Guest Post: “Global Cities–Joining Forces Against Corruption” Conference Recap, Part 2

Jennifer Rodgers and Gabriel Kuris, the Executive Director and Deputy Director, respectively, of the Columbia University Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity (CAPI), have provided a two-part series of guest posts summarizing CAPI’s conference on “Global Cities–Joining Forces Against Corruption”, which we previously advertised on GAB. This is the second of the two posts. (Part 1 can be found here.)

The CAPI “Global Cities” conference featured two speakers who discussed their own experience working to promote strong municipal anticorruption enforcement, though there could hardly be a wider gulf in the circumstances they currently face. Commissioner Mark Peters of the New York City Department of Investigation (DOI) talked about about his office’s strong history of combating not only corruption but waste and mismanagement in NYC government, and Lev Pidlisetskyy of Ukraine’s Parliament gave an inside account of the incredible challenges his brand-new political party faces in fighting the massive and entrenched corruption left over from the Yanukovich era by instituting reforms in the judiciary, decentralizing authority, and engaging the public through new transparency tools

The panel discussion on “Engaging the Public: Mobilizing Citizens, Civil Society, and the Media” looked at the how cities can effectively partner with outside entities to better fight corruption. Athanasios Tsiouras of the Athens Mayor’s Office described Athens’ sophisticated and award-winning online platform for disbursing important information and collecting citizen complaints. Jose Ramon Amieva of the Mexico City Mayor’s Office spoke about major efforts to streamline local government processes like obtaining permits and licenses. And Fuad Khoury, the Comptroller General of Peru, discussed his office’s unique Young Auditors Program, which enlists students and teachers nationwide to help root out corruption, waste, and inefficiency. Dick Dadey, of Citizens Union of the City of New York, provided a civil society perspective, encouraging city governments to utilize networks of good government groups to make change. And Jeri Powell of New York City’s DOI took a historical view, emphasizing the importance of gaining the public’s trust in fighting corruption.

The next panel, “Game Changing Cases: An Inside Look at Breakthrough Investigations” featured prosecutors from all over the world discussing some major law enforcement successes, as well as the challenges they confront. A leading prosecutor from Venice explained a highly successful case in which 50 defendants, including a sitting mayor, were arrested for corruption offenses. New York federal prosecutors generated a lively discussion by describing a bribery case against a sitting state legislator, charged after another legislator agreed to cooperate with authorities and wear a recording device during his interactions with his colleague. A leader from the Catalan antifraud office described working on a variety of cases that help local officials build their own integrity systems. And a Malaysian prosecutor explained how a major case, built up during an extensive and lengthy investigation, was derailed by a defendant’s suicide while in custody.

Finally, “Ensuring a Clean Clean-Up: Fighting Fraud in the Wake of Disaster” provided an illuminating and instructive look at corruption risks related to major events that city governments should plan for to avoid making a bad situation worse. A member of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana spoke about how his office got up and running in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and what they would do differently today. Steve Lee, the Acting Director of the Department of Consumer Affairs of New Jersey, drew practical lessons from what kinds of consumer frauds his office has handled since Hurricane Sandy. And Alan Brill from Kroll provided a fascinating look at how easily criminals can steal unwitting citizens’ identities by setting up bogus free wifi sites, and how we can better protect ourselves against this kind of fraud.

From Perth to Barcelona, from Lima to Toronto, cities have become crucial battlefields in the fight against corruption. The citizens of the world’s growing urban majority are demanding fair and honest services from local governments, putting cities on the vanguard of public integrity enforcement and innovation. CAPI’s inaugural Global Cities conference made a compelling case that the international anticorruption community can learn from the voices of the local practitioners, policymakers, and public citizens working to clean up city halls worldwide. Interested readers can learn more about the conference from the online  videos, presentation slideshows, and other conference materials. And don’t forget to register now for CAPI’s upcoming online discussion forum on which we’ll soon be dissecting what we learned at Global Cities in greater detail with the participants!

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