Income and asset declaration systems in Southeast Asia


Bangkok (Thailand), 6 March 2018 - Income and asset declaration systems are one of the most effective anti- corruption tools. For this reason, the UN convention Against Corruption encourages States Parties to introduce these systems in public services. In income and asset declaration systems, public officials typically have to declare their sources of income, the assets they possess, interests in private enterprises as well as their major expenditure items.

Comparing declared sources of income on the incoming side with lifestyle expenditures on the outgoing side of the declaration provides a speedy and effective check on whether public officials can afford and explain their lifestyle with legitimate sources of income or not, in which case unexplained wealth can be subjected to investigations on illicit enrichment and other, related corruption offences. Asset declarations are also very useful to prevent and manage conflict of interests of public officials. Not least because of their effectiveness, asset declarations can be a contagious issue of debate.

Different income and asset declaration systems exist, they vary in terms of coverage (which officials, and eventually their relatives have to file a declaration), type and frequency (i.e. declarations filed only upon assuming public office; upon increase in assets, or in a pre-specified time interval), verification process (declaration verified for accurate information only, in case of an on-going corruption investigation or sampled and verified randomly) and sanctions applied for violations, among other things.

The income and asset declaration systems in Southeast Asia vary greatly; in order to gain a better clarity on the systems in place in the region and provide recommendations to make them more effective, UNODC is currently undertaking a study of the income and asset declaration systems in Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar and Vietnam. The study will cover both the legal and institutional framework of the national income and asset declaration systems and develop country-specific recommendations for making better use of the existing systems to prevent and fight corruption. The study and recommendations will be presented in a regional workshop to be held in June in the Philippines. The ultimate goal of the activity is to provide guidelines for all countries in Southeast Asia.