London Anticorruption Summit–Country Commitment Scorecard, Part 2

This post is the second half of my attempt to summarize the commitments (or lack thereof) in the country statements of the 41 countries that attended last week’s London Anticorruption Summit, in four areas highlighted by the Summit’s final Communique:

  1. Increasing access to information on the true beneficial owners of companies, and possibly other legal entities, perhaps through central registers;
  2. Increasing transparency in public procurement;
  3. Strengthening the independence and capacity of national audit institutions, and publicizing audit results (and, more generally, increasing fiscal transparency in other ways); and
  4. Encouraging whistleblowers, strengthening their protection from various forms or retaliation, and developing systems to ensure that law enforcement takes prompt action in response to whistleblower complaints.

These are not the only subjects covered by the Communique and discussed in the country statements. (Other topics include improving asset recovery mechanisms, facilitating more international cooperation and information sharing, joining new initiatives to fight corruption in sports, improving transparency in the extractive sector through initiatives like the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, additional measures to fight tax evasion, and several others.) I chose these four partly because they seemed to me of particular importance, and partly because the Communique’s discussion of these four areas seemed particularly focused on prompting substantive legal changes, rather than general improvements in existing mechanisms.

Plenty of others have already provided useful comprehensive assessments of what the country commitments did and did not achieve. My hope is that presenting the results of the rather tedious exercise of going through each country statement one by one for the language on these four issues, and presenting the results in summary form, will be helpful to others out there who want to try to get a sense of how the individual country commitments do or don’t match up against the recommendations in the Communique. My last post covered Afghanistan–Malta; today’s post covers the remaining country statements, Mexico–United States:

Mexico

  • Beneficial Ownership: No discussion of central registries. Vague commitments to “promot[ing]” full and effective access by law enforcement to beneficial ownership information.
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: Vague reference to “tak[ing] steps” to ensure ownership transparency for all companies involved in public contracting. Commitment to “work towards” implementation of the Open Contracting Data Standard, with major infrastructure projects as an early priority (and will “explore” the implementation of the Open Contracting Data Standard in other areas, like oil extraction). Commits to “implement the principles” of the Open Data Charter, and will “propose reforms” (not specified in detail) to the federal regulatory framework for public procurement in order to “promote the principles” of open contracting. Declares “support” for the Open Government Partnership.
  • Auditing: Commits to undertake an IMF fiscal transparency evaluation, and endorses the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency’s High-Level Principles on Fiscal Transparency. Nothing specific about audits or audit institutions.
  • Whistleblower Protection: Not discussed.

Netherlands

  • Beneficial Ownership: Commits to establishing central registers of beneficial ownership information, will full access for law enforcement. (Ambiguous on whether the public register would include non-company legal entities; the central register is described as a register of company beneficial ownership, but passage on law enforcement access emphasizes access to beneficial ownership information for companies and other legal entities). No discussion of making the register open to the public.
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: Commits to “take steps” to ensure ownership and control transparency for all companies involved in public contracting. Otherwise, no explicit discussion of public procurement transparency.
  • Auditing: Not discussed.
  • Whistleblower Protection: Not discussed.

New Zealand

  • Beneficial Ownership: Will “continue to ensure” that law enforcement has effective access to beneficial ownership information, and has implemented Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations on beneficial ownership, but commits only to “exploring” the establishment of a central register.
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: Only a vague reference to “continu[ing] and intensify[ing] efforts to … safeguard integrity in the procurement process.”
  • Auditing: Not discussed.
  • Whistleblower Protection: Not discussed.

