Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Battle against Government Corruption

While doing some research for yesterday's blog I came across a few interesting documents that in way had to deal with the Class War that is going on throughout the world. The first document is called the Prague Declaration on Governance and Anti-Corruption. the purpose of this declaration and that meeting which brought the document into existence was to:
Participants in the first World Forum on Governance, representing governments, business, investors, media and non-governmental advocacy groups from around the world, convened in Prague in November 2011 to analyze the link between governance and corruption and to find practical solutions that can begin improving the situation. The Forum was unique in bringing together representatives of both the public and private governance communities to discuss the problem of corruption in both its broad and narrow senses and develop an integrated analytic framework reflected in the Ten Principles below.
The Conference established that corruption—the abuse of entrusted authority for improper gain—is a significant contributing factor in the worldwide governance crisis that cuts across cultural variations and levels of economic development and modernization

There is actually some good points in the document and that implemented would bring about a change of opinion that people have towards government and corporations.

I think one of the better points of the ten articulated is number 4, it deals with the theme of open government:
OPEN GOVERNMENT. Governments should actively implement open government which, among other virtues, powerfully counteracts corruption. Every government should have and follow a freedom of information law with judicial review available for denied applicants. Government budgets, including both expenditures and revenues, should be fully transparent and take advantage of innovations in integrated financial systems and online disclosure. Public procurement should be subject to laws and regulations that provide for transparent, online and competitive tenders and selection among bidders that is independent, professional, and merits-based. For large bids, an independent and expedited review system should be available to assess appeals by disaffected bidders. We encourage both public and private parties to raise procurement integrity standards through voluntary agreements and monitoring by civil society organizations.

The problem with this document is that it leaves in the hands the very group that suffers from the temptation of corruption, namely big business and big government. While these are great words, what would cause a government to change? Please understand I'm not talking about the third and fourth worlds here, while we tend to think of only those nations when we hear the word 'corruption'. Their corruption is probably minor in comparison to what's going on in the west. As well, their's tends to be straightforward and almost quaint, a simple few dollars to grease some wheels or make sure there is a unnumbered Swiss account somewhere.

However the West does believe in sophistication. Consider what`s going on in the UK right now with the Prime Minister David Cameron; it seems he`s got a bit of a scandal going on and it has to do with influence peddling. He has been accused of inviting some very wealthy people over to his house for dinner. Oh and if they come, they need to bring a cheque book, for his dinners cost a whole lot of money. In fact he raised over £25million. Of course this was just for future elections, after all a party needs money to run a campaign. It`s not as if PM Cameron is the first nor shall he be the last. Even though a nation can have spending limits, there`s always a way around them, and who better to know then the government of the day.

Of course the government has called for an independent inquiry to study the issue, the question is, why study the obvious. If he took the money with the promise to bring about or change legislation that would favour the donors, then this is corruption plain and simple. This is the sort of thing the Prague Declaration wants to end throughout the world, but obviously their comments fell on deaf ears in the UK.

The concern is the government will have whitewashed the whole thing and when the inquiry brings the report it will be quickly ignored.

The problem is not, let me say, the money, it`s all about the elections. In some nations it seems they are on permanent election footing. It could be said that this is the case in the UK, where there is a minority government that is kept alive by a coalition and so they must always be ready. Or consider the US, where the campaign for the next presidential election starts almost the day after the Inauguration. It takes money to operate a three-four year campaign and we`re seeing huge amounts raised to pay the cost of a campaign. The candidates need the money and if that money comes with an I.O.U. then so be it, after all, its not corruption, its simply have other interested parties express their concern and help the government understand how some things need to be directed.

By the way, the Prague Declaration has something to say about campaign finance:
All forms of campaign and party finance should be transparent, with prompt and publicly accessible internet disclosure of direct, indirect and third-party contributions and expenditures. States should criminalize official favors provided as quid pro quos for campaign finance; offer a small-donor matching system or other means of public funding of campaigns; and have bans or strong limits on corporate funding of campaigns and parties. In countries in which corporations are permitted to participate financially in elections, corporate and investor rights groups should target corporations’ political spending practices to establish accountability for their decisions to allocate resources for political campaigns and to require full disclosure of all such spending to the board of directors, shareholders, and the general public.

This has to be the standard, democracy is not a means of raising funds, nor is political office a commodity that goes to the highest bidder. I`m not saying it`s never happened before, of course it has, bribery has to be the second oldest profession but now we the citizens have a tool to keep an eye on them.

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