Supporting Lao PDR to pursue sustainable growth through corruption eradication

Posted on 8 April 2016

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Corruption and illicit financial flows are still major impediments to development in Lao PDR. The country is among the top 20 least-developed countries (LDCs) with the highest level of illicit outflows at 14.42% of the GDP (well above the average 4.8% of GDP for the 39 LDCs ranked - excluding 3 from Asia-Pacific). Lao PDR ratified the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) in 2009 and participated successfully in the first UNCAC cycle review process concerning Chapters III and IV (criminalization, law enforcement and international cooperation). Despite considerable developments in its formal legal system since 1991, rapid and uneven growth based on the exploitation of natural resources, coupled with the increasing influx of foreign investments in recent years, continue to create more opportunities for corruption.

UNODC ROSEAP, together with UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub, conducted a field mission in Lao PDR in October 2015 to evaluate the anti-corruption infrastructure of the country and its current anti-corruption policies and programs. The main anti-corruption agency in Lao PDR is the State Inspection and Anti-Corruption Authority (SIAA), which started working on investigation of corruption cases only in 2014, following a transfer of resources from the Ministry of Public Security. Due to its relative recent inception (in April 2015), the mission highlighted the need for capacity development and specific investigative training. The assessment also revealed an overall underutilization of the criminal justice system in addressing corruption. In fact, Laotian authorities traditionally deal with corruption through internal inspections and very few cases are brought to court for adjudication.

The need to improve the interface between the citizens, businesses and the competent authorities for reporting corruption was also highlighted as a priority.

The Laotian Government has taken some very concrete steps for the implementation of the UNCAC, including the creation of a specialized working group and the development of a work plan. Nonetheless, some of the gaps identified by the review of implementation of the Convention are still yet to be addressed. The main challenges concern the implementation of the Articles regarding bribery and embezzlement in the private sector, which are still not criminalized; liability of legal persons, which have not yet been introduced; inconsistencies between the Penal Code and the Anti-Corruption Law; and the inclusion of foreign public officials and officials of public international organizations in the definition of civil servant. Comprehensive witness and whistleblower protection systems are also still missing (for a broader perspective on how countries in the region are doing on this topic, click here).

In order to effectively address the abovementioned challenges, UNODC ROSEAP, with the support of the US State Department (INL), will implement a project in from 2016-2018 with the aim of strengthening the criminal justice system's capacity to address corruption in Lao PDR. The project aims to work along different dimensions: firstly, it will provide legal drafting advice to help Lao PDR address the gaps identified by the UNCAC review. Then, it will try to improve the capacity of the criminal justice system to address corruption cases, by carrying out a detailed revision of existing loopholes in the system, delivering training programmes (including some online eLearning modules in Lao language), and supporting the SIAA to address the technical needs identified. The project will also try to enhance citizens' and businesses' capacity to denounce corruption cases through advocacy, education and the improvement of the interface between citizens and the SIAA.

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