Nigeria

  • Beneficial Ownership: Notes existing “database of registered companies, charities, and trustees” that provides law enforcement agencies access to beneficial ownership information, and commits to establishing a public central register of company beneficial ownership information (a draft law has already been submitted by the President to the National Assembly). Not clear from the statement whether the draft legislation would grant the public access to the information in the proposed register.
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: Commits to establishing a transparent central register for all foreign companies bidding on public contracts, and refers vaguely to “taking [other] steps” to ensure transparency of ownership and control of all companies involved in public contracting. Commits to “work towards” full implementation of the principles of the Open Contracting Data Standard, focusing on major projects as an early priority (noting in particular development of oil refineries, the health sector, the education sector, power, and infrastructure as areas where the Open Contracting Data Standard will be applied to major projects). Commits to “implement the principles” of the Open Government Partnership and Open Data Charter.
  • Auditing: General reference to promoting a “partnership between the UK Auditor General’s Office and [] Nigeria’s Office of the Auditor General … to build capacity to fight corruption while also improving professional standards.” Nothing more specific on audits or audit institutions. Also commits to undertake an IMF fiscal transparency evaluation.
  • Whistleblower Protection: Not discussed.

Norway

  • Beneficial Ownership: Commits to ensuring that law enforcement has full and effective access to beneficial ownership information for companies and other legal entities, but commits only to “exploring” the establishment of a central registry of company beneficial ownership information.
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: Will “explore the possibility” of taking steps to ensure the transparency of ownership and control of companies participating in public contracting, and will likewise “explore the possibility” of implementing the principles of the Open Contracting Data Standard and the Open Data Charter.
  • Auditing: Not discussed.
  • Whistleblower Protection: Not discussed.

Romania

  • Beneficial Ownership: Commits to ensuring that law enforcement has full and effective access to beneficial ownership information and to “further develop the National Trade Register Office so that information on beneficial ownership is made available,” but no further discussion of the possibility of a central registry.
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: Commits to “work towards” full implementation of the principles of the Open Contracting Data Standard, with a focus on major projects as an early priority. Also a somewhat vague reference to “support[ing] the adoption of the required legislation and ensur[ing] adequate resources for the ex-ante control mechanism to be implemented by the National Integrity Agency for public procurement procedures” (the details of this mechanism are not further explained).
  • Auditing: Not discussed.
  • Whistleblower Protection: Vague commitment to “revise and improve the implementation mechanisms for the protection of whistleblowers.”

Russia

  • Beneficial Ownership: Commits to ensuring that law enforcement has full access to beneficial ownership information, but no reference to central registries.
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: Commits to “take steps” to ensure beneficial ownership transparency of companies engaged in public contracting, and to implement the principles of the Open Data Charter. (Also a vague reference to taking steps to “enhance the effectiveness of corruption prevention” in government procurement.)
  • Auditing: Commits to participate in an IMF fiscal transparency evaluation. No discussion of audits or audit institutions.
  • Whistleblower Protection: Not discussed.

Singapore

  • Beneficial Ownership: Commits to ensuring that law enforcement has timely access to beneficial ownership information, but no discussion of possibility of creating a central register.
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: No discussion.
  • Auditing: No discussion.
  • Whistleblower Protection: No discussion.

South Africa

  • Beneficial Ownership: Not discussed.
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: Not discussed.
  • Auditing: Not discussed.
  • Whistleblower Protection: Reference to two existing statutes the 2000 Protected Disclosures Act (and a pending amendment), and the 1998 Witness Protection Act. No real discussion of commitments to future action beyond a summary of existing laws.

[Note: The South African country statement consists solely of an opening page of diplomatic platitudes (and general references to the drafting of a new national anticorruption strategy), followed by 2 ½ pages of summary of existing legislation pertaining to anticorruption. In contrast to most of the other country statement, there is essentially nothing on commitments to further action on the items listed in the Communique, not even in vague or general terms.]

South Korea

  • Beneficial Ownership: Commits to “meet that FATF standards on beneficial ownership” that “may include” giving law enforcement agencies full and effective access to beneficial ownership information. No discussion of the possibility of creating a central register.
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: A vague commitment to “endure transparency in public procurement,” through use of the existing online e-procurement system.
  • Auditing: No discussion.
  • Whistleblower Protection: Commits to adequately protect whistleblowers by “strictly applying” existing whistleblower protection laws (the “Act on Anti-Corruption and the Establishment and Operation of the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission” and the “Act on the Protection of Public Interest Whistleblowers”).

