- By M.M.So
It was the title of the 7th ICAC Symposium jointly organized by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, People’s Republic of China and the World Justice Project (WJP) in Hong Kong in May 2019. Eminent speakers of different positions and from different backgrounds made contributions to the Symposium’s title on moving towards combating corruption through innovative ways. Panel discussions took place under four plenary sessions at the 3-day Symposium.
The interesting topics include ‘Corruption and the rule of law: Insights from the 2019 WJP Rule of Law Index’, ‘Understanding the legal fundamentals in dealing with corruption’, ‘Inclusive coalition against corruption’, ‘The future of fighting global corruption and fraud’, ‘Responding to new challenges in a low corruption culture’, ‘Tackling corruption with transformative efforts’, ‘The power of the ordinary citizen in combating corruption’, ‘Effective corruption prevention through information technology’, ‘Corruption in 2030: What will it look like and how will we have beaten it’, ‘Shifting norms against corruption: Naming and Faming honest government officials’, ‘Evolving strategies to sustain zero tolerance towards corruption with public support – a showcase of Hong Kong’, among others. Some anti-corruption agencies in the region even shared true stories of bribery and corruption cases as their best practices in tackling corruption.
The WJP, in its address on Corruption and the Rule of Law, presented insights from the Rule of Law Index 2019. The Index covers 126 countries around the world and each country’s rule of law performance is measured across 8 primary Factors – (1) Constraints on Government Powers, (2) Absence of Corruption, (3) Open Government, (4) Fundamental Rights, (5) Order and Security, (6) Regulatory Enforcement, (7) Civil Justice and (8) Criminal Justice – disaggregated into 44 sub-factors by conducting household surveys on the experiences and perceptions of the general public and in-country experts.
In the 2019 Overall Rule of Law scores and rankings, Myanmar scored 0.42 with the global ranking of 110/126. Scores range from 0 to 1, where 1 signifies the highest score and 0 signifies the lowest possible score. Factor 2: Absence of Corruption is measured using 4 sub-factors: (i) government officials in the executive branch do not use public office for private gain, (ii) government officials in the judicial branch do not use public office for private gain, (iii) government officials in the police & military do not use of public office for private gain and (iv) government officials in the legislative branch do not use public office for private gain, considering three forms of corruption: bribery, improper influence by public or private interests and misappropriation of public funds or other resources. The global rank of Myanmar in Factor 2: Absence of Corruption stood at 60/126 and in Factor 1: 95/126, Factor 3: 114/126, Factor 4: 123/126, Factor 5: 88/126, Factor 6: 85/126, Factor 7: 122/126 and Factor 8: 116/126.
It is learned that the Index is a diagnostic tool to help identify a country’s strength and weakness in order to capture adherence to the rule of law. The list of the household coverage and polling methodology (generally face-to-face or online) for the General Population Poll in all 126 surveyed countries and the list of academics and practitioners who had contributed in making the Report were also organized in the Report.
The 2018 WJP Rule of Law Index revealed Myanmar’s ranking of 100/113 with the same score of 0.42.
Presentations and Discussions
The Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan Affairs Office, National Commission of Supervision, People’s Republic of China disclosed the unrelenting anti-corruption drive under National Commission of Supervision in implementing zero tolerance on corruption, adding that the comprehensive ways include enhanced supervision and oversight, regular inspection in provinces and putting equal emphasis on detecting and addressing problems. They had 1.5 million corruption cases in 2017-2018 and punished 58000 persons. China has continuously carried out Sky Net campaigns through which over 5000 fugitives were brought back and recovered over RMB 13 billion criminal assets. As for international cooperation, China has many Extradition Treaties and more than 20 bilateral MOUs. Suggestions on building consensus and transforming political commitment to action, seeking mutual legal assistance and concluding extradition treaties as synergies for international cooperation to achieve All-Win results were discussed.
The National Centre for Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption, Malaysia stressed the importance of the political will for the way forward in the fight against corruption. Malaysia to be known for integrity and not for corruption, the government of Malaysia under the new administration has identified 6 priority areas namely political governance, public sector administration, public procurement, legal and judicial, law enforcement and corporate governance under their National Anti-Corruption Plan 2019-2023.
The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) from Indonesia talked about the real challenges in international cooperation on multi-jurisdictional investigation and prosecution, commenting that the reality took time and ineffective to combat fast-moving corruption cases.
The C4 (Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism) from Malaysia discussed the critical role of citizens, stressing the power of ordinary citizens in fighting corruption. In urging the citizens to speak up and be heard, the creation of MyCleanCity Mobile Application to submit complaints was briefly introduced to the participants. It is interesting to learn that the C4 has worked on a mechanism to keep track of the government’s promises on the National Anti-Corruption Plan.
