- Case study: Georgia
Georgia with the great and unique success in witnessed the considerable reduction in level of corruption in public service since 2003 Anti-Corruption reforms. Still now, many of other countries are trying hard to get rid of it or least trying to reduce the level of the same. It requires a lot of hard work and commitment from the top to get the desired results. This not only requires support of general public but also the consistency of policies from one to another government. Because it is sequel of policies from one period to another, any nation be it developed or underdeveloped cannot succeed over night from this mess which had been piling up for years. You sleep at night while working to develop paper to reduce the level of corruption and wake up in the morning and start celebrating the success, this is not going to happen in real life. However, the time requires to achieve the desired results can be shorten provided you have team of experts, have obtained support of public, well trained staff, commitment from the top, a very well management group, coordination among all and over all politics-free and no intervention by influential persons. This requires strengthening of the institutions and control of the financial and non-financial resources by competent authority. General public supports you when you deliver the service efficiently and resolve their problems honestly. Georgia did it very well! It developed a culture which resulted in a spill-over effect and made the system corrupt free or at least minimized.
There were eight corners which were point of action and were hit-target for reforms of anticorruption which have been so far witnessed to be successful which comprises creation of the patrol police, strengthening tax collections, cleaning up customs, ensuring reliable power supply, deregulating businesses, making public and civil registries work, rooting out corruption in university entrance examinations, and decentralizing municipal services.
Back in 2003, corruption prevailed in nearly every aspect of life in Georgia and which could have been witnessed in any transactions be it with general public, private or government offices. The curse was prevailing all over the Georgia. It takes a lot of will power to curb the invective corruption from the roots. This is all the game of mind sets when you try to work honestly but you observe all around that rest of others are directly or indirectly part or parcel of corruption then it also alter your perception of the corruption. Here it went wrong and Georgia falls in vicious of never-ending economic distress but with the support of its citizens through austere policies with no gap or leakage from the group.
- Were they reactive, preventative or proactive anti-corruption reforms?
The anti-corruption reforms were reactive, preventive and proactive in nature. Best possible efforts were made to counter the leakage of corruption from any part of system through usage of three kind of anticorruption reforms.
Initially, reactive approach was followed which triggered investigation of corrupt persons, prosecution and punishment of the same without any prejudice including government officials and several business leaders were taken into account and were tried on charges of corruption causing almost 1000 public figures being charged with offenses.
The preventative measures focused on the comprehensive development of the institutional systems, such as the police force and patrol, customs administration and control, university entrance and examination system, power sector reforms, tax and payment structure systems, simplification of rules and procedures and licensing the businesses. To eliminate or at least reduce the level of corruption several public officials were sacked and new highly trained public officials were appointed on higher salaries to avoid chorus of this malediction.
Once the system was rested on the track, here it comes the long term steps which was important part of strategy to level the Georgia on the track of success. The proactive measures strengthened the public bodies through designing and adopting long-term preventive and sanitary policies which tackled the enabling environment for corruption and improved public trust. This helps in improving the performance of government, witnessed the reduction of corruption from corruption-prone areas in public sector bodies, and extended effective service provision to the citizens. Public enlightenment, citizenry review through research and participation were also considered for recording success in the reforms.
- Were citizens involved by information, consultation or active participation?
Government tried to involve the citizens through information, consultation and by active participation to increase the acceptability among the masses. It was genuinely accepted and agreed by the panel of experts that to foster the results, citizens are supposed to be part of the strategy implementation. Since, they are real benefactors of the corruption free society as Governments come and go, it is public which has to live and work with the system. Informing public and extending information access to public pertaining to reforms were the key factors which contributed a lot in actually materializing the reforms since reforms are always on paper work at initial level unless they are put in action, with great zeal and zest with particular attention to elimination of unnecessary procedures thus simplifying the processes in which junior level staff were told to share their feedback and suggestions on how to further improve the ways to enhance level of service delivery. The citizens contributed in the 24-hour hotline to submit their complaints or report any offences pertaining to corruption in public bodies. Moreover, Video camera were installed all-over to watch out any offence as proof of violations by any of citizens of Georgia be it public officer, police, high profile figure, business man or even citizen themselves. Government also launched stiffed council of experts which were given complete freedom to work on national program to curb the corruption and devising the policy to deal with it.
It is also important to understand that by getting citizens involved on various levels including information, consultation and participation; what issues could they address? They addressed issues pertaining to capacity building of system and engagement role of actual benefactors.
- Did they use legal regulation, policy, consultation or operational tools?
Georgia applied and tried almost all corners of the tools and procedures which could have been applied to curb the corruption.