Spain

  • Beneficial Ownership: Asserts it already has a central register of country beneficial ownership information, with access for law enforcement. No discussion of making it public.
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: Commits to “take steps” to ensure transparency in ownership and control of companies engaged in public contracting, and commits (in general terms) to “promote maximum transparency in public procurement procedures, only limited by due respect to confidentiality obligations deriving from EU Law[.]” Also commits to “set up a governance scheme aimed at detecting non-compliance or problems of a systemic character within the public procurement procedures.”
  • Auditing: Not discussed.
  • Whistleblower Protection: Not discussed.

Sri Lanka

  • Beneficial Ownership: Vague, general statement of “support” for a beneficial ownership register (apparently at the international level).
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: Not discussed.
  • Auditing: Not discussed.
  • Whistleblower Protection: Commits to implement a “proactive programme of … witness protection.” No details or further discussion of whistleblower protection.

[Note: The Sri Lankan country statement is “thin” even by the low standards of these statements overall. There’s a fair amount of vague, general rhetoric about the importance of fighting corruption, but very little in terms of proposed policy reforms or commitments connected to the issues flagged in the Communique.]

Switzerland

  • Beneficial Ownership: Commits to “fully implementing the FATF standards” on beneficial ownership, and to ensuring that law enforcement has full, timely, and effective access to beneficial ownership information, but no discussion of the possibility of creating a central register. Currently in the process of “implementing measures to ensure that all companies incorporated in Switzerland obtain and hold accurate and current legal and beneficial ownership information, including companies with bearer shares[.]” Also in the process of implementing new obligations for firms in both the financial and non-financial sectors “to identify the beneficial owner of operational companies in line with the FATF definition.”
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: Will “evaluate” the principles of the Open Contracting Data Standard, but no further discussion of public procurement transparency
  • Auditing: Commits to “regular updates” of the IMF fiscal transparency assessment, but no discussion of audits or audit institutions.
  • Whistleblower Protection: Not discussed.

Tanzania

  • Beneficial Ownership: Commits to ensuring that beneficial ownership information is publicly available for all companies in the extractive sector. Also commits to ensuring that law enforcement has full and effective access to beneficial ownership information, but not reference to a central register, or to public availability of beneficial ownership information outside of the extractive sector.
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: Commits to “review” public procurement procedures to “increase transparency and reduce opportunities for corruption,” but no further details. Will “explore” the possibility of establishing a central register of foreign companies bidding on public contracts.
  • Auditing: General reference to strengthening “institutions of accountability through institutional integrity partnerships,” but nothing more specific about auditing institutions or fiscal transparency.
  • Whistleblower Protection: Prime Minister’s statement accompanying the country statement notes that the Whistle Blowers Act is currently under review “to enable the public to give their support without jeopardizing their security”; no further details. Also, planned launch of a mobile phone messaging system enabling members of the public to report instances of corruption through a toll-free number and receive responses from the Anti-Corruption Bureau.

Trinidad and Tobago

  • Beneficial Ownership: Commits to “work towards” the establishment of a central registry of company beneficial ownership information, with full access for law enforcement. No specific mention of trusts or other non-company legal entities; also no mention of possibility of public access.
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: Legislation currently under consideration in Parliament would amend the public procurement laws; the proposed amendments include provisions related to data sharing, e-procurement, and standardization of procurement processes. (No further details.)
  • Auditing: Not discussed.
  • Whistleblower Protection: A whistleblower protection bill is currently pending before a Joint Select Committee of parliament (no details on what the legislation would do).

Tunisia

  • Beneficial Ownership: Some references, but nothing on intentions regarding domestic action.
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: In the “final stage towards complying with” the Open Contracting principles. Commits to “provide open data on public contracting activities without impairing technological and commercial bidding companies’ interests.”
  • Auditing: Not specifically discussed (though there’s some general language on promoting public integrity by improving public sector management).
  • Whistleblower Protection: General commitment to “encourage citizens and employees to report corruption, to promote action including by law enforcement on the information provide, and to protect ‘whistle blowers’ in the public and private sector who take personal risks to provide critical information.” This is essentially a paraphrase of the language in the Communique; no specifics are provided.

