London Anticorruption Summit–Country Commitment Scorecard, Part 1

Well, between the ICIJ release of the searchable Panama Papers/Offshore Leaks database, the impeachment of President Rousseff in Brazil, and the London Anticorruption Summit, last week was quite a busy week in the world of anticorruption. There’s far too much to write about, and I’ve barely had time to process it all, but let me try to start off by focusing a bit more on the London Summit. I know a lot of our readers have been following it closely (and many participated), but quickly: The Summit was an initiative by David Cameron’s government, which brought together leaders and senior government representatives from over 40 countries to discuss how to move forward in the fight against global corruption. Some had very high hopes for the Summit, others dismissed it as a feel-good political symbolism, and others were somewhere in between.

Prime Minister Cameron stirred things up a bit right before the Summit started by referring to two of the countries in attendance – Afghanistan and Nigeria – as “fantastically corrupt,” but the kerfuffle surrounding that alleged gaffe has already received more than its fair share of media attention, so I won’t say more about it here, except that it calls to mind the American political commentator Michael Kinsley’s old chestnut about how the definition of a “gaffe” is when a politician accidentally tells the truth.) I’m going to instead focus on the main documents coming out of the Summit: The joint Communique issued by the Summit participants, and the individual country statements. There’s already been a lot of early reaction to the Communique—some fairly upbeat, some quite critical (see, for example, here, here, here, and here). A lot of the Communique employs fairly general language, and a lot of it focuses on things like strengthening enforcement of existing laws, improving international cooperation and information exchange, supporting existing institutions and conventions, and exploring the creation of new mechanisms. All that is fine, and some of it might actually turn out to be consequential, but to my mind the most interesting parts of the Communique are those that explicitly announce that intention of the participating governments to take pro-transparency measures in four specific areas:

  1. Gathering more information on the true beneficial owners of companies (and possibly other legal entities, like trusts), perhaps through a central public registry—which might be available only to law enforcement, or which might be made available to the general public (see Communique paragraph 4).
  2. Increasing transparency in public contracting, including making public procurement open by default, and providing usable and timely open data on public contracting activities (see Communique paragraph 9). (There’s actually a bit of an ambiguity here. When the Communique calls for public procurement to be “open by default,” it could be referring to greater transparency, or it could be calling for the use of open bidding processes to increase competition. Given the surrounding context, it appears that the former meaning was intended. The thrust of the recommendation seems to be increasing procurement transparency rather than increasing procurement competition.)
  3. Increasing budget transparency through the strengthening of genuinely independent supreme audit institutions, and the publication of these institutions’ findings (see Communique paragraph 10).
  4. Strengthening protections for whistleblowers and doing more to ensure that credible whistleblower reports prompt follow-up action from law enforcement (see Communique paragraph 13).

Again, that’s far from all that’s included in the Communique. But these four action areas struck me as (a) consequential, and (b) among the parts of the Communique that called for relatively concrete new substantive action at the domestic level. So, I thought it might be a useful (if somewhat tedious) exercise to go through each of the 41 country statements to see what each of the Summit participants had to say in each of these four areas. This is certainly not a complete “report card,” despite the title of this post, but perhaps it might be a helpful start for others out there who are interested in doing an assessment of the extent of actual country commitments on some of the main action items laid out in the Communique. So, here goes: a country-by-country, topic-by-topic, quick-and-dirty summary of what the Summit participants declared or promised with respect to each of these issues. (Because this is so long, I’m going to break the post into two parts. Today I’ll give the info for Afghanistan–Malta, and Thursday’s post will give the info for Mexico–United States).

Afghanistan

  • Beneficial Ownership: Commits to establishing a central register of company beneficial ownership information with law enforcement access. No mention of public access to the registry, no specific mention of trusts or other non-company legal entities.
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: General reference to “taking steps” to ensure transparency in public contracting, and specifically supports the creation of a register for foreign companies bidding on public contracts. References “working towards phased implementation” of the Open Contracting Data Standard.
  • Auditing: No specific reference to strengthening national audit institutions or ensuring their independence. Commits to undertake an IMF Fiscal Transparency Evaluation.
  • Whistleblower Protection: No reference to whistleblower protection.

