UNODC Expert: Legal Awareness Can Defeat Corruption

Ms. Elvira Talapina, Chief Researcher at the Russian Academy of Science’s (RAS) Institute of State and Law recently supported UNODC to conduct a series of training sessions for staff of Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Justice and the Anti-Corruption Agency on corruption proofing of legislation.

Below an interview with Ms. Talapina about legal awareness raising among citizens and civil servants, the importance of corruption proofing of legislation and how properly and clearly drawn up legislation can help eradicate corruption.

Question: Acts of corruption imply a violation of the law. In your opinion, what is the value added of corruption proofing of legislation in the context of the fight against corruption?

Answer: the question you have just voiced is, most likely, a reflection of the normative approach to law that prevails in the European and post-Soviet system. We are used to thinking that law is about establishing a certain norm and enforcing it. Instead, the concept of law is much broader.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about law is not so much the drafted text, but its application in practice. This depends to a large extent on the quality of the text. Countries around the world are conscious of this. There are attempts to simplify legislation, calls for legislators or other practitioners to stop using jargon only they understand.

The problem is, in fact, deeper. Effective implementation starts with a well-written law. Only if a law is well written can we achieve its main goal and the overall objective of the rule of law – equality.

Corruption, on the other hand, is about selective enforcement. It is the ability to use the same law differently depending on the interests of certain people or groups and for the purpose of illicit enrichment. Hence, eliminating opportunities for arbitrary differential treatment and selective implementation of laws is one of the core tasks of corruption proofing.

A good quality law will not contain any corruption risks. However, for this to happen several conditions need to be met. First, jurists or other specialists who develop legislation need training on law drafting based on anti-corruption expertise. This gives them an understanding that any text can be used to serve completely different interests. Second, law making should take place in an environment of zero tolerance to corruption. Third, recruitment of civil servants needs to focus on identifying candidates with the highest level of integrity. Finally, petty corruption should be eradicated since its prevalence leads to public acceptance of corruption as normal.

However, even if these elements are in place, it will still be difficult to draft a perfect law, simply because no law is able to cover all possible life situations.

This is why specialized corruption proofing is essential to identify and eliminate corruption risks in legislation that are not picked up by other forms of more general legal analysis.

Question: Corruption proofing is a complex task. At first glance you may think it is easy to do, but mistakes can happen especially when experts face time pressure. Different experts, using the same methodology, may come to different conclusions. How to ensure that assessments are done properly within a reasonable amount of time? It is all about being systematic and methodical. If we agree that corruption proofing is an essential element of law making, then we need to organize it. Which laws require anti-corruption expertise? Who will be engaged?

Answer: One way is to involve independent experts, academia, and the business community. We need to decide who is best placed to do it. For example, it is extremely important for business to participate in the examination of specialized legislation, on procurement, taxes or other issues affecting the private sector directly.

The downside of corruption proofing, as a substantive discipline embedded in the law-making process, is that it takes time and costs money, especially if independent experts are involved. Careful planning and prioritization are key. The process should be regulated, understandable, and predictable with a clear time frame. This is a matter of public administration and related management processes in the country. If civil servant has a normal work schedule and tasks, then anti-corruption assessments will find their place in his or her daily routine. Sure, it will take a bit more time to draft new legislation in this manner but a high-quality law without corruption risks is worth it.

Question: What is the best way to train specialists to conduct anti-corruption expertise?

Answer: A key principle is not to put all your eggs in one basket. It’s not good if one institution has a monopoly on corruption proofing. If anti-corruption assessment is done exclusively by civil servants, then, sooner or later, their enthusiasm will dry up, and there will be no result from such expertise. It will turn into a formal procedure, and those doing it may overlook corruption risks in the text of draft laws. Therefore, it is imperative to develop corruption proofing as an independent discipline.

To do this, courses on corruption proofing should be introduced in on-the-job training for civil servants. Equally if not more important, it is imperative to introduce appropriate training programs at law and economic faculties. If anti-corruption assessment is taught in university, this will produce long-term impact in the form of a new generation of anti-corruption-minded civil servants.


According to Ms. Umida Tukhtasheva, Deputy Director of the Anti-Corruption Agency of the Republic of Uzbekistan: “Uzbekistan is actively pursuing public administration reforms and prioritizing the fight against corruption. Approximately two thousand normative acts are adopted in the country every year. Given the scale of the reforms and the impact of related legislation on people’s lives, we have to make sure that the adopted laws do not contain any provisions that may open the door to corruption during their implementation. Therefore, civil servants and experts involved in the law-making process must fully master the methods for corruption proofing of legislation."

Interview in Russian language 


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