10 June 2012, by Priya Sood, GOPAC.
Corruption: a word many in civil society these days would readily attribute to governments and politicians around the world. It is not solely an issue in developing countries and affects all citizens regardless of their nationality or economic status. But who should be counted on to fight this scourge?
The fight against corruption is not confined to governmental actors and should involve all segments of the society, including civil society organizations, media and academic institutions. In the same vein, the self-assessment of anti-corruption issues in a country should not remain the prerogative of a fraction of bureaucrats and politicians but rather be used as a vehicle for critical reflection by society as a whole. Initiatives involving a wide participation of stakeholders, especially the parliament, will contribute positively to the performance as well as enhance credibility to the general public. When the preparation of responses to the review mechanism is collaborative, the self-assessment process is then a transparency mechanism in itself. Meaningful participation of the legislative branch and civil society also marks the seriousness of a government’s commitment in the implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) helping raise public awareness of corruption and therefore increasing the general intolerance towards the phenomenon.
Over the last year, the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have been working together in the fight against corruption. To date, they have piloted three national workshops in Burkina Faso, Timor Leste and Morocco for Members of Parliament (MPs) and wider civil society on a jointly developed self-assessment tool for parliamentarians on the UNCAC.
The workshop was designed to provide substantial knowledge about the UNCAC and the GOPAC-UNDP self-assessment tool and to encourage more active involvement in the process of the formal self-evaluation mechanism of the Convention. It also sought to engage broader civil society and parliamentarians in a national dialogue on the fight against corruption.
The assessment tool is unique because it focuses on the role of parliaments in the fight against corruption and more specifically in the implementation of the provisions of Chapter 2 of the UNCAC on the Prevention of Corruption. It can be used as an effective means for Parliament to show that it is at the forefront of efforts to fight against corruption in ‘leading by example’ and reviewing its own effectiveness in this area. In conducting the self-assessment in a frank and open manner, in consultation with various actors – state and non-state -, public confidence in the institution of Parliament can be enhanced and new coalitions between parliamentarians and other actors can be formed.
The tool includes a series of questions used to identify weaknesses in the ability of parliament to implement the Convention. The identification of weaknesses facilitates the development of plans for reform and capacity building plans to make targeted improvements in key functions of parliaments, including: legislation, executive oversight, financial oversight and compliance with standards of conduct in public.
Much knowledge was gained throughout these three workshops that will enable parliamentarians in Burkina Faso, Timor Leste and Morocco to improve their fight against corruption. In each of the respective workshops GOPAC members and civil society representatives made some of the following recommendations for their respective countries:
- Government must develop a national strategy for combating corruption that engages parliamentarians
- Government must introduce its national anti-corruption strategy to the public and inform the parliament on the level of implementation of the UNCAC.
- A parliamentary sub-committee needs to be created to follow up to the implementation of the UNCAC Parliamentarians must participate and be represented in the committee in charge of conducting the UNCAC self-assessment.
- Parliamentarians need access to the official self-assessment report.
- Parliamentarians need to be provided with knowledge and training on the UNCAC
- Parliament reports and documents must be open to the public
- The UNCAC must be transposed into legislation at the national level
GOPAC Programme Advisor