Executive summary

The Local Anti-corruption System of Nuevo León (Sistema Estatal Anticorrupción para el Estado de Nuevo León, or SEANL), established in 2017, was created to implement the national anti-corruption reform launched in 2015 to ensure co-ordination and coherence among anti-corruption and integrity policies, institutions and initiatives at all levels of government in Mexico. This review provides an assessment of Nuevo León’s public integrity system, focusing on three main areas: building a strategic public integrity system, enhancing the culture of integrity in the public sector and improving internal control and risk management.

Leveraging the Local Anti-corruption System to build a strategic public integrity system

Nuevo León has based its integrity system on Mexico’s National Anti-corruption System (Sistema Nacional Anticorrupción, or SNAC), while adopting a more ambitious approach regarding citizen involvement and the possibility for the SEANL to issue binding recommendations. However, further efforts are necessary to ensure the engagement and contribution of all relevant actors in the state, including its municipalities, and to mainstream integrity policies throughout public entities.

The State Government of Nuevo León has created a mechanism for the strategic planning and evaluation of its activities. This is led by the Consejo Nuevo León para la Planeación Estratégica, or Nuevo León Council, a public body bringing together government officials, representatives of civil society and university deans to advance the sustainable development of the state beyond the limited timeframes of political terms of office. While Nuevo León’s Council identified “effective and transparent government” as one of its main priorities, the strategy to prevent corruption could be enhanced by promoting close collaboration among the institutions being part of the SEANL and of the National Anti-corruption System, as well as the Nuevo León Council, to align the state’s strategic and development plans with the national anti-corruption policy.

Enhancing a culture of integrity in the public sector and beyond

Nuevo León’s integrity framework consists of values, principles and rules enshrined in various instruments, including an Ethics Code developed with stakeholder participation and adopted in 2016. However, the code could be revised taking a more balanced approach, ensuring that ethics and conflict-of-interest rules are clearly explained and consistently enforced. Specific guidelines are needed to assist public officials in dealing with ethical dilemmas and conflicts of interest, and to properly address at-risk areas. In October 2016, Nuevo León initiated an ambitious awareness-raising and training strategy carried out by a network of “Agents of Change”. The aim was to improve public officials’ knowledge of integrity rules and values and ensure that these rules were implemented. While this initiative is the first step toward creating a culture of integrity in the public administration, an interim evaluation would enhance the remaining phases of the strategy. Areas to address could include identifying specific positions at risk for corruption, taking into consideration insights from behavioural science, reaching out to municipalities and using scenarios based on real cases when instructing public officials.

Nuevo León could also benefit by creating the conditions for an open organisational culture. For example, clear channels could be established to provide advice to public officials confronted with integrity-related dilemmas. Senior officials could also be assigned specific responsibilities for demonstrating ethical leadership and commitment. The Whistle-blower Protection Law, adopted in 2013, is a step towards supporting an open organisational culture by providing a dedicated framework of protection. It is also unique in Mexico: no other federal state, not even the Federal Government, has developed such a law. However, some aspects of the legal framework could be improved, such as ensuring the availability of internal and external channels for disclosing corruption, guaranteeing the confidentiality and security of whistle-blowers’ information, and defining and clarifying the process for seeking protection against reprisal.

The Government of Nuevo León is aware of the integrity challenges and is partnering with firms and civil society to promote a culture of integrity through the State Council for the Promotion of Values and Culture of Legality (Consejo Estatal para la Promoción de los Valores y la Cultura de la Legalidad). It is also organising several awareness-raising campaigns to inform public officials, citizens and civil society organisations about ongoing initiatives to fight corruption. However, government efforts to engage the private sector and civil society could be better co-ordinated by defining an action plan that identifies desired objectives, core outputs, target audiences and the key partners. The Ministry of Education, in partnership with other government entities, has made considerable progress in developing materials to cultivate a culture of integrity in future generations, together with the State Institute for Youth. Nonetheless, it could consider extending the scope of the existing education materials on the rule of law, public integrity and anti-corruption and incorporating them into the core curriculum.

Ensuring accountability through an improved internal control and risk management framework

Nuevo León has incorporated a number of elements of an internal control and risk management system in its normative framework, such as on managing risks, ensuring integrity and transparency, and has strengthened processes for achieving objectives and preventing corruption. However, more needs to be done to integrate an internal control and risk management framework into day-to-day management. A strategic risk management system would help achieve this by giving operational officials ownership over the management of risk, establishing coherent internal control mechanisms, and strengthening the autonomy of the internal audit function. Furthermore, Nuevo León could ensure the implementation of its internal control and risk management framework by expanding training and professionalisation programmes, and encouraging all staff members to contribute to improving the organisation’s integrity and its resistance to corruption. Enforcement and disciplinary procedures should also be transparent and equally and consistently applied to everyone.

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