Framework to prevent corruption

Prevention in the current mechanism is mainly approached  in terms of conducting researches and promoting education and awareness on the dangers of corruption.

However, focus must be redirected on urgently executing preventive measures, to eliminate deficiencies in the system that allow corruption to thrive.

Some of the most pressing issues in the current system are focused on here.

If prompt action is not taken to address them, repetition of the same abuses and corruption is inevitable.

While the very first preventive measure under the UNCAC is the development and implementation of coordinated anti-corruption policies,  the need for Maldives to have a national anti-corruption strategy has already been highlighted in the previous post.

The Convention also requires the establishment of a body or bodies to implement, oversee and coordinate the implementation of the policies. (article 5 and 6 of UNCAC)

In this regard, the States Parties may adopt any number of strategies or policies. The important factor is to direct anti-corruption efforts under clear, coordinated policies.

Asset declaration or financial disclosure is an essential means to prevent corruption. It is also an area that needs to be urgently addressed in the Maldives.

An asset declaration system must cover the whole ambit of public officials, extending to their relatives and associates.

It should also cover all forms of outside activities, employment, investments, substantial gifts or benefits from which a conflict of interest may arise.

The system must also take into account any financial interests held in a foreign country in any capacity. Specifically, of any interest in or signature or other authority over a financial account in a foreign country. (article 8 para (5), 52 Para (5) and (6) of UNCAC)

Thus, reviewing the assets and interests disclosure provisions, in the laws and codes of conduct of public officials, and consolidating them into a system that is properly implemented and effectively sanctioned for non-compliance, is most required.

While, there are codes of conduct for public officials, most of the elected and appointed officials’ are not regulated under such a code/s.

Therefore, codes of  conduct for public officials, both appointed and elected, are essential. (article 8, UNCAC)

Assessing the criteria concerning candidature for and election to public office, and establishing a mechanism to properly address funding of candidatures for elected public office and the funding of political parties is paramount. (article 7, para 2 and 3 of UNCAC)

A good system to oversee asset disclosure, codes of conduct and funding of candidates or political parties is also essential to prevent repetition of some forms of unethical behavior by public officials that we have seen.

Especially where, huge sums of money  are accepted as donations in the name of or disguised under “campaign financing” etc.

It is also necessary to eliminate instances where public officials accept undue advantages in the guise of “legitimate increments or endowments” etc.

Not every minute instance of unethical behaviour can be addressed through the letter of law, and public officials, by virtue of their office hold a higher duty and obligation to act ethically within the standards required of his/her office, whether it is written or not.

Therefore, abuses such as those just mentioned, reinforce the need to establish stringent systems that will not allow any forms of abuse, however minute it may be.

A systematic effort to review laws and administrative measures in order to assess their adequacy to combat corruption has to be maintained (article 5, para (3) of UNCAC).

This will help address, ambiguities and challenges in the application of laws and other measures promptly.

In this regard, authorities need to urgently take action to address any removal of essential safeguards in laws to prevent corruption.

It is also important to include further safeguards to ensure transparency and accountabilty where they are necessary.

Measures are also called forth in the UNCAC, to regulate the private sector in terms of taking measures to prevent corruption in the private sector, enhance accounting and auditing standards, and where needed, to establish corporate liability with appropriate sanctions.

Law no.10/2014 (the Prevention of Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism Act) (or AML law as referred to in this post) and Law no.9/2014 (Penal Code) provides grounds for establishing liability of legal persons and sanctioning them.

However, those provisions have not been sufficiently employed in investigating corruption. (details to which will be provided under framework for criminalization and law enforcement)

The corporate regime of the Maldives is a wholly new area to be delved into purely from an anti-corruption perspective.

Hence, a study to determine the role and vulnerability of the corporate vehicles in the Maldives to enable corruption and money-laundering is critical.

While there are rules or policies governing staff recruitment etc. and management of procurement and finances in the public offices, a review must be undertaken to assess public enterprises and private legal entities in this regard, and have them subject to mandatory, minimum anti-corruption standards or measures in their policies or regulations.

Article 12 of UNCAC has several other preventive measures directed towards the private sector.

The preventive measures in UNCAC also address measure for preventing money-laundering. The AML law is sufficiently within the requirements set forth in the UNCAC.

However, one very grave concern that arose in the grandest case of corruption and money laundering to date in the Maldives, (the MMPRC case) is the failure to prevent it by the relevant authorities.

Thus, a preventive framework must address the underlying cause of the failure and make arrangements to strengthen and enable authorities to function independently.

In this regard, ensuring swift legal protection for public officials who refuse to comply with, or assist in facilitating corruption or unlawful activities during the performance of their jobs is critical.

Further measures within the domestic framework are also needed to ensure proper functioning of the oversight bodies.

One aspect is through holding them accountable. However, the outcomes in the political scene largely influence the effective use or abuse of the current system for accountability.

So there needs to be a mechanism whereby, concentration of parliamentary powers in one political party does not hamper, holding oversight bodies accountable.

UNCAC also encourages civil society participation to prevent corruption.

As such, establishing sound platforms for civil society participation and enabling access to information are paramount.

Considering the importance of access to information in preventing corruption, the application of the Right to Information Law in the Maldives must be reviewed and addressed.

Taking up serious measures to address the findings of studies and researches done by civil society organizations like the Transparency Maldives, will provide further insight for strategic measures  combat corruption in the Maldives.

Thus, identifying and consolidating preventive measures with a view, to address deficiencies in the system or areas that need development or reform is necessary to address corruption effectively.

Furthermore, Chapter 2 of UNCAC on preventive measures provides a thorough approach that could assist in the development of a framework for prevention.

The above mentioned issues have been topics of frequent discussions in the public as well as the political arena.

However, serious consideration or work to actually have them adopted within the system has been lacking for over the past 10 years.

Any effort to curb corruption without having them addressed will yield the same repugnant results as now.

 

(To be continued- upcoming topic: Framework for criminalization and law enforcement…)

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