Celebrating International Anti-Corruption Day 2020

anti-corruption day

9 December 2020

‘Recover with Integrity’ is the theme of this year’s Anti-Corruption Day – a day launched by the United Nations 17 years ago to raise awareness about corruption and the role of the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

As we warned earlier this year, as Australia battened down our hatches to deal with the coronavirus pandemic – corruption thrives in times of crisis.

Earlier this year, Transparency International published an excellent report detailing the corruption risks of unaccountable and opaque decision-making and expenditure during the covid-19 response.

‘When faced with extraordinary circumstances, such as the current pandemic, governments often resort to extreme measures, including increased surveillance and restrictions of the freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, and the closing of space for civil society, the media and whistleblowers.’

Three principles should guide our response’ said our CEO, Serena Lillywhite in our focused series on Covid, ‘transparency, accountability and integrity.’

‘From the outset we knew that the risks of corruption, bribery, fraud, and misconduct could escalate – as they do in any crisis. In such times, transparency, accountability, and the public interest is more important than ever.’ Wrote Serena in our annual report.

And so this year we spoke out about the importance of executive and emergency powers being limited in scope and time bound.

We spoke out about the importance of maintaining regulatory oversight and due diligence to ensure projects are not fast-tracked at the expense of the community and the natural environment.

We continued our call for the introduction of the foreign bribery amendment bill, and for a national integrity commission that’s fit for purpose.

We were proud to launch Australia’s National Integrity System: The Blueprint for Action along with Griffith University in November 2020. This comprehensive landmark report shows us how we can build a stronger, fairer and more accountable system of government. It presents a detailed, evidence-based plan for a more accountable democracy, governed with transparency, accountability and integrity.

Meanwhile, our Accountable Mining Programme has continued to flourish in Australia and globally. We have updated our internationally recognised Mining Awards Corruption Risk Assessment Tool, incorporating gender into an assessment of corruption risks, and in recognition that corruption is not gender neutral and impacts on men and women differently.

Just recently, our Australian Accountable Mining team released a Guide to Stronger Environmental Impact Statements. This is very timely given the Covid-19 risks associated with fast tracking approval processes and making sure mining gets the right green light.

In an exciting development we have commenced new work to assess and address corruption in infrastructure. Watch this space as we know that infrastructure – a corruption prone sector –  will be key for many countries as they seek to recover economically from the coronavirus pandemic.

We have shone a spotlight on the nexus between corruption and human rights, and made clear that it is the poorest and most marginalised who are disproportionately impacted by corruption.

We know that we can only tackle corruption when working collaboratively with government, business, civil society and the community; and so we established new partnerships with Whispli, OECD Watch and the Bribery Prevention Network to strengthen whistleblower protection, promote responsible business conduct and help prevent foreign bribery. Internationally we have forged closer linkages in the Asia Pacific region, through collaboration with our TI colleagues and via the Asian Development Bank, the UN, and the OECD. (See also the International Anti-Corruption Day blog from our colleagues in the Pacific: Five ways the Pacific can recover with integrity in 2021).

As we look back on this past year, we acknowledge how challenging it has been for individuals, communities, businesses and governments struggling to contain the pandemic and recover economically. We have insisted, and shall continue to insist on this year’s Anti-Corruption Day, that governments and public and private organisations must not compromise accountability and transparency: we must recover with integrity.