Argentina

  • Beneficial Ownership: Commits to lowering the ownership percentage requirement to qualify as a beneficial owner, but no explicit reference to creating a central public registry of beneficial ownership information (except in context of public contracting – see next bullet).
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: General reference to “tak[ing] steps” to ensure transparency of the ownership of all companies engaged in public contracting, and “explor[ing]” the creation of a transparent central register of foreign companies engaged in bidding on public contracts. Commits to “work on the implementation” of the Open Contracting Partnership.
  • Auditing: No specific reference to strengthening national audit institutions or ensuring their independence.
  • Whistleblower Protection: Vague reference to the introduction of “new prosecutorial tools such [as] the witness/collaborator/whistleblower[.]”

Australia

  • Beneficial Ownership: Commits only to “exploring” options for a beneficial ownership registry for companies. No mention of public access to such a registry, no specific mention of trusts or other non-company legal entities. (Emphasizes that law enforcement already has the power to trace beneficial ownership of listed companies and investment schemes.)
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: Finalizing membership in the Open Government Partnership, supports the Open Contracting Data Standard.
  • Auditing: No specific reference to auditing institutions (though lots of discussion of other institutions, particularly in the tax area).
  • Whistleblower Protection: Developing strengthened whistleblower protections specifically in the tax area.

Brazil

  • Beneficial Ownership: Has issued a regulation to ensure full compliance with Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations related to the concept and definition of beneficial ownership. Notes that Brazilian law already prohibits bearer-shares and trusts. No specific reference to the creation of a central registry.
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: Refers vaguely to “measures” taken to guarantee that information on beneficial owners of companies participating in public procurement processes are verified beforehand. Declares “commit[ment]” to making “data on public procurement open by default,” highlighting existing “Transparency Portal” at the national level and efforts to help subnational jurisdictions develop equivalent transparency portals.
  • Auditing: Existing initiative to disclose expenditures in the education sector and provide citizens with information. Nothing further on auditing or audit transparency.
  • Whistleblower Protection: General reference to “strengthen[ing] mechanisms” to facilitate whistleblowing, protect whistleblowers, and ensuring appropriate law enforcement response, but no specifics.

Bulgaria

  • Beneficial Ownership: Already has a registry of companies and their beneficial owners, which is publicly accessible. No specific mention of trust or other non-company legal entities.
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: General but non-specific commitment “to keeping public contracting … open and transparent”; commits to implementing the Open Government Data Standard.
  • Auditing: General commitment to “strengthening the capacity of national audit institutions” and to “keeping … government budgets open and transparent.”
  • Whistleblower Protection: General commitment to ensuring whistleblowers are protected from retaliation. Notes that draft anticorruption law includes detailed provisions on encouraging and protecting whistleblowers.

Canada

  • Beneficial Ownership: Notes general strengthening of obligations for financial institutions to undertake due diligence and verify the beneficial owners of corporation and other legal entities, and commits to “explor[ing]” additional measures. No reference, however, to the creation of a central public registry.
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: No discussion.
  • Auditing: No discussion.
  • Whistleblower Protection: No discussion.

[Note: In contrast to most of the other country statements, a substantial portion of Canada’s statement is devoted to cataloguing Canada’s provision of assistance to other countries, rather than Canada’s domestic initiatives.]

China

  • Beneficial Ownership: No discussion.
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: No discussion.
  • Auditing: No discussion.
  • Whistleblower Protection: No discussion.

[Note: Perhaps unsurprisingly, China’s country statement focuses overwhelmingly on international law enforcement cooperation – particularly in apprehending criminals and seizing assets abroad, and repatriating them – and says very little about commitments to domestic legal reforms. A separate statement does discuss domestic efforts, but almost entirely in the context of describing the anticorruption crackdown of recent years.]

Colombia

  • Beneficial Ownership: Commits to create a central public registry of beneficial ownership of companies (including those whose parent companies or investment arrangements are domiciled elsewhere), with access for law enforcement authorities. No mention of public access to the registry, no specific mention of trusts or other non-company legal entities.
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: Commits to continuing to participate in the Open Contracting Partnership, deployment of an e-procurement platform, and to continuing the “ongoing effort to fully comply” with the Open Contracting Data Standard.
  • Auditing: General commitments to “openness of fiscal information,” but nothing specific on auditing institutions.
  • Whistleblower Protection: Commits to introduce into the legislature a new bill on whistleblower protection.

France

  • Beneficial Ownership: Commits to establishing a central registry of beneficial ownership, covering not only companies but also non-company legal entities like trusts, that will be generally accessible to the public as well as law enforcement.
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: Commits to implementing open contracting and to “take into account” the principles of the Open Contracting Data Standard. Also commits to improving the auditing of public contracts, and to standardizing the format of data for public calls for tenders.
  • Auditing: No specific discussion.
  • Whistleblower Protection: Commits to adopting measures to protect corruption whistleblowers from retaliation by their employers (no further details).

