Friday, September 24, 2021

Strengthening the role of civil society institutions and the media in countering corruption

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By Akmal Burkhanov, Director of Anti-Corruption Agency of the Republic of Uzbekistan

Every citizen must be active for the prosperity of the state, the well-being of the population, in general, for the achievement of all the noble goals set before the state.

The active participation of citizens in the implementation of the tasks set by the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, in the ongoing reforms, in the decisions taken, will undoubtedly further increase their effectiveness.

Achievement of these goals, along with many factors, depends directly on the transparency of the state bodies. In the absence of transparency, it is impossible to ensure accountability of state bodies and officials to the public or elements of public control. Ensuring transparency in the activities of public authorities depends on many factors. The world community itself is witnessing and acknowledging that the situation has completely changed in the last four years.

The beginning of these actions is based on the Strategy of actions on five priority directions of development of the Republic of Uzbekistan for 2017-2021. This document stipulates the need to ensure transparency in the activities of public authorities and administration, the introduction of modern forms of providing information on the rights and freedoms and legitimate interests of individuals and legal entities in Uzbekistan.

Most importantly, the process of adoption of this document was organized in an open and transparent spirit. Every proposal made about it was studied. At the same time, the people’s liaison offices, virtual reception centers and citizen’s offices of every organization have been set up to foster relations between the population and government agencies.

At the same time, conditions have been created for the realization of the right of our people to appeal to the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan. Continuous communication with the people and service to the interests of the people is becoming not only an obligation but a vital principle for leaders at all levels.

In accordance with the Constitution of the country, everyone has the right to seek, receive and impart information of their choice, with the exception of information directed against the existing constitutional order and other restrictions established by law. This provision fully complies with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the norms of international UN conventions on obtaining information, public participation in decision-making, and the rights and interests of citizens in the sphere of information.

In recent years, a number of positive reforms have been carried out in our country in this regard.

In particular, the open posting of data with extensive use of digital technologies on data.gov.uz, my.gov.uz, regulation.gov.uz, d.xarid.uz and other online platforms has increased the accountability of government agencies to the public. The Law on “Public Control” has been adopted and the procedure related to public control has been regulated.

Each ministry and agency critically analyzing the activities to ensure openness of data, established the practice of regular posting and updating information on their websites and social networks. They publish information on the activities of organizations, the expenditure of budget funds of organizations, announcements of tenders and vacancies.

The role of the media in identifying and detecting corruption is important. By strengthening propaganda in the media, it is possible to create an environment of intolerance towards corruption among members of the public, as well as eleminate the perception that corruption is simply a petty crime or a situation that remains unresolved. Therefore, a “Club of Journalists and Bloggers” has been established under the Anti-Corruption Agency. The main purpose of the club is to establish a close communication with the media when covering the processes of preventing and combating corruption, to promote the validity, completeness and quality of materials published on the topic to the general public. The establishment of such a structure in all government agencies would serve the transparency of government bodies and organizations.

Civil oversight is also recognized as a form of participation of civil society in the fight against corruption. The establishment of public control in this regard is rising to the level of public policy. In particular, the Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On measures to create an environment of intolerant attitude towards corruption, radical reduction of corruption factors in the state and public administration, as well as broad public involvement in this process” provides creation of necessary conditions for effective and efficient public control over public administration by ensuring openness and transparency of state bodies and organizations, as well as accountability of officials to the society The main task of each government organization should be the active involvement of civil society institutions and the general public in these processes. Only then an uncompromising attitude towards corruption can be achieved among the population.

Another issue is that now there is a system of public discussion of draft regulations through the electronic portal, in which our people participate with their opinions, suggestions and initiatives, which gives positive results. In particular, more than 25 thousand proposals have been submitted to more than 8 and a half thousand draft laws posted on the portal for discussion of draft normative legal acts.

One of the most effective means of combating corruption is the introduction of an effective institution of public control. International anti-corruption standards, conclusions and recommendations of international organisations and experts stipulate the fundamental importance of public scrutiny.

In particular, Article 13 of the UN Convention against Corruption provides norms for public participation in the fight against corruption, noting that each State Party shall, within its means and in accordance with fundamental principles of its domestic law, to take appropriate measures to promote active public participation in decision-making processes, to enhance transparency and access to information.

Alternatively, Transparency international recommends that the public representatives of the public of each body or organizations should post public information about all stages of the procurement process, including the documents produced, as well as encourage the participation of representatives of independent organizations and the public in the procurement processes and monitoring.

On this basis, institutional and organizational measures against all types and forms of corruption have been implemented in recent years.

In this regard, it should be noted the resolution “On measures to organize the activities of public councils under government agencies” signed in 2018 and the Decree “On the establishment of the Public Chamber under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan” adopted in 2020.

According to these documents, it is planned to establish a Public Council under each state body, including law enforcement agencies, the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Karakalpakstan, regional and Tashkent city khokimiyats.

Such councils are an important link in the establishment of effective public monitoring of the activities of government agencies. In addition, the main task of the Council is to act as a “bridge” to communicate effectively, to ensure effective cooperation of the organization with non-governmental organizations, the media and other institutions of civil society.

A Public Council has also been established under the Anti-Corruption Agency. Its creation was also based on open, transparent competition. In its current activities, special attention is paid to transparency.

In recent years, the work in this area has been accelerated in the field of public procurement.

In particular, in 2018, the Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On Public Procurement” was adopted. The law defined openness and transparency as one of the basic principles.

On this basis, procurement announcements, their schedules, e-commerce results and other information are posted on the website d.xarid.uz.

As a result of the launch of a single information portal on public procurement and the disclosure of the necessary information there, the population is aware of all procurement processes.

Recently, there have been many reports of violations in the public procurement process, both in the region and in the region, and the fact that they are rightly the subject of public debate is also related to this process.

Such crimes will not increase in 2020. It has also existed in previous years and has been shown in larger cases. But most of them remained undetected.

From this it can be concluded that if openness and transparency are ensured, punishment is inevitable, and every citizen has a sense of intolerance to corruption, there is no need to pursue criminals. Everything will be in the public eye and under control.

In this regard, consistently continuing the work started in this direction, in order to ensure openness and transparency of data on public procurement, proposals have been made to collect process and analyze public procurement data, as well as to create a single database for use by all stakeholders.

Shavkat Mirziyoyev, President of the Republic of Uzbekistan in his Address this year, not in vain mentions the issue of fighting corruption along with the issue of openness and transparency.

In particular, the head of state emphasized that “in preventing corruption, the decision-making process in all state bodies is crucial to ensure transparency and openness”.

In particular, it is necessary to:

– establish the practice of publishing information about the revenues and expenditures of extra-budgetary funds of state bodies, procurements of organisations with a state share, about state subsidies and grants;

– introduce an electronic information system to record and post local decisions of public authorities;

– make a proposal to expand the list of information that should be made public;

– introduce of an open and transparent selection system for assessing the intellectual potential and spiritual qualities of human resources.

In this way, we can achieve in the future an effective mechanism to further increase budget transparency in the country, ensure effective monitoring of suspicious cases, increase public confidence in public policy and prevent cases of embezzlement. We will be able to further increase budget transparency in our country, ensure effective public control over dubious cases, further increase public confidence in public policy and create an effective mechanism to prevent looting.

At present, appropriate measures are being implemented in conjunction with the responsible institutions for each of these tasks.

To summarize, ensuring openness and transparency is the most effective way to fight corruption. Establishing public control over government agencies will strengthen their accountability.

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