Implementing the UN Convention against Corruption in the Maldives

THE MALDIVES’ SITUATION AND UNCAC

“The United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) is the only legally binding universal anti-corruption instrument.” It is also the most comprehensive legal instrument on the issue. The Convention resulted from the discussions held from 21st January 2002 to 01st October 2003 and was adopted by the Resolution no.58/4 of UN General Assembly on 31st October 2003. UNCAC came into force on 14th December 2005. (www.unodc.org/unodc/en/treaties/CAC)

UNCAC consists of 8 chapters. The major chapters having provisions for prevention, criminalization and law enforcement, international cooperation, asset recovery, technical assistance and information exchange.

All of these chapters offer a very thorough access into the aspects related to combating corruption, in terms of having preventive frameworks cutting across the public and the private sector, to having frameworks through which law enforcement can combat corruption, both within the domestic and international sphere.

Maldives becoming a party to the Convention was first recognized, and included in the Roadmap for the Reform Agenda, launched on 27 March 2006. Thereafter, Maldives acceded to the Convention on 22 March 2007. As per article 68 of the Convention, it entered into force in Maldives on 21 April 2007. However under the Constitution of the Republic of Maldives, implementation of Conventions has to be enabled through legislative changes or reforms.

The full implementation of the Convention was strategically adopted in The Strategic Action Plan (National Framework for Development 2009-2013). Yet, little has been achieved in terms of having serious and sustained efforts to achieve this.

There are several factors, in my view, for the general lack of seriousness in this regard:

  • Lack of political will to combat corruption.
  • Assignment of the Ministry of Finance and Treasury as the focal point for the Convention; a Ministry that has no direct relevance in terms of enabling its implementation. The focal point to the Convention rested with the Ministry until very recently into 2018, before it was transferred to the Attorney General’s Office.
  • Lack of awareness and understanding of the Convention.
  • Lack of a national anti-corruption strategy.

Conference of the States Parties (CoSP) to the UNCAC has established a mechanism to review implementation of the Convention. Maldives has undergone the first cycle of review, where implementaion of chapter 3 (Criminalization) and 4 (International Cooperation) was reviewed and completed in 2015.

The Country Review Report of Maldives is available on the UNODC website. (link provided at the end of the post)

Maldives will be reviewed in 2019, under the second cycle of review, where implementation of chapter 2 (Prevention) and 5 (Asset Recovery) will be reviewed.

THE NEED TO IMPLEMENT UNCAC IN THE MALDIVES

The need to implement the UNCAC, within a national anti-corruption strategy that enables consolidation of anti-corruption efforts, through sufficient frameworks is looked at here. In this regard, significant issues in the current set up are presented under the heading; National Anti-Corruption Strategy followed by the sub-headings; Framework for prevention, Framework for criminalization and law enforcement, Framework for asset recovery.

Relevant provisions of the UNCAC are referred to, under each heading. However, to understand the requirements of each framework in its entirety under UNCAC, the relevant chapters of the Convention must be read.

Under the framework for criminalization and law enforcement, issues are presented under further sub-headings regarding;  issues in the legal framework, the need to revise investigation approaches, the need to address proceeds of corruption, the need for coordination among the relevant authorities and other measures.

National Anti-Corruption Strategy

Institutionalized anti-corruption efforts in the Maldives began in 1991 with the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Board (ACB), and were subject to key changes in the institutional and legal framework as part of the democratic reforms under the Constitution (2008). However, the efforts ensuing after the changes were not strategically directed to complement the changes, to enable combating corruption in a holistic manner. This resulted in failure to maximize the effectiveness of the changes.

It also pevented the establishment of a mechanism to put into context and, to address the types and gravity of corruption that is susceptible to occur in the new political and governance sphere.

After the lapse of 27 years without a strategic approach to combat corruption, the current anti-corruption measures need to be reassessed entirely, in order to combat the rise of grand corruption and money laundering in the Maldives.

The seriousness of organized crimes and the unexplainable, abrupt increase in wealth of some of the public officials and individuals of the Maldives further intensify the need to review the efforts of the criminal justice sector from an anti-corruption perspective.

Corruption allows perpetrators of organized crime to operate in impunity by infiltrating their power into the State apparatus. Thus, an assessment is required to identify and determine the degree of such infiltration and address the grave inefficiencies in law enforcement and delivery of justice.

Organized crime also requires corruption and money-laundering to keep the organized crime groups afloat. Hence, the three phenomenons should not be viewed in isolation. Therefore, considering the increase in organized crimes and grand corruption in the Maldives, there is a serious need for coordination between the authorities to collate data, to view and assess the situation, as a combined whole.

To effectively address these issues, strategic anti-corruption measures from a combined perspective of prevention and law enforcement are required. Such measures should also entail effective measures for asset recovery.

It is also imperative that the measures are sustained, irrespective of the political environment.

Only clear, coordinated and holistic efforts within a national framework can systematically and effectively address the above-mentioned issues.

Therefore, the need for a coordinated national anti-corruption strategy is more acute than ever.

The UNCAC calls for, “effective, coordinated anti-corruption policies that promote the participation of society and reflect the principles of rule of law, proper management of public affairs and property, integrity, transparency and accountability”. (Article 5, Para 1, of UNCAC).

The comprehensive approach of the Convention will also serve as a blueprint for frameworks needed for a concrete anti-corruption strategy.

(…to be continued)

*Link to the Country Review Report

https://www.unodc.org/unodc/treaties/CAC/country-profile/CountryProfile.html?code=MDV

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