Fighting Corruption in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

2074-3572 (online)
2074-3580 (print)
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This series of reports examines how corruption can be fought in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Asset Declarations for Public Officials

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Asset Declarations for Public Officials

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04 Mar 2011
9789264095281 (PDF) ;9789264095274(print)

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Many countries around the world have introduced systems of asset declarations for public officials in order to prevent corruption. These systems vary greatly from country to country. The impact of such systems on the actual level of corruption is not well known.

This study provides a systematic analysis of the existing practice in the area of asset declarations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and in some OECD member states in Western Europe and North America. It examines the key elements of asset declaration systems, such as policy objectives, legal frameworks and the institutional arrangements; the categories of public officials who are required to submit declarations, and types of required information; procedures for verifying declared information, sanctions for violations, and public disclosure. The study also discusses the cost-effectiveness and overall usefulness of declaration systems. It includes four case studies covering Lithuania, Romania, Spain and Ukraine, and many additional country examples and references.

The study presents policy recommendations on the key elements of asset declaration systems. These recommendations will be useful for national governments and international organisations engaged in development, reform and assessment of asset declarations systems on a country level.

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  • Foreword
    Corruption is a key threat to good governance, democratic processes and fair business competition. Fighting corruption and promoting good public governance are among the main priorities of the OECD. In addressing corruption and good governance, the OECD takes a multidisciplinary approach which includes fighting bribery of foreign public officials, combating corruption in fiscal policy, public and private sector governance and development aid and export credits. The OECD is a leader in setting and promoting anti-corruption standards and good governance principles. It ensures their implementation through peer reviews and monitoring of member states and by providing policy-makers with analysis and recommendations. It also helps non-members to improve their domestic anti-corruption and good governance efforts by fostering sharing of experience and analysis and through regional programmes.
  • Introduction
    A great number of countries around the world have introduced systems of asset declaration for public officials in order to prevent or combat corruption. Many believe that asset declarations can be a powerful tool in this regard; however, the impact of such systems on actual levels of corruption is not well known. This study aims to help furnish a clearer picture by providing an analysis of existing practice in the area of asset declarations of public officials, in particular in former socialist countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and in some OECD member states in Western Europe and North America.
  • Policy Principles and Recommendations for Public Official Asset Declaration
    "Policy Principles and Recommendations for Public Official Asset Declaration" presents policy recommendations for the design, implementation and reform of asset declaration systems, which can be used throughout the world. These recommendations are based on the analysis of the existing practice in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and in some OECD member states in Western Europe and North America. They suggest ways in which to increase the effectiveness of asset declaration by promoting transparency and fighting corruption in public administration. These recommendations will be useful for national governments and international organisations engaged in development, reform and assessment of asset declaration systems on a country level.
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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Analysis of Existing Asset Declaration Practices

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    • Historical Background and International Standards
      Apart from a few earlier cases, systems of public officials’ declarations began to evolve into their modern versions after the Second World War (Burdescu et al., 2009, Figure 1, p. 29). In the United States, growing government and recurrent corruption scandals created impetus for initiatives to strengthen public integrity. One of the early political statements regarding the need to impose public disclosure of personal finances on certain federal officials was voiced in the message of President Truman to the Congress in 1951: "With all the questions that are being raised today about the probity and honesty of public officials, I think all of us should be prepared to place the facts about our income on the public record."
    • Purposes of the Declaration Systems
      Conflict of interest control – The United Nations Convention against Corruption makes explicit reference to the possibility of a conflict of interest as a benchmark for what information is to be declared. This reflects the fact that conflict of interest control is the most common purpose for the use of declarations of public officials. One could say that the conflict of interest prevention focuses somewhat narrowly on whether a particular interest can interfere with the discharge of official duties. Meantime there are also broader concerns with public accountability, raising the more general possibility of evaluating the activities of a public official, including what personal motives he/she may have.
    • Legal Basis and Institutional Arrangements
      Several types of regulations can serve as the legal basis for public officials’ declarations. Usually, asset declarations are regulated by a special law or a section in another law that sets forth the purpose, scope and design of the system. These will vary depending on whether declarations are a major part of an overarching anti-corruption legislation, or just one of many procedures in the civil service legal framework. The type of legal basis is likely to differ also, depending on whether declarations are viewed as a general tool for promoting public accountability of the political class, or a more comprehensive anti-corruption tool for the state apparatus as a whole.
    • Subjects of Declaration Systems
      Countries differ widely as to what categories of public officials are covered within the declaration system, what categories of public sector employees are considered public officials, and whether any individuals other than public officials should be covered.
    • Scope and Content of the Declarations
      Despite the often-used shorthand designation "assets declarations", public officials’ declarations usually require other types of information, and in fact many systems do not require data about assets at all.
    • Processing of the Declarations
      A number of functions are associated with the administration of public officials’ declarations.
    • Liability and Sanctions

