Key Findings from the Global Integrity Report
At a Glance:
- Overall Performance: Liberia Most Improved, Sierra Leone Largest Decline
- Money-in-Politics: Laws Largely Nonexistent or Largely Unenforced
- Regional Overview: Unique contexts, common problems
- Implementation Gap: Walking the Walk
How to Use the Data: Examples
- Anti Corruption Agencies, Not the Panacea
- A Fast Revolving Door
- The Internet Censorship Chronicles
- What ails the U.S.?
- NGOs Free to Recieve Foreign Funding
Overall Performance: Liberia Most Improved, Sierra Leone Largest Decline
Several countries changed significantly in 2011 from their last assessment in a Global Integrity Report (in 2009 or 2007), which considers both the existence of laws and its effective implementation. The countries that demonstrated a noticeable improvement on anti-corruption performance in 2011 are:
- Liberia (up 17 points from 2009)
- Armenia (up 15 points from 2009)
- Tajikistan (up 15 points from 2007)
Liberia had the largest increase in overall performance score, with improvements in every category and particularly in public access to information, oversight by a national ombudsman, and business licensing and regulation. Notable progress was also observed in election integrity and government accountability, including executive and judicial conflicts of interest safeguards and checks and balances.
Armenia also had a large jump in overall performance and saw progress in every category. The most significant changes were in election integrity, whistle-blowing protections, and business and licensing regulations. Other areas of positive growth for Armenia include better budget processes and administration of government procurement. Despite these significant improvements, Armenia’s overall score remains weak.
Tajikistan also saw significant overall progress. The biggest score increase was a result of a new national ombudsman. Significant positive changes also came from new whistle-blowing protections, and state-owned enterprises and government procurement regulation. However, Tajikistan saw setbacks in budget process oversight and transparency (down 20 points) and the media’s ability to report on corruption (down 13 points).
Sierra Leone, Mexico and Zimbabwe saw decreases in overall performance.
- Sierra Leone (down 5 points from 2009)
- Mexico (down 4 points from 2009)
- Zimbabwe (down 3 points from 2009)
Sierra Leone had the largest decrease in overall performance score, with weaker scores in several categories. The most drastic changes were evidence in administration and civil service, where scores for whistle-blowing protections (down 37 points) and procurement regulation (down 22 points) dropped. The ability of anti-corruption non-governmental organizations to operate also declined (down 17 points), as did the media’s ability to report on corruption. Nonetheless, slight improvements were made in judicial independence, fairness, and citizen access to justice.
Mexico also had setbacks on its overall anti-corruption and governance mechanisms, with declines in every category. The most critical change is evident in the category on non-governmental organizations, public information and media (down 17 points). Other areas of concern include weaker regulation of civil service conflicts of interest (down 19 points) and less election integrity. Modest improvements were made in business licensing and regulation, as well as oversight and transparency in the budget process.
Zimbabwe’s overall performance declined because of weaker performance across several categories. The most significant areas of concern are in elections, where voting and party formation (down 18 points) and election integrity (down 10 points) dropped. Government regulation of procurement also deteriorated (down 14 points), but the most drastic change is evident in weaker government oversight of business licensing and regulation (down 20 points). Despite these setbacks, Zimbabwe made commendable improvements in its anti-corruption non-governmental organizations (up 14 points) and the media’s ability to report on corruption (up 18 points).
Overall Score 2009-2011
*Nicaragua is compared to 2008 and Tajikistan to 2007.
Note: Countries with only one bar (2011 score) haven’t been assessed by Global Integrity in the past.
Source: Global Integrity Report: 2011.
Money-in-Politics: Laws Largely Nonexistent or Largely Unenforced
Regardless of how weak or sophisticated their political financing regulations are, countries around the world are equally failing to effectively regulate the flow of money into politics, a new report finds.
Twenty-nine countries out of a 31-country sample scored less than 60 on a 100-point scale on questions assessing the effectiveness of laws regulating individual and corporate donations to political parties, as well as the auditing of those donations and campaign expenditures. Government monitoring agencies tasked with enforcing such laws typically lack investigative power and often have little to no authority to impose sanctions.