Tunisia High Level Authority on Financial and Administrative Control pointed out the drop of its rank of 59 in 2010 from the previous score of 73 in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index as awakening call to fight against corruption. The reason was that among other causes for the revolution in 2011, inequality and corruption were drivers of Tunisia’s revolution as political and social stability accounted for around 53% of the total effects of corruption.
ICAC discussed about evolving strategies of the preventer, embracing technology for the future. With regards to corruption prevention, suggestions on initiatives include corruption prevention groups at top level, cross-sector strategy for collaboration, working with regulators and licensed operators, capacity building and up skilling, direct contact with the public by having e-government services, automated processing and service delivery, reliability, fairness, openness, transparency, internal audit and embracing IT for corruption prevention.
OECD Working Group on Bribery statistics on foreign bribery as of December 2016 showed 443 individuals and 158 entities sanctioned under criminal proceedings during 1999 to 2016 and 125 individuals sentenced to prison. Another 121 individuals and 235 entities were sanctioned for other offences related to foreign bribery such as money laundering and a number of 53 individuals and 95 entities had been sanctioned under administrative and civil proceedings for foreign bribery. Also 500 investigations in its 29 States Parties took place during that period. It was found out that the four main sectors involved in foreign bribery cases were the extractive (19%), construction (15%), transportation and storage (15%) and information and communication (10%) sectors.
The following solutions were put up: educating politicians and calling them to responsibility; production of young anti-corruption fighters should never stop; building and using public support is important; understanding that without strict application of the rule of law equally against all perpetrators there will be no respect for preventive measures; achieving positive results in the fight against corruption to enhance citizen’s trust into their governments, which will have positive consequences in many other areas; understanding that governments, private sector and the NGOs share the responsibility for fighting corruption; not only talking about fighting corruption but also doing it; and changing terminology from ‘fighting corruption’ to ‘increasing integrity’.
When addressing the Symposium on ‘Corruption in 2030: What will it look like and how will we have beaten it’, Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, who plays a specialist role in Australian Government’s anti-corruption framework, discussed technological liberalization, quality of government, and enforcement and commitment environment as major challenges for control of corruption. On how to succeed, some thoughts such as political integrity; increased, speedier international enforcement action; education, shared values and social mobilization; deeper collaboration between enforcement agencies, media and CSOs were shared.
‘Shifting norms against corruption:’Naming and Faming’ honest government officials’ is an interesting topic as well. It is more on integrity. Under the practice of ‘Integrity Idol’ in Nepal, honest government officials are named and rewarded as integrity officials. The benefits of celebrating good people can translate individual integrity into a shift in organizational cultures. It is noted that Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, South Africa, Mexico have this kind of practice in their countries.
Different areas such as what the governments will need to do more for corruption prevention and combating, how to develop and sustain zero tolerance on corruption with public support, how should investigative journalists must do in hunting corruption, the power of the citizens in combating corruption, the role of business in fostering a culture of integrity, the internal audit’s role in preventing fraud and corruption, the role of the private sector to advance commercial transparency, corruption prevention through information technology, availability of more online options from permits and customs clearance to procurement and taxes, mechanism for safe coverage bad actors and commercial digitilization are also covered in the panel discussion.
The perspectives of the Keynote Speakers, Panel Chairs and the Panelists and the inter-active discussions have brought new ideas and thoughts on preventing and combating corruption on both policy side and operation side. It has created a new platform for sharing ideas and learning experiences in the global fight against corruption.
A glimpse on ACC Myanmar
The high-level commitment to tackle corruption in accordance with the Anti-Corruption Law, without favouring anyone, with only considering for the interests of the people and the country, is regarded as the mission of the Anti-Corruption Commission.
Fighting corruption is a never-ending task and anti-corruption policy is not just about guessing, it is about doing. On law enforcement side, there are some worse case scenarios recently being taken into action under the Anti-Corruption Law. Action speaks louder than words!
As for our prevention side, our inclusiveness approach means public sector, private sector, business sector and covering not only older generation, but also younger generation as well. The tangible result of developing corruption-related awareness lessons beginning from primary school level can be witnessed by the handing-over of 40,000 copies of Teachers’ Guide on Integrity Education for primary school level to the Union Ministry of Education last year. This year we have embarked on a program on youth integrity. It kick-started at the university level very recently in June in Nay Pyi Taw by organizing the first 1-week Youth Integrity Camp 2019 in cooperation with the Union Ministry of Education and UNODC.
We have started engaging the business sector and the private entities to develop their own Code of Conduct/Ethics with the aim to control and deter bribery and corruption on the supply side. The misconception of paying gifts as business culture needs to stop and embed the practice of ethical, responsible business and corporate social responsibility.
