’s Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM).

As the 2021 OGP co-chairs, the government of the Republic of Korea and Maria Baron, Executive Director of Directorio Legislativo, launch their call-to-action, even more anti-corruption success could be realized. The OGP co-creation process ensures action plans reflect the right representation from government, parliament, civil society, independent state institutions, and the private sector needed to identify, diagnose, and design effective solutions. 

Data on action plan progress demonstrates the value of using OGP to catalyze and coordinate progress across government departments, as well as for the international exchange of ideas and learnings. OGP action plans serve as an important mechanism for accountability of implementation of commitments made on the global stage. For example, following the 2016 London Anti-Corruption Summit, at least 20 OGP countries included their commitments within OGP action plans. Recent analysis by Transparency International on their progress suggests including commitments can strengthen implementation. In 2003, the United Nations adopted the UN Convention Against Corruption, which continues to help shape several countries’ action plans. OGP action plans will benefit from several global forums focusing on anti-corruption in 2021: G7 Summit and UNGASS Conference in June, G20 Forum in October, the OGP Global Summit in December, the proposed Summit for Democracy to be hosted by the United States.

Below are several anti-corruption policy options, along with illustrative examples of existing OGP commitments. This is not intended to be a cumulative list, but rather a guide which draws on recent OGP resources on the topic, including the Open Government Guide (Open Response + Open Recovery edition), the OGP Global Report, and thematic briefs that have been developed in collaboration with OGP partners working on these topics. These policy actions may be implemented at both the national and local government levels, depending on mandate and country context.

Money in Politics

Money in politics covers a wide range of interrelated issues that damage governance structures and weaken the rule of law.

  • Asset disclosure or wealth declaration requires public officials to disclose information about their personal wealth and business interests. 
    • North Macedonia defined the scope of the elected and appointed persons who are obliged to submit declarations of assets and interests statements.
    • The Republic of Korea strengthened its policies on asset disclosure for public servants. Restrictions on post-public employment are also strictly monitored to further promote the culture of civil service integrity
    • Additional recommendations can be seen in Transparency International’s publication on asset and interest declarations for OGP action plans and their compilation of international and regional standards and guidelines for asset disclosure. 
  • Conflicts of interest: Public officials may find themselves in a position where they can use their office and the powers that come with it for personal gain. 
    • Panama enhanced its law on the Uniform Code of Ethics for public servants by specifying behaviors or actions that will be classified as conflicts of interest.
  • Lobbying: While lobbying is an acceptable practice in any democratic society, safeguards need to be placed to prevent powerful groups to further their interests in expense of public good.  
    • Madrid and Ireland  established mandatory public registers of meetings between lobbyists and public officials which increased citizen access to information and improved accountability in the policy making process.
    • Chile adopted measures to effectively democratize their Law on Lobbying by changing the rules of the game and ensure lobbyist activities and financing are fully transparent.
  • Political Financing: The absence of transparency in funding campaigns and political parties have eroded political integrity and contributed to the disillusionment of citizens with government. 

Open Contracting and Transparency of Public Procurement

The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates that corruption and fraud may amount to 10 to 25 percent of a contract’s value. This means that essential services may not be delivered to those who need it the most. Government contracts can be used to hide illicit money flows and with an estimated global average of $13 trillion a year, having a beneficial ownership register for government suppliers can make it easier to detect corruption. As of March 2021, a total of 219 commitments from 75 OGP members were submitted on open contracting and public procurement. About 33 percent of these achieved strong results.

Beneficial Ownership Transparency

Several high-income countries with their high levels of financial secrecy have long been considered tax havens, costing developing and emerging economies about $1 trillion annually in lost capital and revenue due to illicit financial flows. To address this, the United Kingdom announced a public register during the 2013 OGP Global Summit, which has grown to 31 members and resulted in 46 beneficial ownership commitments, 68 percent of which were considered “ambitious” indicating the transformational nature of this reform. Several OGP countries have also established registers in the extractives sector in compliance with EITI standards and built on future action plans to create public central registers. OGP’s Global Report on Beneficial Ownership took an in-depth look at the current commitments and offered detailed recommendations.