With two exceptions, all countries assessed fit into one of two major categories: those with solid or even model sets of regulations that they fail to implement, or those that leave the flow of money into political campaigns entirely unregulated.
Political financing has perennially been rated as the weakest component of countries’ anti-corruption framework since Global Integrity began tracking the performance of national public integrity systems in 2004.
To be sure, basic legal measures limiting corporate and individual donations can be found in a number of countries such as Indonesia, Uganda, Georgia, Ireland, U.S., and Algeria. Individuals in Jordan may contribute up to 10,000 dinars (roughly USD 14,000) to parties pursuant to Article 18 of the Political Parties Law. Political financing of individuals and parties has been regulated in Serbia since 1997, with laws constantly amended (the latest adopted in June 2011). In accordance with Article 5 of the Law on Financing Political Parties, Kosovo citizens may donate up to 2,000 Euros per calendar year. Under the Electoral (Amendment) Act, corporate donors to political parties in Ireland are “subject to the same limitations as other donors.” Corporate contributions to parties in Indonesia are set at 7.5 billion rupiah annually. Furthermore, there are agencies in several countries that have the legal mandate to monitor campaign finances, including Armenia, Ireland, Serbia, and the US. Disclosure requirements for individuals and parties are also legally enshrined in countries such as Algeria, Georgia, Uganda, and Venezuela.
This is not to say there are no gaps in legislative safeguards to deter conflicts-of-interest in political financing. A handful of countries do not have even minimal regulations to govern donations. This is true of Armenia, Burkina Faso, India, Malawi, and Zimbabwe, which do not place any restrictions on individual donors to parties because such legislation remains non-existent. Similarly, laws do not exist that limit corporate donations to parties in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso, Malawi, Venezuela, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe.
The most significant weakness lies in the enforcement and implementation of these laws and regulations. For all practical purposes, the ceiling on donations is routinely flouted in most countries. In the United States, the weak regulation on donating “soft” money to parties – i.e., contributing donations to so-called independent, third-party organizations that endorse or work against a particular campaign, aka “Super PACs” – allows individuals to financially support a party indirectly. The 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court ruling has also significantly changed the landscape of corporate donations by paving the way for corporations to provide unlimited, indirect financing to Super PACs. Additionally, “the ruling […] allows the corporations to pay out of their general treasury to support congressional campaigns and party committees.” Loopholes in corporate donations can also be found in Macedonia, where broadcasters have granted heavy discounts on advertisements to the biggest political coalition groups and parties. Political parties in Armenia depend on private donations, “some of whom are wealthy owners of big businesses,” which in effect blurs the distinctions between individual and corporate donors.
Further, the agencies charged with monitoring political financing are ineffective, with limited power to carry out investigations. These agencies don’t exist in countries like Jordan and Malawi. Where they do exist, their scope is circumscribed – by way of example, the agency in Albania is invested with investigatory power of candidates, including access to information, but such powers are rarely exercised and data rarely cross-checked and verified. Most of these monitoring bodies also have little to no authority to impose sanctions on those who violate financing laws. In the Ukraine and Serbia, the agency can issue warnings or cancel registrations, but beyond that, cannot impose punishments. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) in the United States has been fairly passive in investigating and enforcing campaign finance violations. Indeed, the “FEC is generally considered the most dysfunctional agency in the country,” its weak enforcement powers perhaps attributable to ideological factions with the Commission.
Finally, audits of political financing are generally insufficient. The agency responsible for audits in Bosnia, for instance, has limited capacity to conduct such work effectively, while candidates’ finances in Georgia tend to be unreliable because they are not carried out according to international audit standards.
Regional Overview: Unique contexts, common problems
Although each country faces unique challenges, there is a range of issues that countries around the world share with their neighbors. Data from the 2011 Global Integrity Report suggest distinctive regional patterns.
The overall performance of the East African countries assessed in this year’s Report (including Burundi, Kenya, and Uganda) is moderate, with the exception of Kenya, which is weak. One of the most significant findings from our data is the huge implementation gap in all the countries. While their legal framework is generally strong, the enforcement and implementation of several regulations need to be considerably strengthened.
