Brazil might be touting the importance of technology in enhancing government accountability and transparency but the power of technology is clearly a work in progress. At the Brasilia conference centre, the microphones in the opening plenary scarcely picked up several of the speakers; the wifi drops out work consistently; the simultaneous translation headsets have roughly a 1:3 chance of working. Speaking Portuguese helps immensely in following events -- sadly I don't! But the spirit of help and cooperation thrives as organisers scramble to work out the problems. Travel here has proven equally challenging - flights delayed. The plane carrying Indian social activist Aruna Roy ran short of fuel en route and she stayed overnight in Sao Paulo.
A question is directed towards a distinguished panel on 'Global Solutions against Corruption' by Patrick Alley of Global Witness which receives an enthusiastic round of applause. He asks: When will bankers who help to launder corrupt funds be held criminally liable for their actions?
Richard Boucher, Deputy Secretary-General of the OECD responds to
Alley's question. Boucher doesn't respond directly to the question but
says that in some ways it is easier to stop corruption at root than it
is to return stolen funds due to the complex legal issues that must be
navigated when returning corrupt money.
Alley also asked about the problem of corrupt individuals being able
to launder money through companies of which they are the beneficial
owner but where their ownership is hidden. Alley says that OECD
countries are some of the worst offenders when it comes to obscuring
the beneficial ownership of companies.
Boucher says that it is part of the OECD's 'doctrine' to encourage the
transparent ownership of companies.
The conference has now broken for lunch. It has been a frustrating
morning for those attempting to report on proceedings. Panellist
microphones, translation devices and the conference centre wifi all
failed at one point or another.
Some ideas from the People Power session on the importance of mobilizing citizens in the campaign came from Anamaria Schindler, co-president Emiritus of Ashoka. She said combating corruption takes three factors -- activists on the ground, media exposing corruption, and monitoring of public institutions. Access to information is the first critical ingredient for generating a movement against corruption. Then political performance must be measured and institutions monitored, Schindler said.
Tawakkol Karman, the Yemeni journalist and 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner for her leadership role in the Arab Spring uprisings, agreed that access to information is a vital ingredient. It is "a very important right for people who have the right to denounce corruption," she said.
The youth-led uprisings will continue in holding their governments accountable but they also need international support via an agreement to end impunity for companies engaged in corrupt activities and banks that accept illicit funds taken from their countries, she said.
"Citizens need this and this must be guaranteed. We hope there is an agreement to hold all those who commit corrupt acts are held accountable wherever they are -- not only in developing countries but also in developed countries," Karman said.
No impunity is an emerging theme here -- subject of the next session. Daniel Kaufmann, president of Revenue Watch Institute, drove the point home in saying that effective institutions that implement the rule of law is a crucial element in the fight against corruption so that wrongdoers are held to account.
"More transparency without ending impunity will not deliver at the end of the day," he said.
At the World Bank, the agency said it is connecting to citizens by giving grants for the first time to civil society organisations. It also is developing geolocator maps to help citizens monitor governments and increase accountability. They take data and create visualisations of how government budgets are spent and the regional impact they have, said World Bank Institute vice president Sanjay Pradhan.
For example, the allocation of Moldovia's education budget was mapped against school performance. This helps citizens monitor how effectively government money is used.
Onward to the next session on impunity.
A brave story in the ENDING IMPUNITY session about Cambodian forest people fighting illegal logging. Marcus Hardtke of the Natural Resources Protection Group of Cambodia, said forest people have started to take the law into their own hands against corrupt companies that bribe public officials -- they are seizing trucks, confiscating llegally felled timber, occupying illegal saw mills and patrolling the forests.
Hardtke said their actions have been "a game changer." It ends impunity and has empowered people by changing the reality on the ground, which in turn has attracted more protesters. It has exposed the corrupt local officials who were benefitting from payoffs from illegal loggers. They now have to openly choose between citizens enforcing the law and illegal loggers. And it has robbed corrupt companies of profits.
"By destabilising the system you achieve results and empower people," said Hardtke, who has seen his fellow campaigners in the Natural Resources Group killed this year for their activism in Cambodia.
