Lack of access to data thwarts war on corruptionJuly 2012
Information about worldwide corruption is being withheld by governments, including the UK administration, campaigners have claimed after an investigation.
In November 2009, the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) framework calling on countries to meet certain standards was adopted by 160 nations. Reviews are conducted in every country by civil society organisations, evaluating compliance with UNCAC standards.
Some of these reviews have taken place and reports produced every year since the convention was ratified, but many investigators are finding lack of access to information is preventing proper evaluation of the efforts to tackle corruption.
One of the authors of the UK review, Eric Gutierrez, Christian Aid’s senior adviser on accountable governance, said: “In the UK, parliament has passed tough laws against corruption. Yet the government does not collect information on the ultimate and beneficial owners of UK companies. Nor does it exert pressure to publish company registries on its crown dependencies and overseas territories.
“This makes it possible for anyone acting corruptly to create ‘shell companies’, which can open bank accounts to receive ill-gotten gains from elsewhere.”
Besides the reviews conducted by members of the UNCAC coalition – civil society organisations united in fighting corruption – signatory governments conduct a self-assessment process facilitated by the UN Office on Drugs & Crime.
Some countries have allowed NGOs to participate in official reviews, but governments are not consistent in their transparency and many exclude their citizens from the process.
Coalition chairman Vincent Lazatin said: “We are finding that governments are continually failing to adequately gather and make available data about corruption cases they are investigating or prosecuting.
“The lack of public data about crimes related to corruption is keeping all of us in the dark about whether or not our own governments are keeping their word.”
So far civil society organisations have reviewed 16 countries’ compliance with the convention.
Lazatin said: “What needs to happen now is for civil society organisations to have a formal role in the official review processes. At present, concerned citizens are often not allowed to participate in the evaluation of the enforcement of their own laws, and that is not acceptable.”
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