Georgia

  • Beneficial Ownership: Commits (in general terms) to “ensuring that law enforcement agencies have full and effective access to beneficial ownership information for companies and other legal entities,” but on proposal to create a central registry, commits only to “exploring feasibility.”
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: Commits to take (unspecified) “steps to ensure transparency of the ownership and control of all companies involved in public contracting,” and to “work towards” effective implementation of the principles of the Open Contracting Data Standard (emphasizing that the early focus will be on major projects).
  • Auditing: No specific reference to strengthening national audit institutions or ensuring their independence. Has already requested that IMF conduct a fiscal transparency evaluation.
  • Whistleblower Protection: Not discussed.

Germany

  • Beneficial Ownership: Already has a database on bank accounts and deposits that includes information on the beneficial owner (collected by the financial institutions as part of their required due diligence), accessible by law enforcement. Draft legislation being prepared to create a central register of beneficial ownership information, accessible by law enforcement (and by entities conducting obligatory customer due diligence), as well as those demonstrating a “legitimate interest” in that information with respect to investigations of relevant crimes. No discussion of trusts or other non-company legal entities. Has already enacted laws restricting the issuance of bearer shares.
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: Commits generally to “improving transparency and openness in public procurement,” and commits more specifically to making e-procurement obligatory and to providing timely and reliable statistics on the award of public contracts. “Preparing” to become a member of the Open Government Partnership.
  • Auditing: No discussion.
  • Whistleblower Protection: No discussion.

Ghana

  • Beneficial Ownership: Notes legislation currently pending before the parliament that would ensure acquisition of beneficial ownership information and creation of a central register, and further commits to making this information available to the public. No specific discussion of trusts or other non-company legal entities.
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: Will “work towards” making government procurement “open by default,” beginning with implementing the Open Contracting Data Standards for high-value contracts and contracts in the oil, gas, and mining sectors.
  • Auditing: Not discussed.
  • Whistleblower Protection: Commits to enacting the Witness Protection Bill currently pending before parliament, to improving and extending the recently established Citizens Complaint Centre from the capital to other regions of the country, and to create mechanisms for relocation of witnesses and whistleblowers in order to protect them.

India

  • Beneficial Ownership: Declares intent to implement the FATF recommendations to ensure accurate and timely beneficial ownership information is available to law enforcement. No discussion of proposal to create a central public registry.
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: General/vague commitment to “ensure” that public contracts are awarded and managed transparently. Notes that the Central Vigilance Commission has implemented measures to promote transparency in public procurement, and has “encourage[ed]” e-tendering and e-procurement, and the use of Integrity Pacts.
  • Auditing: A general statement of “support” for the independence of supreme audit institutions and the publication of audit reports. Notes the existence of the Comptroller and Auditor General, and independent constitutional agency with responsibility for auditing public bodies. Also notes that the public has a right of access to government information and documents through the Central Information Commission.
  • Whistleblower Protection: Declares general commitment to “safeguard whistleblowers,” and notes passage in 2011 of Whistle Blower Protection Act. Also notes the existence of a mechanism through which citizens can file complaints with the Central Vigilance Commission (including on-line).

[Note: The Indian country statement, in comparison to most of the others, places much more emphasis on vague general statements and self-congratulation for past action, and is notably light on commitments for specific reforms to be undertaken going forward.]

Indonesia

  • Beneficial Ownership: Commits only to “exploring” the possibility of establishing a central public register of beneficial ownership information.
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: General statement of intent to “work toward” full implementation of existing agreements on public contracting (G20 Principles for Promoting Integrity in Public Procurement, G20 Open Data Principles, UNCAC).
  • Auditing: Not discussed.
  • Whistleblower Protection: Only a general and vague statement of commitment to “strengthen” the whistleblower system and protection for whistleblowers.

Ireland

  • Beneficial Ownership: Commits to creating a central register of beneficial ownership information for all companies, and to “exploring the feasibility” of making the register public. Further commits to establishing a central register of beneficial ownership information for “certain other legal entities” (not specified).
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: In the process of fully implementing a new set of EU Public Procurement Directives that will make public procurement more open and transparent. Also a vaguer commitment to “examine” ways to develop procurement systems to “deliver[] quality services in a transparent manner.”
  • Auditing: Has undertaken an IMF fiscal transparency evaluation. No further discussion of domestic audit institutions and financial transparency, but some discussion of commitment to supporting capacity-building efforts for supreme audit institutions abroad.
  • Whistleblower Protection: General commitment to “fully implement dedicated and comprehensive whistleblower protection legislation,” for both public sector and private sector employees.

