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Using Parliamentary Tools to Fight Corruption

By   /  November 16, 2013  /  4 Comments

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Corruption (defined as the abuse of public office for private gain) is a clear threat to development, democracy and international security. It distorts economic development and subverts political decision-making, stunting growth and creating political instability. It also distorts the proper functioning of democratic institutions.

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Tomorrow, I leave New York for Moldova, where UNDP, in conjunction with Sweden and Denmark, is hosting a regional parliamentarians’ anti-corruption forum.  MPs and officials from Moldova, Georgia, Belarus, the Ukraine, and Bulgaria will be comparing experiences with counterparts from the Netherlands, the Nordic countries, and elsewhere.  I’ll be making the first presentation of UNDP’s new anti-corruption toolkit for parliamentarians  including a self-assessment tool for MPs to help chart compliance with the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC).  UNDP co-authored the toolkit with GOPAC – the Global Organisation Of Parliamentarians Against Corruption.  I founded the New Zealand Chapter of GOPAC in 2012.  GOPAC does great work around the world – its most recent chapter was founded in Sri Lanka only last month, as I found out when I was there recently on a parliamentary strengthening mission.

Corruption (defined as the abuse of public office for private gain) is a clear threat to development, democracy and international security.  It distorts economic development and subverts political decision-making, stunting growth and creating political instability.  It also distorts the proper functioning of democratic institutions.

The ability of parliament to actively conduct oversight of the government through its various tools and committees is a critical means of ensuring transparency and accountability in government and its officials.  The main means by which a parliament monitors the work of the executive, to ensure the laws passed and the funds allocated by the parliament are fully and accurately implemented, is through parliamentary committees.  Committees have the specific powers and authority to call evidence, demand testimony from senior government officials and subpoena documents.  By conducting routine or extraordinary hearings and investigations, committees have a strong knowledge of what is occurring in the aspects of the government under its purview.  Specialized committees, such as New Zealand’s Finance and Expenditure Committee – which I used to chair – have a special relationship with the state auditor.  Increasingly, good practice sees it chaired by an opposition MP to ensure it is more diligent in its efforts to monitor the government.  MPs have access to other tools as well to investigate government activity.  These include question periods and interpellations to allow for examining Ministers about specific allegations or issues.  In order to do such work effectively, MPs often engage with civil society organisations that also monitor government expenditures and activities.

UNDP is actively engaged in building a network and momentum for parliamentary action against corruption.  In the area for which I am responsible in UNDP – parliamentary development – there are 68 active projects around the world.  49 of these provide support to the oversight function of Parliament, and 24 focus specifically on supporting parliaments in fighting against corruption.  Projects in countries as diverse as Kiribati, Tuvalu, Samoa, Uganda, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Serbia, Georgia, and Bangladesh have included anti-corruption work.    Last year we organized three workshops – in Burkina Faso, Morocco and Timor Leste – to test and review the toolkit that I will be presenting in Moldova.  It comprises of a series of questions and checklists that help to identify gaps in the effectiveness of a parliament’s contribution to the implementation of UNCAC.  By identifying the most serious gaps, plans can be put in place to strengthen parliament’s anti-corruption procedures, including legislation, executive oversight, budgetary control and the protection of standards of conduct in public life.

In the world we want survey that UNDP conducted recently on what the post-2015 Development Agenda should look like, clean, open, transparent government was one of the top 4 priorities for the 1.6 million people who responded.  I hope the anti-corruption toolkit will play a small but important part in moving forward to achieve this.

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4 Comments

  1. Countryboy says:

    Your first paragraph described New Zealand so accurately , it’s chilling !