  • Nigeria’s commitment to establish a beneficial ownership register is reflected in two action plans to the OGP; the first was implemented from 2017 to 2019, and the second from 2019 to 2021. A significant milestone in this journey was the passage of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) in 2020, which provided a legislative basis for Nigeria’s beneficial ownership register.
  • Norway committed to an Ultimate Beneficial Owners registry to show who has controlling interests in Norwegian countries, as well as to comply with their international obligations through the Financial Action Task Force (FTAF)
  • The United Kingdom became the first country in OGP to establish a beneficial ownership registry following their OGP commitment in 2013, announced by the then UK Prime Minister at the OGP Global Summit. They were also able to set new standards in publishing data which allowed it to be reused by organizations and journalists without restrictions.
  • Communities of practice have also been established to support beneficial ownership-related advocacy. In 2019, OGP and Open Ownership co-convened the Beneficial Ownership Leadership Group to drive the global policy shift towards free, open beneficial ownership data. Complementary to this are smaller regional networks for learning and exchange, such as the OGP Community of Practice for Beneficial Ownership in Latin America.

Extractive Industries

High revenues and profits from oil, gas, and mining renders extractive industries vulnerable to corruption. The OECD Foreign Bribery Report tagged the extractive sector as one with the highest incidents of bribery to secure contracts. At a global level, OGP amplified the effectiveness of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) by adding visibility to EITI commitments echoed in OGP action plans. To date, 51 OGP members have made 145 commitments in extractive industries, 70 percent of which are considered “ambitious,” and 33 percent have achieved strong results. OGP published the research paper, Seeking Synergy: OGP and EITI, which provides recommendations on how to leverage both initiatives to make meaningful reforms in extractives governance. 

  • Canada established reporting standards which requires extractive entities to report payments made to governments. These reports aim to increase citizen awareness on how revenues are spent.
  • Ghana and Armenia strengthened their EITI commitments by including open contracting and beneficial ownership in extractive sector management.  
  • The Philippines included EITI commitments in three action plans from 2013 to 2022 which aimed to increase transparency through systematic disclosure of information. By 2017, it became the first country that received satisfactory progress according to EITI standards.

Whistleblower Protection

Whistleblowing is one of the most effective tools to expose and combat corruption. However, whistleblowers are often at risk due to potential retaliation. OGP developed A Guide to Open Government and the Coronavirus and included a module on whistleblower protection. 

  • Australia improved whistleblower protections for people who disclose information about tax misconduct. Whistleblower protection was established in the corporate sector with consultation on options to strengthen and align these protections with those in the public sector.
  • Latvia’s 2018 Whistleblower Protection Act promotes effective whistleblowing and whistleblower protection mechanisms by: increasing awareness; promoting opportunities to raise the issue to authorities; and promoting efficient, single whistleblowing mechanisms. The initiative has been recognized as part of the pilot OGP Leaders Network.

Asset Recovery

Asset Recovery enables governments to retrieve funds that have been illegally obtained. Once returned, these funds can be used to fund development projects for the public’s benefit. 

  • Nigeria enacted legislation that would aid asset recovery and ensure proper and transparent management of assets and proceeds.

Cross-cutting Areas

  • Right to information is critical to transparency and accountability initiatives. It enables citizens and civil society to access and use information to monitor and hold governments to account. When used as an anti-corruption tool, having fair access to data and information makes it difficult to conceal illegal activities.
  • Fiscal openness. Openness across the budget and fiscal cycle allows citizens to hold their government accountable and reduce waste. Over time, this can ensure that government spending reflects the people’s interests and needs. 
    • Georgia established a Budget Monitor portal through the State Audit Office with the aim of improving budget transparency and accountability, as well as promoting more efficient use of budget resources.
    • Colombia committed to make public finances transparent by publishing in open data formats to ensure interoperability of national financial systems. This will enhance citizen participation in allocating and monitoring resources. This also includes a tagging system to track, for example, COVID-19 expenditures in all budgeting and contracting processes.
    • More recommendations can be found in the International Budget Partnership and GIFT’s guidance on opening budgets through national action plans and public participation in budgets, respectively. 
    • OGP published a fact sheet and a Guide to Open Government and the Coronavirus on fiscal openness, which provides additional examples and policy recommendations.
  • Gender and inclusion: In most countries, women and marginalized groups are underrepresented in political institutions, a challenge that worsens during crisis situations. Women are also more at risk in losing their jobs, affecting their financial independence and making them more vulnerable to gender-specific forms of corruption like sextortion. This is also a challenge for the LGBTQIA+, disability, and minority communities who depend on the government for health care, education, and other public services in which access may be tied to bribes.
Open Government Partnership