Photo credit: UNDP Ukraine / Andrey Krepkikh

Deteriorated roads, damaged infrastructure, poor healthcare, low-quality education, plundered economy –corruption diverts resources away from citizens in numerous ways. It takes different forms and exists in different sectors. Thus, rooting out corruption should take place in many ‘theatres’ and requires reimagining the possible ways of change.

Providing a great knowledge sharing platform for anti-corruption advocates, the Anti-Corruption School, for the 4th year in a row, presents practical lessons learned about pitfalls and successes in fighting this scourge and equips local corruption fighters with necessary instruments to accelerate the pace of change in Ukrainian cities.

Organized jointly by UNDP, the International Renaissance Foundation, the Support to Anti-Corruption Champion Institutions “Взаємодія” project funded by USAID, and the USAID/ENGAGE activity, this year’s 4-day School brought together 37 active community leaders from 16 oblasts of Ukraine to help them get the fight against corruption off the ground.

To get anti-corruption activists learning from each other and working together to overcome the issues in their communities, the School convened a rather diverse audiences, engaging civic activists, journalists, lawyers, students, academics, medical experts, designers, psychologists, war veterans, and local council members.

The School aimed to help anti-corruption activists’ initiatives reach a top-notch effect in these five ways.

1. Avoid falling into the corruption trap: disclosing conflicts of interest and checking officials’ e-declarations

Is a public official breaking the conflict of interest rules when accepting invitations to dinners and galas held by business associations, or when helping his/her child get a government position, or when ensuring tenders are won by family members? The inbuilt problem of separating conflict of interest and corruption undermines the fundamental integrity of the government.

How activists can expose corruption where they see it and disrupt the officials’ vested interests? Giving a cold-eyed look at officials’ e-declarations, checking out their lifestyles and analysing their hidden business interests prevents the unscrupulous from depriving people of quality public services and effectively distributed resources.

 

2. Where to find facts: harnessing open data and accessing public information to uncover corruption

There are 8 zettabytes of digital data existing in the world. How to use it in the fight against corruption and why data should be open? In a long-term perspective bringing benefits for both the government and citizens, open data allows free access to information for everyone and any time, stimulating greater public engagement, inclusive development, and innovations.

How to find information on a business related to an MP’s assistant? Who is sponsoring a political party? Do public officials live a luxurious lifestyle far beyond their earnings? Lots of data sets are open for anti-corruption watchdogs’ scrutiny – state budget and public expenditures, contracts and tenders, companies, MPs’ personal voting, court decisions, political parties’ financing, and asset declarations, just to name a few.

What to do if information is not open? Every citizen has the right to access public information, which was created or owned by the public authorities – whether it is information on the quality of food and household items, the environment situation, emergencies and hazards, or other socially meaningful information. There are simple steps for requesting information: address an institution, not a person; make it short and clear; refer to the Law “On Access to Public Information”; provide your contacts and a preferred way of getting a response.

 

3. Decentralization and integrity: local communities eradicating corruption at the grassroots

How decentralization can minimize corruption risks? Instead of the top-down approach, amalgamated territorial communities are now in charge of shaping their budgets with a focus on local strategic priorities and ensuring public oversight over its implementation. To fight corruption on the ground, local communities are equipped with budget visualization and budgets’ transparency rankings, public procurement via Prozorro, an updated repository of a community’s property, an electronic system for financial management, regular audit, public reporting, anti-corruption programmes, conflict of interest prevention mechanisms, corruption proofing techniques, and many more.

 

Citizens can boost integrity of local governments being active and involved in decision making and oversight – attend council sessions and address the council on any subject, check the transparency of their own local budgets and demand improvements, build up community cohesion.

4. Access to quality health care: how corruption plagues the sector

Is bearing doctors small gifts, flowers, sweets, or coffee a sign of gratitude or a bribe? Some patients and doctors argue such informal appreciations do not count. However, there is a very blurred line between bribes and expressions of gratitude. Corruption in the health sector reaches far beyond a bottle of cognac in exchange for prompt care – it is a much bigger menace that plagues drug purchasing, charitable funds, diagnostic centers, privatization of hospital premises, and under-the-table payments to medical staff to get better and quicker treatment.

5. Want to win over your enemy, think like your enemy: exposing corruption schemes in public works

How to prevent a crooked city mayor from steeling the money allocated for the repair of roads, bridges, parks, or other infrastructure? It is important to understand the motivation of the unscrupulous through analysing corruption schemes and thinking about how to detect and prevent them. Monitoring a council’s decisions, analysing draft budgets and implementation reports, scrutinising procurement, checking budget transfers data via E-Data, watching for conflicts of interest, requesting information from government institutions, working with the media proved to be effective ways to expose corruption schemes in the public works sector.

Using such simple tools as Prozorro, YouControl, E-Data, Facebook, and Google, a team of civic activists in Ternopil managed to return UAH 2 million to local communities and get a 500 m2 road rebuilt.

The Anti-Corruption School calls on anti-corruption activists to commit to taking responsibility for their own communities and to work together to make Ukraine free of corruption.

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