In these countries, key anti-corruption safeguards continue to be noticeably poor in the areas of executive accountability and the civil service. While several laws are “on the books,” the enforcement of conflicts-of-interest and public disclosure regulations in the executive branch needs to be improved. Members of the executive, for instance, face no restrictions in receiving gifts. Poor enforcement of these regulations for civil servants is also a problem that afflicts all three countries in the region.
The West African countries of Burkina Faso, Liberia, and Sierra Leone have earned moderate overall ratings. They face particular challenges, however, in the areas of whistle-blowing, political financing transparency, and judicial branch accountability.
In Burundi and Liberia, there are no specific laws safeguarding whistle-blowers. And while citizens of Sierra Leone do enjoy such legal protection, the laws are poorly enforced. The lack of robust oversight of political financing is a major weakness in several regions, but the problem appears particularly acute in West Africa where the legal and practical framework to regulate donations is ineffective. Legislative oversight of conflicts-of-interest and public disclosure regulations for the judiciary barely exists.
Malawi and Zimbabwe have a relatively strong anti-corruption legal architecture, but the implementation and enforcement of these laws are weak. The areas of greatest concern are executive authority, political financing transparency, and law enforcement.
Rules governing political financing are virtually absent in both countries. Executive authority is unevenly regulated, particularly in Zimbabwe where the President exercises considerable power over other branches of the government. The police force is heavily politicized, with political figures from the ruling party often interfering in law enforcement activities.
Middle East and North Africa
The overall performance of Algeria and Jordan has held steady since the 2009 Global Integrity Report. It seems that these countries have yet to feel the effects of the political changes sweeping the region one year after the Arab Spring.
When it comes to media freedom from censorship, there is still much room for improvement. Whistle-blowing protection and political financing transparency continue to be among the lowest rated sub-categories, along with weak legislative oversight. The climate for civil society organizations (CSOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), however, has progressed in both countries.
The Latin American countries assessed in the 2011 Global Integrity Report have earned moderate overall ratings (the exceptions being Venezuela and Nicaragua, which scored poorly). Colombia, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Venezuela suffer from significant implementation gaps.
We flag four key anti-corruption safeguards that are extremely weak in the Latin American countries covered in this year’s Report: the judiciary, civil service, whistle-blowing, and law enforcement.
With respect to the judiciary, there is a basic regulatory framework that ensures conflicts-of-interest and disclosure requirements for members of the judiciary are in place. However, they are unevenly realized in practice. This is also true of the civil service, where weakly implemented regulations are the de facto reality.
Whistle-blowing protection laws are absent in Mexico and Nicaragua, while in the remaining Latin American countries assessed in 2011 existing regulations that do protect whistle-blowers are ineffective, in part because of fear of recrimination. Finally, poorly enforced rules on the professionalism and political independence of law enforcement are a key factor in dragging down the score in this sub-category.
Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union
Most of the countries in the vast space of the former Eastern bloc and Soviet Union covered in the 2011 Global Integrity Report have seen relatively minor changes in their overall performance since the 2009 assessment. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, and Macedonia have held steady; Kosovo, Ukraine and Serbia have seen a modest bump upwards; and Armenia has seen a small decline. The implementation gap in all the countries, however, remains very high.
The most significant weaknesses are in the areas of judicial accountability, law enforcement, and political financing. Legal safeguards against conflicts-of-interest and political interference are more-or-less in place in these sub-categories of the Integrity Indicators. The devil is in the details. Professional criteria are not always followed in the actual appointment of judges, and asset disclosure records of the judiciary are inaccessible to the public at times. Relatively strong regulations around donations to political parties and candidates are disabled by their weak enforcement. And the law enforcement agencies continue to be heavily politicized.
The countries covered in this region cover a large territory ranging from Central (Azerbaijan, Mongolia, and Tajikistan), East (China), South (India), and Southeast Asia (Indonesia and Vietnam). These countries have earned modest overall scores, except Vietnam, which earns poor ratings. Large implementation gaps (particularly in Azerbaijan) are a concern for all countries in the region.
