HSE University Anti-Corruption Portal
The OECD Issues an Overview of Anti-Corruption and Integrity Measures
Natalia Gorbacheva, Vladislava Ozhereleva

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has issued its first Anti-Corruption and Integrity Outlook 2024*.

The paper stresses that even relatively positive output of anti-corruption activities in the OECD member states do not make it possible to say that the objective to eradicate corruption has become any more achievable. In particular, there are challenges and shortcomings in the following areas:

1. Implementation of anti-corruption strategies

The paper stresses that most OECD countries (71%) have an anti-corruption strategy in place.

However, not all jurisdictions develop and adopt such strategies at the level of highest authorities: in some countries, strategies are adopted by executive bodies, and therefore they cannot reflect the national policy and have the necessary political support.

Additionally, anti-corruption strategies are often “morally outdated” as countries ignore new risks, focusing exclusively on the conventional anti-corruption areas, including:

  • Offences related to fraud and corruption – 81% of strategies prioritize the fight against these crimes;
  • Public procurement – 78%;
  • Internal control and risk management – 74%;
  • Human resource management – 70%;
  • Private sector and state-owned enterprises – 67%;
  • Public finance management – 59%;
  • Other areas such as infrastructure development, construction, healthcare, education, taxation and customs – 48%.

Furthermore, only 18 out of 27 countries used instruments of analysis of actual data in developing anti-corruption strategies, and no more than a half of countries engaged stakeholders, i.e. representatives of civil society and the private sector, in discussing draft strategies.

The authors of the paper also underline that only two thirds of the measures enshrined in such strategies are put in practice. The inability to meet all objectives of the strategy is due to the lack of resources, shift of political focus and/or incorrect management of implementation of strategies.

2. Corruption risk management and internal audit

Many OECD countries adopt measures to manage corruption risks and exercise internal audit in the public sector. For instance, 70% of countries have issued guidance to prevent fraud and corruption in the exercise of internal audit, and 71% have introduced the obligation to include corruption risks in the risk management system.

In practice, however, the legal acts adopted at the level of governments are not always implemented in a coherent manner by public bodies, in particular:

  • Over the last three years, it is only in six countries that all public bodies have conducted risk assessment, including corruption risks,;
  • It is only in seven jurisdictions that the obligation to manage risks has been recorded in the documents of public bodies;
  • It is in five countries that less than a half of public bodies have planned to conduct internal audit related to fraud and corruption.

3. Lobbying

The authors of the paper state that the representation (lobbying) of interests is the less regulated area vulnerable to corruption.

For instance, the regulation of this activity is provided for by the legislation of only 17 out of 38 OECD members. Moreover, only 11 of them have adopted a code of conduct establishing the rules of interaction between public officials and lobbyists and have defined liability measures for the infringement of relevant norms.

Another equally serious challenge is posed by poor transparency of lobbyists’ activities, which increases the risks of undue influence. In spite of the fact that all 17 OECD countries that have legal acts on lobbying in place have public registers of lobbyists, only eight of them disclose not only the names of relevant persons, but also information on the legal acts with regard to which they have interest, and only three out of the indicated eight countries provide information on the expenses on lobbying. Only 12 countries provide open access to the agendas of their ministers containing the information on their contacts and subjects of meetings.

4. Conflict of interest

Unlike lobbying, the regulations on conflicts of interest are adopted in most OECD countries. In most cases, the relevant legal acts define:

  • Situations that are considered as a conflict of interest or can lead to the latter, and the measures on conflict-of-interest management;
  • Obligation for public officials to submit declarations and/or notifications on personal interest/conflict of interest;
  • Liability measures for the violation of conflict-of-interest provisions;
  • Other restrictions, prohibitions and obligations for public officials related to conflicts of interest.

However, the OECD countries do not normally have legally established procedures to submit and verify the content of interest declarations and/or notifications about personal interest; some jurisdictions have the obligation to submit such declarations in place for a limited number of officials.

At the same time, control over compliance with the legally established requirements is actually put in practice in few countries:

  • Only 22 out of 29 countries whose legislation provides for the submission of declarations by members of the government collect information on compliance with this obligation;
  • Only 21 out of 32 countries that have the requirement for members of parliament to submit declarations exercise control over compliance with this obligation;
  • Only 10 out of 19 countries where judges must submit declaration monitor compliance with this obligation;
  • 11 out of 26 countries where top executives must submit interest declarations control the submission.

The authors of the document stress that many countries also lack thorough verification of declarations.

Moreover, almost all OECD countries do not exercise subsequent control with regard to the actual management of conflict of interest. As a result, even if a conflict of interest persists, there may be no liability: the paper highlights that only ten OECD countries (out of 30 for which the relevant data are available) have imposed sanctions for the violation of conflict-of-interest provisions over the last three years.

5. Political finance

The paper states that the provisions on political finance adopted in the OECD countries do not make it possible to reduce corruption risks and require an update in current circumstances.