Italy

  • Beneficial Ownership: Currently establishing a central register of company beneficial ownership information, with full access for law enforcement. No discussion of public access to the registry. Coverage of register being developed somewhat unclear: described as a registry of “company beneficial ownership information” (emphasis added), but statement also includes a commitment to ensuring that law enforcement agencies have effective access to beneficial ownership information for “companies and other legal entities” (emphasis added).
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: Commits to ensure transparency of the ownership and control of all companies involved in public contracting. Further commits to “work towards” full implementation of the “principles of the Open Contracting Data Standard, focusing on major projects as an early priority,” and will also implement the principles of the Open Data Charter.
  • Auditing: Commits to undertake an IMF fiscal transparency evaluation. No further discussion of auditing institutions or fiscal transparency.
  • Whistleblower Protection: No discussion.

Japan

  • Beneficial Ownership: Commits to “ensuring that law enforcement agencies have access to beneficial ownership information for companies and other legal entities,” and to ensuring that financial institutions and certain other professionals and businesses have to verify the natural person who is the ultimate beneficial owner of a legal person, but no discussion of possibility of a central beneficial ownership registry.
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: Commits to publishing data from public procurements in a machine-readable format. No further discussion or detail.
  • Auditing: No discussion.
  • Whistleblower Protection: No discussion.

Jordan

  • Beneficial Ownership: Commits only to “exploring” possibility of creating central registers of company beneficial ownership.
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: Declares intent to “explore” options for establishing a transparent central register of foreign companies bidding on public contracts.
  • Auditing: No discussion.
  • Whistleblower Protection: No discussion.

Kenya

  • Beneficial Ownership: Commits to “tak[ing] measures” to establish central public registries of beneficial ownership information, for companies and other legal entities, with full and effective access for law enforcement. No explicit discussion of possibility of making this register accessible to the public.
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: Declares intent to “pursue options” for establishing a central register for both foreign and local companies bidding on public contracts, and to “enhance” mechanisms for full implementation of Open Governance initiatives.
  • Auditing: No discussion.
  • Whistleblower Protection: No discussion.

[Note: The Kenyan country statement is particularly long on formalities and flowery rhetoric, but notably short on explicit commitments to actual policy reforms.]

Malta

  • Beneficial Ownership: Commits to establishing a central register of beneficial ownership information, with full access for law enforcement. (Appears to cover both companies and non-company legal entities, but not entirely clear: described as a registry of “company beneficial ownership information” (emphasis added), but statement also includes a commitment to ensuring that law enforcement agencies have effective access to beneficial ownership information for “companies and other legal entities” (emphasis added).) No discussion of public access to the registry.
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: Commits to implementing the principles of the Open Contracting Data Standard, and to enhance its current procurement systems so that they are consistent with international standards (with focus on meeting those standards on major projects in energy, health, and infrastructure).
  • Auditing: Commits to undertake and IMF fiscal transparency evaluation. No further discussion of auditing institutions or budget transparency.
  • Whistleblower Protection: Not discussed.

6 thoughts on “London Anticorruption Summit–Country Commitment Scorecard, Part 1

  1. Thanks for a great summary. But tell us readers: how many speakers confined their remarks to the time allotted?

    • Ha ha. I wasn’t at the government-to-government summit when the Communique was hashed out, so I have no idea. As for the civil society & business conference on the preceding day, as I mentioned in my comments on my earlier (snarky) post, the first session went way over, but then the organizers and moderators really cracked the whip in the subsequent sessions, and kept things running on time.

  2. Pingback: London Anticorruption Summit–Country Commitment Scorecard | Anti Corruption Digest

  3. Am afraid if I misread the summary on India’s pronouncement. Whether the government agencies walk the talk is a different issue, but they were clear in their statement. Isn’t it? Compared to replies of countries like China, India tried to reply with specifics. I wonder why that special comment for India?

  4. Pingback: In the Excitement of the New, Let’s Not Neglect the Tried and True | Anti Corruption Digest

  5. Pingback: TI’s Database of London Anticorruption Summit Commitments | Anti Corruption Digest

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