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Five Tips For Cleaning Up Corruption

A poster from a campaign against corruption in the tender procurement in Kyiv, March, 2012
A poster from a campaign against corruption in the tender procurement in Kyiv, March, 2012
The European Union, the United States, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) plan financial support for Ukraine worth billions of dollars.

But they want Kyiv to rein in corruption first.

Some EU Association Agreements with potential future EU members require specific anticorruption reforms. International financial institutions and nongovernmental groups, like Transparency International, also have advice.

Here are five top recommendations:

1. Strengthen Public Sector Accountability

EU Association Agreements for countries that seek EU membership require public officials to declare their assets in order to prevent conflicts of interest.

Carl Dolan, director on EU issues for Transparency International, explains that a "conflict of interest" exists when officials can profit by making decisions that help firms in which they are stakeholders.

"Number one is to make sure that the basic reforms are in place on the ground," Dolan says. "There should be at least some groundwork there for reforming the public sector. There needs to be some system for the declaration of assets by public officials and for some way of checking whether those declarations are accurate or not."

2. Ensure Transparent, Competitive Public Procurement

Dolan says the potential for corruption is magnified when authorities can award government contracts without public scrutiny.

"What we see is that the more discretion that politicians and officials have over granting contracts to businesses, the more risk there is of corruption," Dolan says. "So these processes need to be transparent. They need to be competitive."

The World Trade Organization’s “Government Procurement Agreement” is the main legally binding international treaty on public procurement.

A revised version -- based on principles of openness and nondiscrimination -- went into effect on April 6.

It adds ministries and government agencies to its scope, aiming to make it easier for small businesses to bid on and win government contracts.

Moldova, Montenegro, and Ukraine are now negotiating accession to the treaty, which is seen as a priority by a World Trade Organization (WTO) Task Force that identifies "aid-for-trade" projects.

3. Investigate And Prosecute Corruption

Creating an independent judiciary that investigates and prosecutes corruption has been a goal of international donors for decades -- whether aid recipients are in Afghanistan, Eastern Europe, Africa, or Latin America.

Dolan says the fight against corruption can also be strengthened by creating "a genuinely independent anticorruption agency" with adequate resources to do the job.

Alan Rousso is a managing director at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development who coordinates policies with the EU and IMF.

Rousso says other "solid institutions" can help create a "level playing field" for competitive business.

"That’s why we have been working with the Ukrainian authorities on an anticorruption initiative that focuses primarily on the establishment of a business reporting institution -- or ombudsman-type function," Rousso says. "Where businesses who feel that they’ve been treated unfairly, whether that is by a government agency or by a rival in the business arena, would be able to take those complaints and have them investigated by an independent body -- which would also be able to recommend sanctions against those agencies."

4. Require Transparent Political Party Financing

Anticorruption activists warn that powerful individuals, businesses, and interest groups can influence elections through secret campaign contributions -- raising the risk of political corruption.

Quid pro quo political corruption is when those who finance political parties receive illegal or unethical favors from elected officials they’ve supported.

Dolan, of Transparency International, recommends laws requiring transparent political party financing:

"If you look at the anticorruption reforms that are necessary in Ukraine, the general problems there are very similar in other parts of the world – and even in the EU itself. For instance, the lack of transparency in party political financing," he says.

5. Ensure Access To Information

Activists say corruption tends to thrive without the vigilance of investigative journalists, civil society, and whistleblowers.

Freedom of information laws are tools empowering citizens to identify corruption and demand action.

Across Central and South America, a group called Evidence and Lessons from Latin America has set up Internet platforms to help citizens monitor corruption.

The International Rescue Committee – a nongovernmental organization for humanitarian assistance -- says aid agencies in Afghanistan have learned to make limited resources more effective by sharing information with each other.

John Sopko, Washington’s Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, says U.S. government agencies should also share information with each other, the EU, and the UN to ensure that aid money isn’t stolen or misused.

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