      A failure to fulfil duties related to declarations can fall within either of two broad categories. One concerns the duty to submit a declaration; the other concerns what information is provided in the declaration:

      - Violations related to the duty to submit declarations:
      . failure to submit a declaration;
      . late submission of a declaration.
      - Violations related to the information provided:
      . incomplete statement of required information;
      . inadvertently false statement;
      . intentionally false statement.

    • Public Disclosure
      In this study, the term "public disclosure" is used when information is provided to regular citizens, whereas simple "disclosure" applies to cases where information is provided to competent authorities only. The issue of the admissibility of public disclosure is highly contested; however, there is a growing trend towards greater public disclosure of information about public officials. It is not the intention here to explore all of the legal concerns related to the making of information about a person’s income and assets available to the public. Suffice it to say that both among the Western European and former socialist countries there is a great variety of approaches to that issue.
    • Evaluation of the Declaration Systems
      It is axiomatic that running a public officials’ declaration system represents an administrative burden and involves costs. While these costs are typically mentioned among the disadvantages of the system (Messick, 2009, p. 7), more seldom is it said just how costly the system is. The questionnaire data show that few countries know the cost of implementing the declaration system – that of completing and submitting the statements, or those incurred by the controlling institutions. This is true especially often in those cases where the implementing unit in charge of declarations is a part of a larger agency, e.g. the tax administration. The situation seems to confirm the perception that public officials’ declarations have been introduced mostly as a reaction to various political concerns, rather than based on cost/benefit considerations.
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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Asset Declaration Case Studies

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    • Asset Declaration in Lithuania
      Lithuania has one of the broadest asset disclosure systems in terms of purpose. It covers issues from general transparency to combating corruption, monitoring of wealth and illicit enrichment, as well as overall prevention of conflict of interest.
    • Asset Declaration in Romania
      Asset declarations were first introduced in October 1996 and gradually improved since. At first the declarations were not public; in 2003 they became public, but the content of the form was significantly reduced, while in 2005 the templates were again amended to include all relevant information. The 2005 legislation also clearly states that the statements are public documents.
    • Statement of Assets in Romania
    • Declaration of Interests in Romania
    • Asset Declaration in Spain
      Spain is divided into 17 autonomous communities and two autonomous cities: Ceuta and Melilla. While the state has exclusive competence areas such as nationality, immigration, emigration, right of asylum, international relations, defence and the armed forces, administration of justice and others listed in Section 149 of the Constitution, autonomous communities may develop the certain competences provided for in the Constitution through their statutes of autonomy.
    • Asset Declaration in Ukraine
      The requirement for civil servants to declare assets was first introduced in Ukraine in 1993, through Article 13 of the Law of Ukraine on Civil Service. However, there are no mechanisms in place for its application, through either this law or any other legislative acts. The requirement was further elaborated in the special Enactment of the Cabinet of Ministers and the Law on Combating Corruption in 1995,1 and only in 1997 were practical aspects of the declaration process addressed. That year the Ministry of Finance endorsed a template asset declaration, which marked the actual launch of the declaration practice for assets in Ukraine. That same system, designed in mid-90s, is – with minor changes – still in place.
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