Anti-corruption policies and institutions – Political will is the key to anti-corruption policy success. Political leaders in Eastern Europe and Central Asia recognise the danger of corruption and publicly commit to tackling it, but political leadership and continuous efforts are often missing when it comes to taking practical actions.
In recent years, almost all countries have developed anti-corruption strategies. They provide important guidelines for reforms, but suffer from poor implementation and often lack budgetary support.
Anti-corruption research has increased. There are numerous studies and surveys
demonstrating trends in corruption, but they are often ad-hoc and not integrated in the designing and monitoring of anti-corruption strategies. Monitoring of strategies and
measuring their impact on the level of corruption are so far insufficient.
There are many civil society initiatives in the region, but non-governmental organisations are yet to become real partners of the governments. Governments should encourage meaningful public participation through the inclusion of NGOs in the decision-making, implementation and monitoring processes and financial support.
Institutions responsible for anti-corruptionpolicies are set up in all Istanbul Action Plan countries. The common approach is to establish inter-institutional councils for the co-ordination of anti-corruption measures. Few of these institutions are effective. In several countries corruption prevention tasks are assigned to law enforcement bodies which is not effective.
Criminalisation of corruption and law enforcement – Reform of criminal legislation is an area where all countries have achieved progress. Significant reforms were directed at introducing corporate liability for corruption. But a conservative legal doctrine remains an obstacle for full compliance with the international standards. As a result, legal gaps remain in many countries with regard to bribery and trading in influence. Provisions on confiscation need to be aligned with international standards. Statutes of limitations and immunity of certain public officials remain as obstacles for effective prosecution of corruption in several countries.
Many countries have demonstrated progress in meeting international standards concerning anti-corruption law-enforcement bodies. Adequate specialisation, institutional and procedural autonomy, and resources remain an issue.
Concerning the practice of investigation and prosecution of corruption cases, countries should step up their efforts to prosecute high-profile and complex cases. They need to build up the capacity of investigators and prosecutors to use modern investigative methods and to conduct financial investigations. Legislation should be amended to allow effective access to bank, tax and customs data. International co-operation should be improved by encouraging direct co-operation between the law-enforcement bodies.
Prevention of corruption – In recent years, many countries have introduced legislative measures to promote integrity in public service. The challenge is protect professional civil servants from undue political influence through merit-based appointment and promotion, and fair and transparent remuneration. While many countries have introduced conflict of interests’ provisions, implementation remains weak. Countries have established or strengthened their asset declaration systems. However these systems usually lack a verification mechanism, do not ensure proactive publication of declarations and do not set up deterrent sanctions for false information. Several countries have introduced legislation to protect whistleblowers, but these new provisions are often weak.
Public procurement is one area where many countries have launched meaningful reforms during recent years aimed at increasing transparency and integrity. Several countries are establishing electronic procurement systems. At the same time, low capacity, lack of resources, a poor record of prosecuting corruption in the public contracts and ineffective conflict of interests’ instruments still make public procurement one of the most corrupt sectors.
All Istanbul Action Plan countries have legal framework for accessing information held by public authorities. However, most of these laws fall short of international standards. A number of countries retain provisions on criminal defamation, which have an adverse effect on investigative journalism.
Corruption in politics remains an acute problem for all countries. Provisions regulating financing of political parties and election campaigns are often not in line with international standards. They do not include necessary restrictions with regard to the sources and limits of contributions, they do not ensure transparency of party finances and adequate state monitoring and supervision, nor do they provide direct state financing of political parties. Many countries have recently conducted comprehensive reforms of the judiciary, aiming to strengthen independence and integrity, but much remains to be done to align legal frameworks with international standards. There are cases when legal safeguards are ignored in practice, when judges are dismissed contrary to tenure rules. The financial independence of courts is often undermined in practice.
Business integrity is a new issue in the region. The governments have not yet taken systematic measures to promote business integrity, and the private sector has not yet become a strong player in the fight against corruption.