Under the Regional Project of Promoting a Fair Business Environment in ASEAN, we are organizing workshops on business integrity across the country. So far this program has covered 6 States/Regions – Yangon, Magwe, Bago, Ayeyawady, Mon and Kayin. It is a cooperation program among Commission, UNDP and respective State/Region Governments and has planned to cover the remaining States and Regions by 2020/21.
The Commission has introduced the concept of Corruption Prevention Units (CPUs) to be evolved at Union Ministries in order to monitor internal bribery and corruption to be able to take action under the Civil Service Personnel Law and Regulations or refer cases to the Commission which can then start investigation and take action as necessary under the Anti-Corruption Law. The CPUs will also be responsible for corruption risk assessment to find out risk areas in their related fields as an early intervention approach.
Educative talks are being held at union and sub-union levels to better understand the nature of corruption and its causes and consequences. In our awareness-raising program, we also talked about Anti-Corruption Law and its severe punishment provisions.
Educating the general public the negative impact of corruption is essential and also very important where a culture of tea-money or small facilitation payments is generally accepted and justified. In order to change this rooted culture, we need to transform our society to practise a culture of integrity with our relentless joint efforts.
According to UNDP assessment of the anti-corruption infrastructure of Myanmar, 2017, corruption risk-prone areas were perceived as public procurement and financial management, the judiciary, land administration, human resource management in the civil service, natural resource management, revenue collection and remittances, education, health, nepotism, lack of transparency and accountability in the management of civil servants as well as the lack of adequate compensation package.
If we look at TI’s (Transparency International) survey on ranking a country’s level of corruption of public sector based on perception with scores from 0 (most corrupt) to 100 (clean/least corrupt), Myanmar’s rank under CPI (Corruption Perception Index) for 2018 was 132 out of 180 countries with the score of 29. This is a change in score of (-1) from previous score of 30 and the drop in previous rank from 130/180. When we compare the 2016 Index with that of 2015, you may note some progress where Myanmar’s score marked a six-point (+6) over 2015 score and also a rising trend from 2012, before the enactment of the Anti-Corruption Law in 2013, where the rank stood at 172/176 with the score of 15 in 2012. Between 2012 and 2018, our score has improved by (+14).
In CPI Regional Analysis on Asia and the Pacific, Transparency International recommended that although many countries in the region have reforms aiming in the right direction, a gap existed: a robust and comprehensive strategy focusing on the entire anti-corruption system including legal infrastructure and punishment, proper enforcement of rules, prevention mechanisms and citizen-engagement. For good or for bad, Myanmar has not been mentioned in their Analysis.
While we are focusing our fight against corruption unilaterally, at the same time, we are strengthening our external relations with other similar agencies and also UN agencies for technical assistance where we have limited resources and expertise. We join with other States Parties in the global fight against corruption and related transnational crimes under the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). We have also joined the South East Asia Parties against Corruption (SEA-PAC). Bilateral MOUs on cooperation in anti-corruption that we have concluded with Viet Nam, Thailand, Lao PDR and South Korea have created new platforms to enhance cooperation in preventing, combating and to share experiences and practices in corruption. As corruption has become an increasingly cross-border crime in its new forms especially in this digital era, international engagement is as important as unilateral law enforcement.
As a learning anti-corruption agency in the region in terms of freshly-reorganized Commission, the 7th ICAC Symposium has enlightened us in bringing broader thoughts and ideas to advance our efforts in eradicating corruption.
This year marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of ICAC Hong Kong. Even after 45 years, ICAC has not stopped its fight against corruption. They are thinking of innovative ways in this area as there are emerging threats associated with corruption. The ICAC Commissioner Mr. Simon Peh in his message to the 7th Symposium has said that Hong Kong’s experience and its success in combating corruption and promoting integrity through a three-pronged strategy have provided a unique context for anti-graft campaigners across the world. It is learnt that their robust anti-corruption regime, transparent regulatory systems, holistic community education and independent judiciary have served to keep corruption under effective control in Hong Kong.
The Anti-Corruption Commission Myanmar reaching its 6th year has many challenges. We are used to practising conventional ways in the prevention and combating, but should consider using some innovative ways such as ‘Integrity Idol’ – ‘naming and faming’ instead of ‘naming and shaming’ – as a paradigm shift, bearing in mind whether it is workable or not. The e-government system and make every public service delivery online to prevent bribery and corruption will be very supportive also. But with the strong political will and the participation and cooperation of all stakeholders will add synergies to our concerted efforts in eradicating corruption.
Times change, but the mission continues!