Various Laws and legislations were introduced to put in effect pertaining to corruption for taking actions against offenders. These laws with particular interest in public bodies worked as fueling the engine with strict rules and regulations to eliminate the corruption from the roots.
To establish legislations and code of conduct for criminals, panel of experts on behalf of government studied the application of various international models which could work as ladder to success with which the cultural factors are aligned as well. In continuation of the legal reforms, government also introduced the Tax Amnesty Legislation which permitted taxpayers to assert all unreported assets with the exception of government officials.
With this legislations, it was easy for competent authorities to confiscate the money and property which was illegitimate and generated from illicit sources. These laws closed all the gaps which could have been used for manipulation by criminals, thus it opened the clear doors for zero-tolerance policy and fasten the support from citizens. Citizens were well informed of any changes in legislations, introduction of new reforms and any amendments in the same. It was made obligatory to all concerned public bodies to intimate and get involved the citizens so that there is no communication gap or creates any chaos among masses. To strengthen the accountability framework, civil society organizations were involved in appeal process and any dispute resolutions which resulted in such institutional arrangements. This gives the citizens the room for strengthening their bond with public bodies and chance to participate via consultation and active participation in whole process of decision making forums which was considered as a formal presence of the citizens.
While considering the operational tools various options were considered including publishing adverts and creating toll-free numbers which helped the citizen’s to have heard their voice and gave access to information on reforms activities. On different levels of implementation of reforms workshops were conducted, public hearings were made, opinion polls were obtained and citizens were involved in drafting policies so that various avenues are provided to them for consultation and participation with their presence all over and everywhere in decision making process.
- What contextual factors did the reformers have to take into account in order to gain the trust of citizens?
It takes a lot of strong political will from the top of government to execute any policy and to take effect any strategy which affects in recourse. Various contextual factors were taken into account so that the trust of citizen is restored and obtained including but not limited to Establish credibility, Launching a frontal approach assault, Attracting and hiring very well trained and new staff, Limiting the role of the state with respect to interactions with citizens, Adopting unconventional methods, Developing a unity of purpose among public officials and citizens to take effect the policy in question, and implement international experience to local condition by using Harness technology and communicating strategically with citizens and public officials. This not only worked effectively but also Reducing Crime by More than 50 Percent, Reducing Armed Robberies by 80 Percent, Forming One of the Least Corrupt Police Forces in Europe, Accountability Framework for Patrol Police, increase in Number and Percentage of Tax Returns Filed Electronically and tax Collections Increased thus witnessing the Increase in trust, Creation of a service culture, Decline in corruption and Sharp reduction in crime rates.
- Anti-corruption authorities and citizens involvement
The activities to involve citizens that are initiated and managed by anti-corruption authorities differ from those initiated and managed by citizens groups and NGOs in many ways. Normally citizens feel comfortable with dealing in NGOs and Citizen group(CG) particularly in my country since they feel while sharing the information with NGOs and citizen groups is much secured and are comfortable than sharing the same with Anti-corruption authorities fearing they could be counter reactive. The working nature of NGOs with respect to corruption is to increase the awareness by educating the citizens with the help of media, informal channels, websites, and press conferences or by holding workshops etc. whereas role of ACA tend to be more of investigate in nature. The area covered to NGOs and Citizen Group is limited whereas ACAs have broad spectrum to address. NGOs and CGs normally adopt proactive approach whereas ACAs have to adopt combination of preventive, proactive and reactive approaches since they have larger domain and scope. NGOs and CGs focus more on mobilization of resources, providing platform to have their say in public with regard to corruption or offences they might have encountered whereas ACAs tend to work over providing timely response to offences, taking punitive actions to punish offenders, access to information and ensuring transparent process in public offices. It is very trivial situation where NGOs and CGs work closely to monitor and evaluate the performance of ACAs with regard to progress of cases transparently against corruption offenders, following rules and laws w.r.t to anticorruption, work closely with public to identify the causes of corruption, observe the working of public and private bodies including politicians and top business men whereas ACAs are dependent upon the cases being reported only. It is seldom and rarely observed that ACAs to have worked on establishing the causes of corruption and recommending the solutions to government. In my country, I have observed that generally people will never report the cases to ACAs despite being given chance to speak to officials of ACAs they will never complain on grounds they will further be dragged for no good whereas for the sake of information sharing under anonymity condition they share with NGOs and CGs. The main difference between both groups w.r.t Power they can utilize involve power of staging demonstration, media coverage and seeking attention of political figures and support from opposition parties to sitting governments whereas ACAs have only legal power to have heard their say, they are bound by the law to abide and they cannot take any action on mere information rather they are dependent on the evidences. No one can arguably say that either of the party is superior to other in terms of the performance since they all have their role to play to balance the economic and just system.
