What's at stake?
Anti-corruption agencies play a pivotal role in enforcement, prevention and investigation of corruption. An effective anti-corruption agency is a huge strength in the fight against corruption – when they are independent of the government and empowered to investigate allegations, they have the potential to hold even the most powerful people in society to account. With over 100 Anti-Corruption Agencies (ACAs) around the world there’s massive potential to harness the power of agencies as indispensable partners in the fight against corruption.
However, creating an ACA is only the first step, and across the world a wide gap exists between a government’s commitment in establishing ACAs and the realisation of their mandate. There is no global standard for an ideal ACA and the effectiveness of many, if not most, ACAs is inhibited by limited resources, insufficient mandate to fight corruption and political interference from governments and their agencies. The latter is more so a reality when it relates to high profile corruption cases. In this context, increased international vigilance and support for ACAs can play a crucial role in improving ACAs’ independence and effectiveness.
The United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) envisages ACAs as a key player in the fight against corruption. The accompanying Jakarta Principles on ACAs provide a roadmap for strengthening ACA independence and effectiveness. In practice, however, assessment against these standards is sporadic, due in part to the lack of political will by governments to scrutinise their own oversight mechanisms. Another reason is the absence of a coherent and practicable way in which to measure ACA performance.
As public institutions funded by tax payers’ money to combat corruption, ACAs must be transparent, accessible and accountable to citizens. It’s vital that they operate with the utmost integrity, maintain a reputation of objectivity and professionalism and demonstrate effectiveness in their duties.
What we're doing about it
In late 2015, the Anti-Corruption Agencies Strengthening Initiative was launched, with the aim of engaging with ACAs to strengthen their effectiveness. Having identified ACAs as key partners in the fight against corruption, we are working in collaboration with governments who are ready to invest in improving their anti-corruption effectiveness by building strong oversight and enforcement mechanisms. Drawing on our international network of more than 100 chapters worldwide, the Anti-Corruption Agency Strengthening Initiative combines biennial assessments of ACAs with sustained engagement, dialogue and advocacy at both national and regional levels.
Transparency International adopts a cooperative approach to working with governments, supporting those who are serious and genuine about tackling corruption to become more accountable, effective and efficient. At the same time, we are ready to criticise governments who fail to deliver on promises of anti-corruption reform and to condemn any verified incidents of bribery or corruption within the government.
The assessment tool for the ACA Strengthening Initiative was developed over a period of two years in consultation with numerous experts and practitioners around the world. The tool is designed to capture internal and external factors affecting the ACA as well getting a sense of the ACA’s reputation and actual performance.
Transparency International will work closely with ACAs to understand and improve their ability to combat corruption through a series of connected and complementary actions:
- Carry out biennial independent assessments of the capacity and performance of ACAs to identify strengths and weaknesses, and formulate recommendations for reform.
- Produce regional analyses of ACA assessments exploring trends, synergies and capturing best practices and lessons learned.
- Facilitate knowledge exchange and build a community of practice comprising ACAs across the globe, collaborating with regional and international bodies.
- Support ACAs to develop and monitor action plans to implement recommendations stemming from the assessment.
- Put pressure on governments to invest in stronger oversight and enforcement mechanisms, advocating for changes in the legislative and institutional framework which will create a more enabling environment for the ACA to function effectively.