Monitoring the OAS Anti-Corruption Convention implementation – country visit to Argentina

12 December 2012, by Ezequiel Nino, ACIJ.

At the end of October a delegation of experts from the Follow-up Mechanism of the Inter-American Convention against Corruption visited Argentina, in the framework of the Fourth Round of review. A few meetings relating to corruption issues in the country took place in Buenos Aires with different actors, including public officials, judges, prosecutors and civil society organisations. The following topics were discussed in the country evaluation: law enforcement agencies, inter-institutional coordination, resources, difficulties for the fulfilment of their mission, and investigation and criminal sanctioning of corruption acts. Following up on the recommendations made in the first round of review, the experts inquired about the current situation of public resources for anti-corruption work, official declaration of assets of public officials, improvement in access to public information, and citizen participation in public administration.

It is important to take into account that Argentina is going through a phase of strong political polarisation. The government tries to limit the activities of several corporations, renowned media outlets, conservative judges and businessmen, who they argue are acting against ‘national interest’. Some actors view this as an unconstitutional restriction.

The population is sharply divided. There are those who support the government and welcome changes to the status quo. Whereas others consider these changes to be serious violations of the rules of democracy that should govern and solve disagreements.

Obviously, this political polarisation is also reflected in civil society, particularly among those promoting transparency and anti-corruption tools. Indeed, when the Expert Committee of the Review Mechanism consulted with civil society groups, they were not presented with a consistent message about corruption. Some organisations were not very critical about the levels of corruption in the country. The reliability and impartiality of how corruption is measured in the country, in particular by Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, and how public scandals are brought to light, was questioned by some groups.

Other organisations were much more critical. ACIJ considers the problem of corruption in Argentina to be severe, and that no progress has been made in the last ten years to improve the existing mechanisms to prevent and punish corruption. In a comment directed to the Organisation of American States, which acts as the secretariat for the Inter-American Convention against Corruption, ACIJ stressed the importance of the convention’s country review process, as it provides an opportunity for an international body to analyse and explore the serious problems of corruption now facing Argentina.

The implementation review report is due to be published around March 2013. All governmental questionnaires, civil society shadow reports and recommendations from the Committee of Experts of consecutive rounds of review are public and can be consulted on the OAS website.