It is imperative to mention here that the objectives which were pursued including Institutional support, capacity building, Ability of public bodies that processed quick, simple and justifiable access to public services, Protection for citizen opportunities to easily monitor government, Whistle blowing concept, Information sharing to recognize corruption, Public administration capacity, Influence social attitudes. It was landmark achievement which could not have been possible without vision and well-designed mission which further was divided into goals and objectives.
Generally, above objectives results in following strategic goals which are prerequisites to development with respect to their role in:
- Revealing social issues and complications;
- Cementing public views and beliefs against corruption;
- Prosecuting fraud and corruption cases;
- Increasing transparency of procurement processes, development projects, public budgets,
- Influencing laws and policies;
- Realizing financial and welfare gains
- Increasing efficiency of public services
There can be various types of engagement levels ranging from using power, capacity development and using incentives to induce engagement. In power engagement, it starts from micro level but it requires broad base reforms including human rights, free speech and equal justice etc. In capacity development transfer of knowledge is made via trainings thus inducing the engagement leading to social and community development. In Incentive engagement, various benefits are offered to citizens to get them involved. The crux of civic engagement is to involve the citizens for their contribution in development of national strategy which is made for long run and citizens only get involved when they observe the area of their interest and which would they perceive to be beneficial in short as well as long run. Therefore, civic engagement goals should be made to be SMART.
All this can take up form of three engagement levels which include engaged governance i.e. linking social capital to public policy planning, community engagement i.e. involvement of citizens in policy making and civic engagement i.e. identification of issues of public interest.
There can be following techniques for engagement:
Information Sharing Techniques:
The main techniques used for information sharing are as follows: Advertising, Online information, processes, Briefings, Education and awareness programmers, Fact sheets, Newsletters, Media stories, News conferences, Telephone hotline, Displays, Newspapers inserts, Community fairs or events, Community meetings, Shop fronts, Informal club forums,
There are various consultation techniques including Discussion groups and workshops, One-on-one interviews, Open days, Polls, Road shows, Survey research, Web-based consultation (interactive websites, internet surveys, discussion boards and list serves, email feedback, internet based forums, online chat events)
Active Participation is accomplished by the means of various planned methods such as Citizens’ juries, Citizens’ panels, Charrettes Advisory committees, Deliberative retreats, Drama workshops, Search conferences, Negotiation tables, Steering committees and Reference groups
This address following issues:
- Government or agency issues: Issues related to engagement goals and objectives, target groups, general context, political environment, capacity to influence, legislative environment, policy and planning cycles, resources
- Community/people issues: Issues related to demographic features, preferences for engagement, previous experiences with government engagement, democratization of society decentralization, rule of law, freedom of expression, capacity for engagement, existing engagement structures (networks, committees, professional, religious, ethnics, sporting, others).
- Process issues: They should be based on the following guiding principles: inclusiveness, Reaching Out, Mutual Respect Integrity, Diversity, Adding Value (Capacity Building, Trust, Outcome Sustainability, etc.)
It is important to conceive that who should be involved. For the purpose, there can be various levels of stakeholders depending upon the gravity of the situation, objectives of strategy, cultural issues, norms and social issues. However, generally there can be three kinds of parties to this including government, civil society and private sector. They all can be either targets of strategy, partners in implementation of the strategy or facilitators of the strategy.
Target groups can include Political leaders, Government officials, Public servants, Parliamentarians, Local authorities, Community leaders (traditional, religious, etc.), Civil society, NGOs/ CBOs and CSOs, Academia, research and training institutes, Private sector, All citizens particularly the poor and disadvantaged ones.
Partners in the strategy can include Governments, NGOs / CSOs /the non-profit sector, trade-unions & Civil Society in general, Academia, Donor community, Multilateral agencies, United Nations system agencies, Regional Commissions, Regional and sub-regional organizations, Research and training institutes, Private sector, People.
So to put in effect, it requires Individual and Systematic capacity to strengthen and reinforce the participation. For the very same reason citizens need easy and equitable access to services, opportunities to easily monitor government and adequate information to recognize corruption. Further, individuals participation they requires very conducive environment to play the field in which is made up of Legal and institutional frameworks, Public administration, Social institutions and importantly Media. This all makes up the framework and network thus inducing the engagement of various stakeholders at large. – Ahmed Awais, Pakistan.