The War against Corruption: International Experiences


Prof. Juree Vichit-Vadakan on the 9th of December, 2014 chaired a high panel discussion on the topic “Winning War against Corruption: International Experiences.” Panelists who took part in the discussion were: Ms. Elodie Beth (Regional Anti-Corruption Advisor (UNDP), H.E. Paul Robiliard (Australia Ambassador to Thailand), and Prof. Pakdee Pothisiri (Commissioner, National Anti-Corruption Commission). The Panelists shared international experiences in the fight against corruption

Corruption is contagious. That is whyan all-inclusive strategy to fight corruption is essential. To realize this, it is important to involve the young people in the fight against corruption.  Corruption is not just about big scandals. Little things people do daily, what they say and think can help a great deal to prevent or reproduce corruption. That is why we need to invest effectively and strategically in behavior change.  Transparency Thailand recognizes the importance of a wider, effective, inclusive, and more comprehensive strategy to fight corruption. In light of this, Prof. Juree Vichit-Vadakan (Secretary General-Transparency Thailand) chaired a high panel discussion on the theme “Winning War against Corruption.” The panel comprising of Ms. Elodie Beth (Regional Anti-Corruption Advisor (UNDP), H.E. Paul Robiliard (The Australia Ambassador to Thailand),and Prof. Pakdee Pothisiri (NACC Commissioner) discussed among other things the importance of the following strategies in the fight against corruption: (1) Political will ;( 2) raising awareness concerning the underlying problems and need for all stakeholders to participate; (3) the involvement of the civil society and the private sector in the fight against corruption. In Thailand participation of various stakeholders is recognized as essential to winning this fight. As a result, Transparency Thailand continues to create innovative programs that aim at ensuring that new leaders have the real intention mobilize political will required to implement anti-corruption laws and practices.  At Transparency Thailand, we recognize that to prevent corruption, there is need to prioritize value transformation as an essential component of the national strategy. Therefore, we are investing in among other things, educational programs for children, students, at all levels, and civil servants.

Growing Good: How a Value based strategy is transforming Thailand

Growing good initiative aims at empowering Thai youths by teaching themabout social values and ethics to fight corruption. To realize this, Transparency Thailand working with Bangkok Metropolitan Administration uses strategies such as (1) Curriculum design; (2) Teacher training; (3) media; (4) design and distribution of anti-corruption material.

Since 2010, 5000 teachers have been trained about value change.  A value based curriculum has been designed, tested and is now used in schools. The curriculum now ranging from K1 to high school integrates both intellectual ability and values, learning by doing, sharing new values with others, and applying anti-corruption knowledge to daily life situations.

The program, which so far has benefited 600 schools in the country, reached out to 100 more schools in 2014.  A survey on the program shows that 90% of the people in Bangkok support the curriculum. 80% of the students who studied under the curriculum viewed a good person as one who is not corrupt or does not tolerate corruption.

This outstanding program success and reputation led to a request from the government seeking Transparency Thailand to design anti-corruption curriculum modules for civil servants and students. As a result, “Being Good” training course was designed. Consequently, 400 civil servants at supervisory level, from Bangkok Metropolis have been trained. A “Pundit” training course was also designed for university students. As a result, 400 National Institute of Development Administration students have undergone this training.

Winning war against Corruption

Australian Experience: H.E. Paul Robilliard, Australian Ambassador to Thailand speaking during international Anti-Corruption day.

Corruption imposes a burden to the economy. It destroys competition and has serious legal and reputation risks. Therefore, an inclusive strategy taking into account political will, private sector, civil society, and citizens is necessary. In Australia, a multiagency approach is used to tackle corruption.

To fight corruption effectively shared responsibility is required. A good mechanism to coordinate various agencies involved in the fight against corruption helps to among other things, enable agencies investigate other agencies.

Such a mechanism is supported by anti-corruption practices for instance, a highly sensitive public with high expectations and ethical standards for public officials.  A public that expects high levels of trust from public officials, demands that corruption offenders be prosecuted, forces public officials to resign when they engage in corrupt activities, and demands high value for national and company reputation, can effectively help tackle corruption. A compressive law covering various crimes for instance the penal code, Money Laundering Act, Public Information disclosure act, and laws providing for declaration of conflict of interest are used in corruption prevention.

Agencies for instance the Royal Commissions have coercive power to gather information and impose heavy sanctions against those who don’t comply. Other measures include enforcement of ethical codes, checks and balances, gift register, careful management of processes, and high standards for disqualification. Heavy penalties and investigative journalism also help in preventing corruption. A corruption offender can be jailed for a period of up to 10 years.

What makes things work? What makes a difference?