    • cassie blake says:

      Countryboy, it’s akin to a DEADLY GLOBAL VIRUS
      UK has caught it too (as well as other countries)
      (in USA, where it originates, it’s advanced to even worse stages. )

      No coincidence , the common symptoms are THE SAME:
      -Assets being sold off
      -Callous politicians + their Policies demonising & attacking the Poor & Vulnerable, whilst “feathering their own nests”,
      – One Law for the wealthy, but different for the Others
      -Increasing Inequality gap.
      – Workers, reduced rights, longer hours, low wages, multiple taxes, unable to make ends meet…= Modern Slavery
      – The new ruling principle is Profit$$ before People= destructive to Life

      The name of this deadly Virus ?
      = “BUSINESS RULING US NOW”.
      Democracy is in actual fact an illusion. Voting is only a Game.

      PLEASE take your time to examine-
      http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/11/business-rules-lobbying-corporate-interests
      Also, notice the no. of Comments. And the quality.
      (Compare this with NZ Herald who rarely allow comments, and when they do, only for the most trivial items. And MOST comments sound so lacking any intelligence/depth of thought..)
      NZers so far behind in any awareness. Lambs to the Slaughter.

      Charles Chauvel: Godspeed! You offer a glimmer of HOPE
      in this present ruthless abandonment of ethics/principles, Anti Life Ruled World.. .

      • cassie blake says:

        To sum up,
        NEW ZEALAND is no longer (how you like to believe) true Democracy.
        New Zealand is being RULED.
        Yes . RULED.
        That’s right. We are not really FREE.
        (Have you never noticed how NZ Business Roundtable has had RATHER TOO MUCH INFLUENCE in shaping “policy” for too many years now?) Hence, increase in social problems.
        Have you never stopped to think that “Business” minds ($$$) LACK understanding/ empathy of Social (human life) Issues?
        (incompatible mental faculties)
        So,
        WHY have you allowed Business entities to influence / dictate Govt. ” Social Policy” ???
        Social=HUMAN
        (but) Business=$$$
        = CONFLICT OF VALUES- IE “PROFIT BEFORE PEOPLE”
        Should this be the Ruling Principle of LIFE? Why are you supporting it?
        In a REALISTIC ” People’s Democracy” , one would have ONLY those experienced with human beings/their problems ,( eg Salvation Army, to shape “Social Policy”)

        False values cause worsening social problems. Which we now have.

        Is not the the purpose of having a Democratic Government to ENSURE the WELLBEING OF PEOPLE ??

        Without People, can there exist such thing as “an Economy” ?

        Economy is an ABSTRACT word/concept..Has no meaning without PEOPLE.
        Thus, using logic- should “the Economy” serve the people”?
        (or , Should people be serving IT???)

        REALITY CHECK = which way is it TODAY?
        Clue:
        Ask yourself- Is John Key , our Nation’s “Leader”, a leader who genuinely cares about the peoples wellbeing?
        (Or… is he just a Businessman $$$$$)

        NZ used to be a country of PLENTY, resources, food etc , enough for all humans living here . Still is..STILL SHOULD BE
        BUT NOW,2013 : only plenty to just A Few.

        NEW ZEALAND has caught a deadly VIRUS.
        Called “Big Business Corporations” have taken over.
        It’s a deadly international VIRUS. Transnational Corporations.
        No loyalty, No Ethics, No Taxes paid..
        And YOU are the supporter (albeit unwittingly)
        By not being vigilant.
        And it is going to get even worse. Have you heard of TTPA?
        Behind your backs. Going on Now.
        NZ is being further sold up the river. In private , behind the scenes.. another Warning Sign..Soon you /we will have NO rights left as NZers…
        NZ has caught a deadly Virus called Corruption. Of popular expected democratic standards.

  2. Kath Lauderdale says:

    The UN itself is such an undemocratic institution with opinion and input over matters that the people (anywhere) have never elected it, or its representatives, to do that it would be useful for the institution to reflect on itself by the same standard. Certainly it has a plethora of politicians who failed to gain any mandate from the people even
    in NZ so how they get to pontificate to the rest of the world on corruption and democracy astounds me. I am so pleased that these failed ex politicians from NZ get salaries and perks that most of the people they claim speak for could only dream of doesn’t make their views even more ludicrous.

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