For instance, less than a half of the OECD countries have not prohibited anonymous donations yet, only 74% of countries have imposed a ban on foreign sponsors’ donations. The legislation of some countries such as Australia, Denmark and Sweden does not provide for any sort of restrictions on political finance. The OECD experts highlight that the legitimization of receipt of anonymous donations does not make it possible to thoroughly verify the source of financing and the legal origin of the funding, while insufficient control over the receipt of foreign donations can result in undue influence.

Additionally, only 60% of OECD countries have independent authorities supervising political finance of political parties and electoral campaigns with the requirement for political actors to provide financial reporting being violated in most jurisdictions: for example, it is only in 15 countries over the last five years that political parties have submitted their annual reports by the deadline set by the domestic law; it is only in 22 countries that public access is provided to these reports.

6. Transparency of public information

The authors of the document underline that transparency of public information encourages public officials to act in good faith and increases accountability of public policy development and public administration processes.

As per the paper, the OECD countries have achieved the following results in ensuring transparency of public information:

  • It is in 23 countries that public bodies and organisations exercising public functions are holders of the public information that can be requested by any person;
  • It is in 32 countries that a clear procedure for requesting public information, including the term for processing such requests and the right of appeal, is established;
  • It is in 26 countries that have the list of data that must be made public provided for in the laws;
  • 28 countries have established the bodies responsible for monitoring of publication of open data.

However, these results regard only a narrow scope of information, including information on the outcome of elections, texts of legal acts, consolidated versions of laws, information on the public budget and public procurement, registers of legal persons, data from the land registry. At the same time, less than a half of OECD countries publish agendas of governments, asset declarations, brief reports on requests to access information on a regular basis, and less than a third of them release agendas of ministers, interest declarations and information on the wages of senior public officials.

7. Green transition

The paper stresses that climate change and other issues related to environment are of great importance to the governments of many countries, including the OECD countries. However, lack of knowledge about this subject and the need to closely interact with the private sector considerably increase corruption risks:

  • Tackling of environmental challenges requires engagement of a great number of stakeholders, including major oil and gas companies that can exercise undue influence to “slow down” the transition to environmentally friendly methods of extraction/production;
  • Green transition paves the way for manipulation of domestic decisions by foreign companies, for example, by those that want to gain access to energy markets;
  • Establishment of consultative and expert groups on climate change in lack of due regulation of conflicts of interest can result in undue influence of the opponents of green transition etc.

In order to mitigate relevant risks, the authors of the document recommend that law enforcement bodies build capacity of investigation of corruption offences in the sectors of decisive importance for addressing environmental challenges, including extraction and processing of minerals, forestry, fisheries etc., and strengthen international cooperation in the investigation of relevant cases.

8. Artificial intelligence (AI)

The paper states that AI, including machine learning, can change the methods of detection, forecasting and mitigation of corruption risks on the scale unattainable when conventional methods only are employed.

In particular, AI, as an anti-corruption instrument, provides the following opportunities:

  • Assess risks and forecast possible fraud and/or corruption in the public sector due to the methods that were previously unavailable or were too resource-consuming;
  • Accelerate the verification of asset declarations;
  • Enhance the effectiveness of public services and execution of administrative functions;
  • Detect corruption offences in the areas with high transaction load, including healthcare, customs, infrastructure, public procurement and taxation;
  • Accelerate the preparation of investigation documentation, including in foreign bribery cases;
  • Improve anti-corruption measures in organisations due to enhanced effectiveness of monitoring of transactions, detection of suspicious payments and illegal actions of employees, preparation of forecasts of corruption risks etc.

On the other hand, the use of AI can also give rise to new corruption risks, in particular:

  • AI learning with the use of databases of poor quality can result in first and second kind errors (inability to detect indicators of corruption where they are in place or detection of indicators where they are not present), increased duration of data processing and the like;
  • Adoption of the decisions that lack transparency by AI can hamper the operation of audit bodies and result in downturn in public trust;
  • Use of AI by unscrupulous individuals with a view to, for example, identifying vulnerabilities in public systems.

9. Foreign interference

The paper stresses that the use of loopholes in anti-corruption systems of target countries to achieve geopolitical objectives is an important element of foreign interference.

In this context, the authors of the paper call on assessing corruption risks not only from the point of view of potential financial losses and frequency of corruption offences, but also from the perspective of possible harm that the capture of the elites and authorities can inflict to the capacity of public institutions to operate and defend the public interest. After the assessment of such risks is conducted, the OECD experts call on the countries to adopt the measures to eliminate the gaps in their policy that make it possible to influence a number of subjects of the public sector, adapting their anti-corruption systems to mitigation of the detected risks.

*The OECD report is based, in particular, on the data contained in the OECD Public Integrity Indicators stemming from the OECD Recommendation of the Council on Public Integrity.

Conflict of interest
Asset disclosure
Anti-corruption policies and strategies

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