ADB to Help Reinforce Asia and Pacific's Fight Against Corruption

MANILA, PHILIPPINES (11 February 2005) - ADB has approved a technical assistance (TA) grant of US$250,000 that will promote deeper cooperation within the region and with other global partners on fighting corruption and promoting accountability.

The TA will help encourage more countries to endorse an Anticorruption Action Plan, as well as assist the 23 governments who have so far endorsed the Plan to fulfill their commitments and obligations.

The Action Plan is the main instrument of the ADB-Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Anticorruption Initiative for Asia and the Pacific launched in Manila in October 1999 and has become the region's first tool to unite the region's countries in the fight against corruption.

The OECD has been a partner institution of ADB in this initiative since its launch.

The Action Plan, presented in Tokyo in 2001, requires each country to identify a set of actions based on three goals - developing effective and transparent systems for public service, strengthening anti-bribery actions and promoting integrity in business operations, and supporting active public involvement - and to report on the reforms taken within 12 to 18 months.

While many of the countries have taken steps to translate these goals into their national policies, initial evaluations show these measures have not yet been implemented in many areas.

"Aside from specific institutional or legal shortcomings, weak political will and capacity were identified in many endorsing countries as the main reasons for lack of success in fighting corruption," says Jak Jabes, Director of ADB's Governance and Regional Cooperation Division.

The areas of weakness include insufficient penal and criminal provisions, and non-inclusion of certain forms of corruption as criminal offense. Public participation has also not been sufficiently acknowledged in most countries and a weak regulatory environment does not strongly encourage private sector to adopt measures to enhance transparency and accountability in business transactions with public officials.

There is also a need to improve investigative techniques, including forensic accounting; enhance understanding of procedures for mutual legal assistance among relevant authorities; and develop prosecutors' capacity to deal with cases of high-level political corruption, the initial studies show.

It is estimated that one third of public investment in many Asian and Pacific countries is squandered on corruption, hurting the poor who rely heavily on public services. At the same time, corruption also imposes a costly burden on businesses and has negative implications for economic growth and the creation of jobs.

"Fighting corruption is no longer just a moral issue. It has become a major tool in the fight against poverty," Mr. Jabes adds.

The 23 governments that have endorsed the Action Plan are Australia; Bangladesh; Cambodia; Cook Islands; Fiji Islands; Hong Kong, China; India; Indonesia; Japan; Kazakhstan; Republic of Korea; Kyrgyz Republic; Malaysia; Mongolia; Nepal; Pakistan; Palau; Papua New Guinea; Philippines; Samoa; Singapore; Vanuatu; and Viet Nam.

Key activities to be undertaken during the 2004-2006 phase of the Action Plan include biannual steering group meetings, publication of project evaluation reviews, updating of stocktaking exercise reports, launch of thematic country reviews, capacity-building training seminars, and a regional anticorruption conference.

The grant will be implemented by ADB's Regional and Sustainable Development Department in consultation with OECD, which will contribute around $540,000 to the TA.

Senior staff from other aid agencies such as the World Bank, United Nations Development Programme, Department for International Development of the United Kingdom, Australian Agency for International Development, and Transparency International will be consulted.

The TA is due for completion by the end of 2006.