Ms. Elodie Beth (Regional Anti-Corruption Advisor (UNDP)

These are the key questions to ask when we seek to win the fight against corruption. While laws and strategies are required, how to implement these laws and strategies is important. Therefore, a range of measures working together is necessary. The fight against corruption can be successful if the following strategies are put in place: (1) Making anti-corruption a mainstream initiative; (2) Making anti-corruption war the task of every person, not just specialists; (3) going beyond the definition of corruption and changing the attitudes of individuals in society; (4) addressing poor inter-institutional coordination; (5) working with a range of stakeholders; (6) accepting that corruption is a national problem, a reality to address; and (7) working with young people.

Statements from Mr. Ban Kimoon, United Nations Secretary General

 In a statement delivered by Mrs. Thanawan Klumklomchit (UNODC Terrorism Prevention Officer), United Nations Secretary General Mr. Ban Kimoon said that winning war against corruption is a global agenda. The aim of this war is to empower individuals, catalyze governments, civil society, private sector, and to lift millions out of poverty. In this fight, high integrity in public service is required. Good behavior is good business.

Buddhism and Governance

 Transparency Thailand and Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society, on the 11th of December 2014, hosted a public lecture on the “Buddhist Concept of Management and Governance.” The goal of the lecture was to bring together university academics, practitioners in higher education management, and graduate students, to learn how to integrate spiritual values in leadership and management of organizations. The guest speaker was Amaro Bikkhu an author and Abbot from Amaravati Monastery, UK. Bikkhu taught among other things how to bring into management and governance the concept of personal and society well-being.

The Abbot also taught how to develop fundamental virtues such as: Self-acceptance; personal growth; sympathy; patience; environmental mystery; autonomy; good relations with others; Knowing yourself;  Moderation; & mindfulness. With regard to corruption, the Abbot taught 10 qualities of a good leader. These are: (1) integrity; (2) austerity; (3) gentleness; (4) generosity; (5) honesty; (6) patience; (7) love for justice; (8) working with others helpfully; (9) Freedom from anger when working with or relating to others; (10) non-violence.

Reclaimingirregularly allocated resources

The role of the state to correct past mistakes done by previous governments, individuals, private and public agencies is important in the fight against corruption.  It is important because besides addressing a long standing problem, the state sets a new culture of accountability. If this culture is continued, corrupt individuals will no longer find hope in abusing power believing that after their time in the regime, no one will question them for what they acquired illegally. Justice digging into the past may just be one of the ways to curb ever increasing corruption cases.   While this comes along with other multiple challenges, the undisputable truth underlying this approach is that corruption will reduce if corrupt individuals fail to find the reason for taking bribes or abusing power. To erode this reason, the state should deny corrupt officials an opportunity to enjoy what they acquire illegally.  Taking it back through a sustainable state policy is one way of doing just that.

Two examples from Thailand and Kenya show far reaching benefits for such a state policy.  In October 2014, the government in Thailand began the initiative to investigate and reclaim more than 348 acres (800 rai) of forest land which had been illegally acquired.  Locals had complained that the land, a section of Korat forest was illegally allocated to individuals along with title deeds.  Initial government inspection showed that about 174 acres (400 rai) of the forest land was used to grow rice.  Similarly in November 2014, the government in Kenya began to repossess 22 parcels of land amounting to 0.5 million acres

National Land Commission report showed that the land in Lamu County was irregularly allocated to 22 firms by the Ministry of lands. The land was intended to be used for private commercial purposes, following development partnership between China, Japan, and six East Africa countries seeking to build a transnational standard gauge railway and a port. With increasing demand for economic development and the expansion of private sector; public natural resources such as forests, water and land are highly exposed to corruption.  Therefore, stringent and sustainable state policy to aimed at controlling and reclaim illegally acquired public property is very essential.

Investigating Corruption Cases

Investigating corruption cases is a crucial step in the fight against corruption. Without proper investigation, it is difficult to know what exactly the public or government lost in a given corruption incident.  It is difficult to know who was innocent and who was guilty as charged. Without proper investigation, policy communities, government agencies, members of the public, and other stakeholders are denied an opportunity, maybe the only opportunity they have to know what happened, what went wrong, and how to prevent such future incidents.  Speedy and efficient investigations are likely to help prevent, control, and address corruption problems in a country. Delayed investigations are likely to hinder efforts to deliver justice in corruption cases.

In Brazil, investigations into the “Big Monthly Payment” scandal which began in 2005 are yet to be completed. All the key figures behind the scandal also known as Mensalão are yet to be tried. The “Big Monthly Payment” scheme was a fraudulent scheme where public funds were siphoned to buy political support for Lula da Silva government.  About $ 100 million (US$ 43 million) of tax payers’ money was lost.   Completing investigations and prosecuting those responsible has proven difficult.

