ADB/OECD Anti-Corruption Initiative Calls for Increased Cooperation Among Nations to Fight Corruption
The two-day Seventh Regional Conference of the ADB/OECD Anti-corruption Initiative concluded in New Delhi today. It has called for increased cooperation amongst nations in combating corruption and development of mechanisms for seamless sharing of information and intelligence amongst investigating agencies. The Union Finance Minister Shri Pranab Mukherjee addressed the valedictory session. In his remarks, Shri Mukherjee commended the relentless and persistent efforts of the ADB/OECD Initiative in joining the global fight against Corruption and their goal to address all aspects of the universal convention of United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC). He said that a multifaceted approach is required to address it. There has to be a framework for prevention of corruption in the public and the private domain. There has to be a legal framework recognizing the act of corruption as a crime, supported by an effective enforcement machinery. There is also an awareness aspect on the issue, which has to be addressed by empowering individuals who are the ultimate victim of corruption, directly or indirectly.
Shri Mukherjee said that in today’s globalised context of our economies, effective international co-operation has become a sine qua non of any framework against corruption. We need to engage with each other at different levels to effectively block all physical escape routes for those blatantly propagating corrupt practices. Moreover, given the pervasiveness of this phenomenon, it is a war that has to be fought on all fronts and in a concerted and coordinated manner by all stakeholders. Symptomatic solutions to the problem only present temporary results. To be effective, any framework against corruption has to be comprehensive. India’s efforts to tackle this menace have been unceasing and we are committed to the goal of achieving ‘Zero Tolerance’ against corruption. India has a sound legal framework to address corruption, he added.
Shri V. Narayanasamy, Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions in his remarks said that the Conference provided the member countries a platform to share best practices which can be adopted by other members. He suggested that special measures could be considered to tackle corruption in high risk areas. The Minister said that there is a need to take concerted effortsin checking corruption in the private sector.
The Conference adopted several conclusions aimed at improving the effectiveness of anti-corruption frameworks and enhancing cooperation amongst enforcement agencies to launch a concerted fight against corruption. The conference reinforced the increasing recognition that corruption harms everyone in the society, particularly the weaker sections of the society and, therefore, all societal organs – governments, big corporates, small and medium scale enterprises and the civil society - have a role to play in tackling it.
Major conclusions emanating from the conference emphasised the need for–
(a) strengthening of existing legal frameworks to meet new challenges as part of the compliance requirements under International Conventions such as the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, etc.;
(b) measures for strengthening e-governance and the public services delivery systems;
(c) creation of strong information networks to provide seamless access to investigating agencies, both within and across borders;
(d) increasing transparency, competitiveness and accountability in public procurements by improving procurement frameworks and using modern information technology;
(e) encouraging private sector and civil society in the fight against corruption.
While focussing on problems faced by countries in the Asia-Pacific in addressing issues in multi-jurisdictional corruption investigations, the Conference noted that informal channels, such as police-to-police contacts and foreign liaison offices have proven to help law enforcement authorities gain investigative leads early on in cases. The Conference also observed that joint investigations by all jurisdictions involved in cross-border cases help bring the full extent of corrupt schemes to light and their perpetrators to justice. In addition, through new provisions in model tax codes, such as the OECD Model Tax Convention, Initiative members could enable tax agencies to share information about corruption received from foreign tax authorities with their law enforcement authorities. The Conference also emphasised that “where formal channels to obtain legal assistance are necessary, they must not be subject to undue delays, which ultimately threaten the success of a prosecution as well as due process.”
Public procurement has long been perceived to be prone to corruption. The Conference underscored the fact that the designing of procurement systems, based on transparency, competition and objective criteria, is critical for prevention of corruption in public procurement. The Conference pointed out that new technologies, such as e-procurement could simplify procurement procedures, and ensure the highest level of transparency, without compromising the fairness of the bidding process. Anti-corruption and fair competition agencies should work together closely to address the links between corruption and bid-rigging.
The Conference took note of the fact that the private sector in Asia-Pacific, has to share more responsibility for tackling corruption in business transactions, through the adoption and implementation of corporate compliance frameworks. The Conference commended for adoption of the international standards on corporate compliance set out in framework documents, such as the OECD Good Practice Guidance, which can be adapted by companies of all sizes, including SMEs.
The Conference observed that there is a need to create an environment in which civil society organisations can thrive, including effective access to information laws, safe and reliable channels to report allegations of corruption to the law enforcement authorities, such as an independent ombudsman.
The two day conference was inaugurated by President Pratibha Devisingh Patil and was attended by experts from the 28 member countries and economies of the ADB/OECD Anti-Corruption Initiative and leading global experts and representatives of international organizations, leading enterprises, business associations and civil society. In all, 78 foreign delegates and over 100 Indian delegates participated in the deliberations.