Two lessons on Ending Impunity from Richard Goldstone, a former judge and investigator in the UN oil-for-food scandal. Firstly, the political environment to hold people accountable is necessary. "Without politics things don't happen," he said. Secondly, trained investigators and prosecutors are needed to unravel complex cases, he said at the IACC session.
The sports session at the IACC is about to begin. The session is
entitled 'Out of Bounds: identifying, disrupting and preventing the
infiltration of organized crime.' The session includes panellists from
INTERPOL, football's governing body FIFA, the FBI and others. It
promises to be a great workshop!
By the way, just to be clear, while there are a number of technical
issues that need to be ironed out here at the IACC, I don't blame the
organizers (TI, Amarribo Brasil and Instituto Ethos) at all. It's
obviously an infrastructure issue with the national convention centre
struggling to cope...
The panellists are introducing themselves to the audience.
The panel will be moderated by Rob Bonnet, a sports broadcaster
(mostly for the BBC).
John Abbott is a life long law enforcement officer who currently heads
a panel on corruption in sport at INTERPOL.
Ralf Mutschke is the director of security at FIFA, football's
governing body and a former German policeman. He is in charge of all
anti-corruption at FIFA.
Dimitri Vlassis is a lawyer and Chief of the Corruption and Economic
Crime branch of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
Drago Kos is a former Slovenian policeman and former head of
anti-corruption at the Council of Europe. He also is a former football
player and football referee.
So a very distinguished panel!
Ralf Mutschke (from FIFA) relates a fascinating story about a
Singaporean agent called Perumal who is the most prolific match fixer
ever to be convicted (he received a 2 year prison sentence). Perhaps
surprisingly, the law finally caught up with him in Finland when an
associate reported him to the police.
Perumal was so powerful and influential that he was able to set up
international football friendlies between countries in which no
tickets for the event were ever sold and the referee (chosen by
Perumal) was bribed to fix the score. While the game received no
publicity, betting syndicates in South East Asia were able to bet on
Bulgarian football is rife with organized crime.
Fifteen Bulgarian football club directors have been killed by
organized criminals and four Bulgarian journalists have been killed
for reporting on corruption in Bulgarian football, Abbott (from
Drago Kos (an anti-corruption expert and former referee) states that
you'll never notice that an experienced football referee has thrown a
match unless you're also an expert referee. In other words, an expert
referee who is fixing a match won't give a blatantly false penalty, he
or she will find more subtle ways to influence the game.
According to rough estimates, legal sports betting is a $400 billion
industry, Abbott says. Illegal sports betting is a $200 billion
business and 92% of all bets placed on sport are placed on football.
With figures like that, it's no wonder that the fixing of football
matches is a huge growth area for organized crime!
If owning a football club in Bulgaria is a risky business, in Romania
it's a short way to becoming a famous politician, a member of the
Japan is doing a particularly good job at clamping down on match
fixing in football, Drago Kos says. Most countries are not, he adds.
Given the strength of the Yakuza organized crime group in Japan, Kos'
statement might surprise some.
A member of the audience asks the panel about whether it would be
possible to force the owners of football clubs to undergo a 'fit and
proper owners test' in order to root out organized crime in football.
Abbott replies that the English Premier League (the top football
league in England) has a 'fit and proper owners test'.
"The evidence that (the test) is being implemented is at best
unclear," Abbott says (carefully).
First workshop of the morning here at the Ulysses Guimaraes Convention
Center is called 'Media as Agents of Change: Exposing Corruption,
Galina Sidorova, chair of the Foundation for Investigative Journalism
Anthony Mills, deputy director of the International Press Institute.
Giannina Segnini, editor, investigative unit, La Nacion, Costa Rica
Gerardo Reyes, director, investigative unit, Univision Network, USA
62 journalists were killed last year and 95 have been killed so far
this year, the workshop hears.
Segnini discusses how her paper (Costa Rica's La Nacion) created
public databases which anyone could access.
They created a database of all the mayor candidates in the upcoming
regional elections. They created a second database of all people
convicted of a crime in Costa Rica. And they created a third that
listed all Costa Ricans who are banned from running for public office.
Using these databases, La Nacion found five mayoral candidates who had
been convicted for crimes including robbery and fraud.