Turkey

  • Beneficial Ownership: Existing legislation already requires companies to report legal ownership information to a publicly-accessible central registry. (For bearer shares, the registry requirement applies only to company formation and amendment in contracts, not for transfer of shares.) Not clear whether this register includes information on beneficial owners, or simply the legal owners. A bit hard to tell, but appears to be the latter – in part because the statement later notes an agreement to “ensure that sufficient, correct and updated information on beneficial ownership and control of legal persons is made available and accessible to the authorized bodes”—with the important caveats that this will be done “within the boundaries of [Turkey’s] domestic law and infrastructure.”
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: Notes that 2003 Public Procurement Law took “important steps to ensure transparency in public procurement,” most notably by sharing all information on tender announcements and the tender process, as well as other documents, on a public website. Announces that the Public Procurement Law is currently under review to address unspecified gaps in the law (and possible non-compliance with international standards).
  • Auditing: Notes that the 2003 Law on Financial Management and Control “establish[ed] internal control and audit mechanisms compatible with international standards” and provided for the periodic preparation of reliable financial data to promote financial transparency.
  • Whistleblower Protection: Not discussed.

Ukraine

  • Beneficial Ownership: Commits to put in place mechanisms to verify the accuracy of beneficial ownership information provided by companies and to enforce compliance with the obligation to submit this information by June 2017. No explicit discussion of creating a central registry or making the information publicly available.
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: Commits to “make public procurement via e-platforms open by default to all.” No additional detail.
  • Auditing: Commits to ensure that all anti-corruption bodies are fully independent, capable, and adequately resourced, but does not make explicit reference to national audit institutions.
  • Whistleblower Protection: Not discussed.

United Arab Emirates

  • Beneficial Ownership: Commits to ensuring that law enforcement agencies have full and effective access to beneficial ownership information, but no discussion of the possibility of creating a central registry or making the information publicly available.
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: Not discussed.
  • Auditing: Not discussed.
  • Whistleblower Protection: Not discussed.

[Note: The UAE country statement is particularly terse and light on specifics.]

United Kingdom

  • Beneficial Ownership: Public central register of company beneficial ownership information for all companies incorporated in the UK to be launched in June 2016. [Note: As numerous critics have pointed out, this register does not include companies registered in UK territories or dependencies, such as Jersey, Guernsey, and the British Virgin Islands.] Will also establish a public register of company beneficial ownership information for foreign companies that buy or own property in the UK, or bid on UK central government contracts. Appears limited to companies, not trusts or other non-company legal entities.
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: Commits to implementing the Open Contracting Data Standard by October 2016.
  • Auditing: Commits to undertake an IMF fiscal transparency evaluation. No reference to domestic auditing institutions, though does note intent to launch “practitioner partnerships” with other countries (Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, Afghanistan, Georgia) to “share expertise” in several areas, including audit.
  • Whistleblower Protection: Notes general commitment to “providing effective protections for whistleblowers” and references recent (unspecified) legislative changes to “make the system more transparent.” Also commits to review the effectiveness of these changes.

United States

  • Beneficial Ownership: Notes recent new regulations on heightened due diligence requirements for financial institutions, that require those institutions to know and verify the beneficial owners of the companies that open accounts. Notes proposed legislation submitted by the administration to Congress that would require all companies formed in the U.S. to file “adequate and accurate” beneficial ownership information with the government. No reference to trusts or other non-company legal entities, no reference to the possibility of making this information publicly available.
  • Transparency in Public Contracting: Commits to “work towards implementation of the principles of the Open Data Contracting standards.”
  • Auditing: Not discussed.
  • Whistleblower Protection: Not discussed.

[Note: As I predicted, the U.S. country statement prominently featured legislation that has been proposed to Congress, but has essentially zero chance of passing in the current session. As I noted, a cynic might therefore say that the U.S. trumpeting of this proposed legislation is meaningless cheap talk, but I’m somewhat more optimistic that this is a meaningful step in the right direction, unless of course Donald Trump wins the election. Also, the strong separation-of-powers system in the U.S. means that it’s inherently difficult for any U.S. administration to “commit” to passing new legislation, especially during a period of divided government.]

2 thoughts on “London Anticorruption Summit–Country Commitment Scorecard, Part 2

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

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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s