Anti-Corruption Day

Things aren’t always what they seem.

Monday 9th of December marks another World Anti Corruption Day- in an appropriate season as we remember the coming ‘Light of the World’.

The global ‘end of deference and the rise of scrutiny’ as Tim Montgomerie called it, has gained momentum this year both in the UK and abroad. In the UK media, what we read is unpleasant mostly. We’ve had BBC scandals, Newspaper phone tapping, social services inquiries, hospital coverups, police honesty called into question, and the list goes on. Dark facts being brought to public light- all in one short year..

Of course, corruption and poor governance are not unique to the UK.  Corruption as an issue is both global and local, needing solutions both global and local. Some would say this year has been a triumphant one in the fight against global corruption. We have seen agreements  passed by the EU requiring extracting companies to publish the payments they make to foreign governments. We have seen over 60 countries come together to talk about open government, and we have seen the UK announce intentions to make a public register of the ultimate beneficial owners of companies.

At Tearfund we now have next year’s G20 in our sights. We want to see extractives put on the agenda, to encourage compulsory accountability more globally.  The Australian hosts have already spoken of the need to mobilise long term financing for investment as a priority, we now need to demonstrate to investors a compelling business case for transparency- contributing to a more stable business environment and sustainable growth in host countries.

Is transparency enough? If information is only published but not used, there will be no impact.  Open information is fine, if there is a strong civil society to push government to achieve change. Oil companies must publish what they pay host countries, but its equally vital that a strong civil society is there to take the information and use it to ensure that constructive use is made of the revenue.  While it becomes easier and easier to manage and communicate information, the challenge remains for companies, governments and civil society alike, to take that information and ensure it is used constructively.

Elda Valim works for Ame A Verdade, a network of CSOs in Brazil who search, call for, and implement the solutions as they see them. Elda writes, “ Public resources should be available at the right time, in particular health care resources . If resources are budgeted and then diverted or stolen, there is no way to go back and take care of those who suffered and there is no restoring of life to those who died” .  Prevention, says Elda, is the best medicine – transparency, coupled with a strong civil society, can prevent corruption.

Transparency pays – it pays investors, governments, and those waiting for medical care,  an anti malarial treatment, a new school or clinic, a new teacher or a new road.  According to Kofi Annan’s Africa Progress panel, illicit financial flows seem to cost Africa more than the total amount it receives in aid and direct foreign investment.  Lets push for more transparency, take the information and use it wisely and positively, so that those who are robbed by corruption receive their due.  While Elda’s words are true, there’s no restoring of life to those who died due to corruption,  there are countless others whose lives could be saved by companies, governments and civil society working together to defeat corruption. Let’s start with today, Anti – Corruption day. Why not be part of this process and join Tearfund’s Secrets Out campaign?

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