Three components of the countries’ anti-corruption framework need major improvement, in particular: political finance transparency, judicial accountability, and civil service regulations. Given the significant implementation gaps, it should come as no surprise that legislation on oversight of political financing, the judiciary, and civil service is in place. However, conflicts-of-interest rules on donations to candidates and parties as well as legislation on the professionalism and independence of judges and civil servants are unevenly applied.
Implementation Gap: Walking the Walk
Laws are only as good as the extent to which they are enforced and implemented in practice. To that effect, every year the Global Integrity Report calculates the “implementation gap” (obtained by deducting the implementation score from the legal framework score).
The difference -or “implementation gap”- represents how close or far a country is from effectively enforcing and implementing its laws. A “narrower” implementation gap indicates that a country’s rules are generally applied in practice, and vice versa. In the latest Report, Ireland was at the head of the pack, and Bosnia and Herzegovina and Venezuela at the bottom.
Implementation Gap (smallest to largest)
Source: Global Integrity Report: 2011
Countries with worst implementation gaps compared to the last time they were assessed by Global Integrity are:
- Nicaragua (27 in 2008 to 49 in 2011)
- Mongolia (24 in 2009 to 38 in 2011)
- Venezuela (44 in 2009 to 57 in 2011)
- Kosovo (18 in 2009 to 31 in 2011)
Countries that improved are:
- Tajikistan (42 in 2007 to 26 in 2011)
- Colombia (41 in 2009 to 28 in 2011)
Anti-Corruption Agencies, Not the Panacea
The 2011 Global Integrity Report lends credence to the growing body of evidence that suggests the establishment of a national anti-corruption agency is relatively ineffective in strengthening transparency and accountability.
Almost all the countries assessed in the latest Report have a legal framework for an independent agency committed to investigating and prosecuting corruption cases. However, in practice, such institutional bodies are able to exercise their mandate in an independent manner only to a certain extent. Degrees of independence vary widely:
Note: Countries at the bottom of the chart don’t have an anti-corruption agency per se. The U.S. and Mexico obtained a score for independence based on the partial role other institutions play in that area.
Source: Global Integrity Report: 2011
While their names vary – Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in India, State Commission for Prevention of Corruption in Macedonia, Anti-Corruption Commission in Zimbabwe – the anti-corruption agencies all have a legal mandate to handle corruption offenses. The exception is Ukraine, where the government agent on anti-corruption policy was dismissed in February 2011. A new bill passed five months later allows for the reestablishment of an agency with the authority to “coordinate anti-corruption policies and activities.”
Furthermore, most of these agencies are nominally separate and legally independent from the government. Exceptions include Armenia, Burkina Faso, Georgia, United States, Ukraine, and Vietnam. In Vietnam, for instance, Article 14 suggests that the inspector general is a political post because it serves the Prime Minister’s cabinet. A similar arrangement can be found in Georgia, where the agencies devoted to fighting corruption are subunits of the ministries.
The de facto picture, however, paints a more sobering reality. More often than not, these agencies are essentially an arm of the government and, therefore, not immune from political interference. Take the anti-corruption unit Inspector General of Government (IGG) in Uganda. The IGG has a record of refusing to investigate cases against members of the executive. Recently, the acting IGG head drew criticism in June 2011 for dismissing a case against Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, who is under investigation for conflicts-of-interest regarding the procurement of a security communication system. India’s CBI lacks credibility because it, too, is subject to political manipulation. Indeed, so weak and politically compromised is the anti-corruption agency that the Supreme Court has taken upon itself to monitor corruption cases. The “recent crusade against corruption has proposed bringing the CBI under the control of the Lok Pal, a powerful National Ombudsman institution demanded by civil society.” And in the United States, which doesn’t have a central anti-corruption body, the disparate agencies that do handle corruption and crime cases such as the Inspector General offices are not always free of political influence. As the researcher notes, “agency heads and inspector generals exercise discretion in choosing which complaints to investigate and, should they find illicit behavior, whether to pursue criminal and/or civil prosecution.”
