Sharing Anti-Corruption Best Practices in Thailand

(Thailand), 26 July 2021 - The Second Review of Thailand’s implementation of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) notes the importance of enhancing the integrity of public sector officials, introducing measures to prevent corruption involving the private sector and promoting the participation civil society in the fight against corruption.

To support the uptake of these recommendations, UNODC organized a Workshop on the Prevention of Corruption: Best Practices and Innovative Tools, together with the Sanya Dharmasakti Anti-Corruption Institute of the National Anti-Corruption Commission of Thailand. The event was held online over 12-13 July 2021, for 80 executive leaders of Thai public authorities.

Framed by the UNCAC, the only legally binding universal anti-corruption instrument, the workshop took a holistic look at the essential elements of an anti-corruption framework. The UNCAC requires Member States to take steps across five main policy, legal and operational areas: preventive measures, criminalization and law enforcement, international cooperation, asset recovery and technical assistance and information exchange. The UNCAC takes various types of corruption into account in its formulation of framework elements, including bribery, trading in influence, abuse of functions, and various acts of corruption in the private sector.

Drawing on the effective implementation of the UNCAC in various contexts, Jaroslavs Strelcenoks, Anti-Corruption Expert and former Director of the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau of Latvia, synthesized key elements of corruption prevention in public administration. For certain categories of officials, he identified a raft of measures to prevent conflict of interest, such as codes of conduct and restrictions around the acceptance of gifts. In addition to this regulatory aspect, Mr. Strelcenoks explained that an investigative element was crucial to ascertain when public officials exceed their authority. However, because the evidence of corruption often spans multiple banks and government entities, it is important that those engaged in anti-corruption investigations are able to obtain information from a wide variety of registers, including around the registration of property and other high-value assets. Many States achieve this through asset declaration systems, to ensure openness around the wealth of public officials and their dependents, including unexplained changes in wealth.

Meanwhile, to enable the full participation of society in addressing corruption – particularly when it comes to the public monitoring of conflicts of interest – Mr. Strelcenoks cited free access to information as an essential tool. This can be underwritten by various directives, requiring state officials’ declarations to be published for free at the point of access, all public and municipal institutions to publish the income of all employees and the publication of the details of the violations of all state officials.

A written summary and full recording of a recent UNODC Webinar on Combatting Corruption Involving Vast Quantities of Assets are publicly available here.

Transparency was also emphasized by Francesco Checchi, UNODC Anti-Corruption Advisor, who explained that while strategies to address conflicts of interest can take numerous forms, it is important that each case is formally registered. Depending on the seriousness of the conflict, which many be pecuniary (i.e. involving monetary gain or loss) or non-pecuniary, and can relate to potential, perceived or actual conflicts, measures may range from restrictions from working on areas in conflict to the required resignation of the official from their public position.

Slide presented by Francesco Checchi, UNODC Anti-Corruption Advisor, on forms of Conflict of Interest

A range of approaches were likewise shared by Tim Steele, UNODC Global Anti-Corruption Advisor, in relation to addressing corruption risks in public procurement. Measures cited included those aimed at enhancing accountability (e.g. through the independent review of tender documents), competition (e.g. by splitting major contracts to broaden the number of bidders), transparency (e.g. through the analysis of bidding patterns) and cooperation (e.g. investigative units following up on audit findings). Mr. Steele also highlighted challenges around specialist procurement, such as IT hardware and software, where procurement staff may be less equipped to issue clear criteria around the quality of goods.

A written summary and full recording of a recent UNODC Webinar on Public Procurement Reform are publicly available here.

Screenshot of Workshop on the Prevention of Corruption: Best Practices and Innovative Tools

Key topics discussed during the workshop include:

Corruption allows many forms of transnational organized crime to thrive
Corruption is intrinsic to the profiteering drive of transnational organized crime. Fundamentally, corruption allows criminal groups to reduce interception risks, increase profits, expand operations and maintain impunity. Giovanni Broussard, UNODC Regional Coordinator on Wildlife and Forest Crimes, explained that corruption is associated with every phase of the wildlife and timber trafficking process, from the stages of exploitation to transport, sale and distribution.