In Nigeria, a building collapsed on the 12th of September 2014 killed 116 people among them 81 South Africans. The collapse was attributed to illegal construction, particularly failure to adhere to architectural standards. Investigations into the case are yet to be completed.  In South Korea, three relatives ofYoo Byung-eun who co-owned Chonghaejin Marine Co, were sentenced to three years in prison, after they were found guilty of   ignoring safety warning, when they allowed Sewol ferry to be illegally redesigned and carry people while overload. The vessel sunk in April 2014 killing 300 people among them students.  This shows that government’s commitment to taking action, to investigate cases of corruption, and to prosecute offenders is fundamental to tackling corruption.  

Taking anti-corruption campaign abroad

A proposal by China to create a regional network to prevent corruption, tackle the flight of criminals across borders, and curb the flow of illegal money used to run underground economies is an important step towards fighting corruption across the globe. The significance of this policy is not only in addressing the current problems, but also in laying a foundation for future international efforts to fight corruption.

Hiding corruption money abroad for instance is a practice that has been ignored for years, yet it is one of the corruption practices that cost Asia and Africa billions of dollars every year. The behavior has been this simple, a corrupt government official siphons public funds, wires it into a bank abroad, uses some of the money to purchase property there, and finally leaves the country. This is why China, one of the affected nations has recently   taken its  anti-corruption campaign oversees arresting over 288 fugitives in 56 countries including the United States, Canada, South Korea, and South Africa. As a result of the campaign, about126 suspects have surrendered. Taking anti-corruption campaign abroad may help tackle corruption since some of the corruption offenders usually take refuge in foreign countries taking along with them public wealth  they acquired.

In a letter to G20 leaders, a coalition of global activists said that illegally acquired money, approximately more than one trillion dollars is siphoned every year. Of these, about $50 billion is siphoned from Africa. This money which often ends up in foreign banks abroad can be used to alleviate poverty. This corruption has been made possible because currently, there are no mechanisms in the global financial system to prevent such transactions.

In the recent past, China and Australia have formed international partnerships to fight corruption for instance, investigating corruption cases, seizing assets, making arrests, and extraditing corruption fugitives in order to face prosecution. Similarly, coordinated efforts between US and France to investigate corruption cases involving Total Oil Company and Iranian government officials , which occurred between  1995 and 2004,  have finally resulted to the trial of key suspects involved.  In this case, it is alleged that total paid $ 60 million to induce an Iranian government official to help the company obtain lucrative development rights in three oil and gas fields related to the South pars. 

Monitor global companies


The earlier intention to include global companies in national economies was to stimulate economic growth. Development experts thought that such companies would increase competition, reduce monopoly, create jobs, and bring more revenue to the state. However, recent research and media reports indicate that some global companies are doing the contrary, maybe bringing more harm than good.

International companies report little on their financial details outside their home countries. A study by Transparency International on 124 countries shows that UK companies are the best performers while Chinese and United States companies are among the worst performers.  These companies largely work in oil, gas, and mining sectors. Failure to report fully on a company’s finances hinders government and other stakeholders to ascertain a company’s revenue and calculate due revenue and benefits for all stakeholders. Such problems may arise when there are loopholes in the tax, investment, and bilateral agreement policies, or when these laws are not enforced. In Brazil, Petrobas’ senior officials collaborated with some government officials to siphon approximately $18.5 billion from the refinery section of the state oil company. The money was used to pay kickbacks to politicians. Petrobas is a global oil company with corrupt practices to worry about, particularly the mystery to pay kickbacks to politicians, and money laundering. 

Watch out the architectural industry


A safe environment is an important aspect of development because it reduces people’s exposure to environmental hazards. People livingand working in a safe environment are likely to live long and spend less on problems caused by environmental risks. In some countries the guarantee to a safe environment is a legal requirement.  Based on this requirement, public safety policies are enacted.  To ensure a safeenvironment, the architectural industry is required to build facilities that host people according to public safety regulations.  However in developing nations, some architectural industries don’t.

In November, an apartment in Cairo Egypt collapsed killing about 19 people.  The collapse was attributed to shoddy construction, a common problem across Egypt.  Neighbors said the seven-story building has several floors illegally added to it. Rescue efforts were largely hindered by narrow streets, a sign of poorly managed city planning, and enforcement of urban management laws. Similarly in South Korea, Sewol ferry sunk in April killing 300 people among them students.  Authorities believed that the owners of the vessel ignored safety warnings, when they illegally redesigned the vessel and allowed it to carry people while overloaded.  In Lagos Nigeria, a guesthouse collapsed in September killing 116 people, among them 81 South Africans. The collapse was attributed to illegal construction, particularly failure to adhere to architectural standards. The worst case in the recent years occurred in April 2013, when 300 workers died while 1,200 were injured when Rana Plaza garment factory building in Dhaka Bangladesh collapsed. These cases show that corruption kills.  










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