Appointments to the agency also tend to be politicized in many countries. Rather than adhering to professional criteria, these posts are often political appointments. The Anti-Corruption Council in Armenia, for instance, “consists of the National Assembly Deputy Chair, Minister of Justice, and a number of other state officials.” Some employees in Tajikistan’s agency perform double duty by working in areas they may not necessarily have expertise. Because of the shortage of technical specialists and an inadequate budget, for instance, an employee may have to work on both legal and financial matters. In general, then, the lack of independence along with (at times) limited capacity contributes to attenuating the power of many of these agencies to perform their duties effectively.
Another sign of the agencies’ impotence is that few citizens actually file complaints with them. This is particularly true in countries where whistle-blowing protection is weak or non-existent. In a country like Serbia, citizens can expect very little protection from recrimination when disclosing bribery and other forms of corruption. Indeed, the highly publicized case of Goran Milosevic, a public employee who was fired after reporting fraud in his organization, is a good example of the potential consequences whistle-blowers face in that country. Citizens in Venezuela rarely utilize the General Comptroller’s Office because of the justice system’s ineffectiveness and lack of safeguards protecting whistle-blowers’ identification. Whistle-blowers in Azerbaijan can expect recrimination for reporting fraud against high-level government officials, while those who file complaints against low-ranking officials, civil servants, and professionals may not face retaliation.
A Fast Revolving Door
Most countries do not have restrictions on post-government employment in the private sector. Lack of regulations on post-government employment for former government employees, including civil servants, judges, legislators, or executive branch members, allows them to take jobs even if they represent a conflict of interest.
The latest Global Integrity Report shows that post-government restrictions are indeed rare. Only nine out of 31 countries have regulations for heads of state and government ministers entering the private sector after leaving the government and, according to the research, implementation is very weak, with scores well below 60 out 100.
The situation is even worse when it comes to legislators: only five out of 100 countries have rules about post-government employment, and enforcement is even weaker than for former Executive officials. The judiciary follows a similar pattern.
Some conflict of interest restrictions exist with respect to civil servants, but only 13 out of 31 countries have them.
The Internet Censorship Chronicles
There’s good and bad news. The good news is that Global Integrity Report: 2011 data suggest direct online censorship by the government in most of the 31 countries covered is relatively negligible in the majority of countries assessed. Government restrictions and monitoring of Internet usage are non-existent, undocumented, or isolated incidents.
For example, in Uganda, for instance, there are no cases of Internet prohibitions, although an anti-pornography bill forbidding citizens to view pornographic material is being considered by the Ministry of Ethics and Integrity. In Serbia, while there is some evidence that the government shut down Twitter accounts critical of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vuk Jeremic, there is no systematic evidence of pervasive government censorship in that country. Indeed, in places such as Malawi, the “only restriction for online media access is whether one has Internet access or not” because the government may not have the capacity to block or filter online content.
The bad news is that where Internet censorship happens, our researchers chronicle gross violations to the right of free and unfiltered access to the Internet
Publishing material on the blogosphere in Vietnam has become more problematic with the passage of a decree in early 2011 curbing its use. In particular, it makes the publication of “non-authorized” information or content deemed “not in the interests of the people” an offense. If people wish to remain anonymous or incorrectly reference a source, they may face fines that “make it even easier to censor citizens creating content online.” Other ways in which state censorship of online activities manifests itself include firewalls of certain pages such as of Human Rights Watch, occasional blockage of social media sites like Facebook, and the deployment of monitoring software to track users in Internet cafes. These government blocking or filtering efforts seem to intensify during key periods like elections.
In Venezuela, a bill approved by parliament in December 2010 endows the Executive with the power to regulate all information available on the Internet. Any website that violates the bill’s articles – including the refusal to recognize the government’s authority and the use of anonymity – will face heavy fines. Although there have been few if any restrictions limiting Internet access since the passage of the bill, the law signals “an intention to regulate online content.” Indeed, one example that the government has taken steps in this direction is the detention of two people accused of spreading “false rumors” about the national banking system on Twitter.