Likewise, Rebecca Miller, UNODC Regional Coordinator on Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling, outlined a recent report showing the interconnectedness between corruption and migration-related crime across Southeast Asia. One key finding was that, because corruption drives up the costs associated with regular migration channels, it can lead to a proliferation of migrant smuggling and human trafficking activities. The report also found that across the region, officials found to accept bribes or to have abused their position are often only transferred to other posts or temporarily suspended from their duties, rather than being prosecuted.

The UNODC Report on Corruption as a Facilitator of Smuggling of Migrants and Trafficking in Persons in the Bali Process Region with a Focus on Southeast Asia (2021) can be viewed here

Slide Presented by Giovanni Broussard, UNODC Regional Coordinator on Wildlife and Forest Crime, Showing the Role of Corruption Risks Across the Trafficking Cycle

Genuine resolve is necessary to fight corruption in the private sector
John Frangos, Partner and Deputy Director at Tilleke & Gibbins, framed corruption as a multi-party affair in which entities giving bribes are often private businesses. To address this, he argued that staff from every tier of a company’s management structure had a role to play in enhancing private sector integrity, whether by issuing clearly articulated policies against corruption, investigating allegations or reporting misconduct. Structurally, Mr. Frangos explained that compliance functions within companies needed the oversight, autonomy and resources to ensure elements such as third-party due diligence, reporting mechanisms, risk assessments, compliance training and on-the-ground guidance regarding expenses, insider trading and conflicts of interest.

The need for genuine resolve to fight corruption in the private sector was also emphasized by Chanunda Phongposob, Project Lead of the Thai Private Sector Coalition Against Corruption, who argued that the “tone at the top” dictated the extent to which companies were successful in operating with integrity. However, rather than viewing this as a process undertaken strictly within organizations, Ms. Phongposob presented a series of citizen feedback initiatives that showed how multi-sectoral cooperation could be harnessed to shed light on embezzlement and fraud.

While stamping out corruption was important to avoid reputational damage, Prayong Hirunyawanich, Member of the Executive Committee of the Anti-Corruption Organization of Thailand (ACT), argued that corporate integrity is in the interests of companies and their clients from a broader business perspective. Drawing on his experience in championing the Integrity Pact (IP) initiative, Mr. Hirunyawanich argued that fair competition can eliminate the cost of bribery for companies, improve access for potential bidders and increase the quality of goods and services for the public at large.

The workshop’s session on the Private Sector’s Initiatives against Corruption can be viewed here.

Civil society organizations can add vital accountability in the fight against corruption
The participation of civil society is recognized in Article 13 of the UNCAC as an essential element in the fight against corruption. In addition to their legitimacy as values-driven entities, their involvement can also serve as a powerful cost-saving device when it comes to monitoring and reporting on instances of corruption. This potential was illustrated by Petter Matthews, Executive Director of CoST, who argued that the civil society sector is increasingly exemplified by tech-savviness, high-level political influence and problem solving (rather than problem raising).  Drawing on his experience working on largescale infrastructure projects, Mr. Matthews showed how civil society organizations could enhance accountability through the use of red flags and data analysis, utilizing tools that may not always readily lie within the capacities or motivations of other organizations.

One determinant of the readiness with which civil society groups can engage in technical analysis is the extent to which entities across all sectors embrace open data norms. For instance, Nanda Sihombing, Asia Manager at the Open Contracting Partnership (OCP), showed how Open Contracting Data Standards could supercharge the use of data analysis in the fight against corruption. Increasingly, organizations such as Dozorro are leveraging machine learning and public engagement to build powerful corruption monitoring platforms.

Slide presented by Moran Harari, Director of Tax Justice Network Israel, sharing the global trend towards increasing legal ownership transparency

As such norms continue to gather pace, civil society organizations have new opportunities to seek out data synergies with which to identify corruption risks. Moran Harari, Director of Tax Justice Network Israel, showed how governments are increasingly under pressure to embrace financial transparency through Beneficial Ownership standards. Advocacy in this area, driven forward by civil society alongside other sectors, are opening new opportunities for technical innovation in the fight against corruption.

The workshop’s session on Fighting Fraud & Corruption with Open Contracting can be viewed here.

This webinar was part of activities funded by prosperity programming of the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of the Republic of Korea.

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