Helping Myanmar tackle corruption: it's time for a change

Posted on 28 March 2016

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As the new Government of Myanmar is now in place, at the UNODC we are stepping up our support to the country's authorities in their efforts to fight corruption.

A little background note to begin with: UNODC supported Myanmar first with the drafting of the Anti-Corruption Law and then with the ratification of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption in 2012. The country will complete the first cycle of the review process provided for by the Convention in the first quarter of 2016.

As international assessments point out, corruption is still a major issue in the country. The 2014 World Bank Enterprise Survey has shown that 42.9% of the interviewed firms in Myanmar experienced at least one bribe payment request and almost 40% of the firms consider corruption as an obstacle for business operations.

To face corruption the government has recently undertaken significant legislative reforms, including the adoption of the Labour Organizations Law and the Peaceful Demonstration Law, as well as the amendment to the Political Party Registration Law.

Moreover, Myanmar had been publishing online basic company data which includes incorporation data, addresses, types of business and information on company directors since the end of 2014, scoring 30 out of 100 in the Open Company Data Index, with many richer countries obtaining a lower score. This new availability of data implies that every citizen can easily check the involvement of public officials in big and powerful companies. Government reformers have also adhered to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), an international framework for combating corruption.

Open Company Data Index, data provided by Opencorporates with support from The World Bank Institute

What are we going to do?

As UNODC, we will start by taking a close look at how Myanmar is doing with the implementation of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption: the country will undergo a review of compliance with respect to criminalization, law enforcement and international cooperation measures by the end of the first quarter of 2016. The review will provide a series of recommendations to bridge gaps in terms of legal and institutional frameworks for the implementation of the Convention. Following the Convention's review mechanisms, Myanmar's reviewing countries will be Thailand and Burundi.

In parallel we are going to work closely with two prominent institutions in Myanmar's anti-corruption framework: the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the Supreme Court. The ACC is a 15 member body formed in 2014 and responsible for investigating corruption allegations. It is also in charge of checking the truthfulness of asset declarations and advising national institutions on policies and action plans to tackle corruption. The Commission is quite new and in need of support: we are going to produce a detailed analysis of its work and we will plan a multi-year support strategy for it, also in cooperation with our friends and colleagues of the SEA-PAC.

The Supreme Court is the highest court of appeal and was established in 2010. It has appellate and revision powers but it also has original jurisdiction on some cases. It has produced an interesting strategic plan for 2015-2017 with the aims of protecting public access to justice, promoting public awareness, enhancing judicial independence and accountability, ensuring equality, fairness and integrity of the judiciary. We are going to start by supporting the efforts of the Supreme Court to enhance integrity and transparency of the judiciary; a key element for the democratic transition. This will include a close examination of judicial training, disciplinary measures for judges, immunities, promotion and removal processes as well as codes of conduct and integrity of court personnel; it will also look at broader issues such as the overall functioning and independence of the judiciary.

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