Two Central Asian countries – Azerbaijan and Tajikistan – also curtail access to information on the Internet. The Tajikistan and Azerbaijan authorities have, on occasion, filtered news and religious sites such as RFE/RL (Radio Liberty), tjknews.com, and centralasia.ru. Government control of Internet use has intensified in Azerbaijan, where social media networks in particular have been the target of state surveillance. Oppositional activists who disseminate information on the Internet face threats, such as the recent case of 19 yea-old Jabbar Savalan, who was sentenced to two-and-half years imprisonment after encouraging protests against the current government on Facebook in February 2011.
In China, as is widely known, the government actively blocks or filters sites to suppress information on politically sensitive issues. As the researcher notes, there are cases where Internet users have been prevented from even connecting online. “Government tactics include firewalls preventing access to networks in other countries, and manipulating search engine results to exclude politically sensitive topics. For example, Chinese citizens are unable to connect to Facebook or YouTube websites for national security reasons.” Content may also be blocked, making it difficult for citizens to obtain articles or speeches.
What ails the U.S.?
The United States received a strong overall score (85 out of 100), with a 90 score on legal framework and 79 on actual implementation, which reveals some gaps between in the existence of anti-corruption mechanisms and its practical implementation. What ails the U.S.?
The U.S. received its lowest score in the National Ombudsman sub-category (46 out of 100, which results of assessing the existence of laws and its practical implementation). The ombudsman, defined as an entity whose primary mandate is to investigate the actions of government on the behalf of common citizens, is a mostly unfamiliar role in the U.S. With no single national ombudsman agency specifically charged with seeking out and documenting abuses of power, data suggests the U.S. can improve its government oversight on behalf of ordinary citizens. Currently, tasks usually performed by an ombudsman are shared across several agencies, such as the Department of Justice’s Office of the Attorney General, its Federal Bureau of Investigations, and its Public Integrity Section, which are all under the control of the executive branch and have a much broader mandate.
Political Finance was the second lower category due most notably to the post-2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United regulations governing the political financing of parties. The U.S. scored only 29 out of 100 on the effectiveness of its party financing regulations and 25 out of 100 in its ability to effectively regulate contributions made to individual political candidates. The new, broader “limits” on individual and corporate donations to political parties, as well as the greater difficulty in enforcing them, renders them virtually meaningless in regulating campaign financing. This is particularly true given the Federal Election Commission’s shortcomings, including paralyzing partisanship that contributes to slow, if any, investigation and enforcement.
Judicial branch conflicts of interest safeguards also need to be improved. For example, although federal judges must file financial asset disclosure reports, no independent audits are required. Moreover, citizens cannot easily access the asset disclosure reports, and, when they are accessible, they often lack important details or are incomplete.
One area that shows improvement is the whistle-blowing protections with new whistle-blowing laws protecting private-sector employees who report corruption. However, in practice, implementation of whistle-blowing protections lacks consistent application across agencies.
In view of recent restrictions in Egypt for NGOs to accept funding from foreign entities, we queried our data to see if that’s also the case in the countries covered by the Global Integrity Report: 2011, and found that most allow anti-corruption/good governance NGOs to accept funding from any foreign or domestic source.
Of the 31 countries included in the 2011 Global Integrity Report, only Jordan and Venezuela place restrictions on foreign sources of funding for domestic NGOs.
In Venezuela, for example, the Political Sovereignty and National Self Determination Defense Law, passed in December 2010, places strict restrictions on funding of NGOs. According to that law, wealth and income of organizations with political purposes is to be shaped exclusively by national goods and resources. Moreover, any donation to these organizations must be received by Venezuelan nationals within their national territory. Many view this law as a true barrier for civil society organizations that perform government oversight.
Jordan’s law on foreign funding of NGOs is less severe (Civil Society Law Number 51, passed in 2008) and allows NGOs to receive foreign funding, but funding is subject to the discretion of a Council of Ministers. That is, NGOs must obtain the approval of the Council of Ministers, which reviews an application that details the source, purpose and scope of funding. Although no concrete evidence was found for this Report that this has been used to restrict funding for NGOs in the country, the ability for the government to reject foreign funding of NGOs is latent in the law.