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Left in the Dark: lack of information is damaging fight against corruption, campaigners warn

June 18 2012: Governments are providing so little information about their fight against corruption that it is impossible to know whether they are having any impact, campaigners warn today (Monday June 18) following reviews of six countries including the UK.

'The lack of information is critically undermining gains in the fight against corruption,' said Eric Gutierrez, one of the authors of the UK review and Senior Adviser on Accountable Governance at Christian Aid.

He added: 'In the UK, Parliament has passed tough laws against corruption. Yet the Government does not collect information on the ultimate and beneficial owners of UK companies. Nor does it exert pressure to publish company registries on its Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories.

'This makes it possible for anyone acting corruptly to create 'shell companies' which can open bank accounts to receive ill-gotten gains from elsewhere.'

The reviews, which checked for compliance with the 2003 UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), found that lack of access to information was a persistent hindrance to citizens' ability to assess their own government's efforts to curb corruption.

They were carried out by members of the UNCAC Coalition – a group of civil society organisations united in fighting corruption through support for the Convention.

Coalition chairman Vincent Lazatin said: 'We are finding that governments are continually failing to adequately gather and make available data about corruption cases they are investigating or prosecuting.

‘The lack of public data about crimes related to corruption is keeping all of us in the dark about whether or not our own governments are keeping their word,' he said.

The reviews will be submitted this week to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in Vienna during a weeklong meeting of governmental and UN representatives responsible for the enforcement of the Convention.

Signatory governments also conduct a self-assessment process facilitated by the UN Drugs and Crime Office.  While some countries have chosen to invite non-governmental groups to participate in these ‘official’ reviews, governments are not consistently open and inclusive to their citizens about such reviews and their findings.

'We fought for years to have this official review process, and we're very pleased it is now in place. What needs to happen now is for civil society organisations to have a formal role in the official review processes. At present, concerned citizens are often not allowed to participate in the evaluation of the enforcement their own laws, and that is not acceptable,' said Lazatin.

Since 2011, civil society organisations have reviewed 16 countries for compliance with the Convention. The reports submitted this week address Brazil, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Portugal, the United Kingdom and Zambia. 
                                                                       

Download the full reports at: http://www.uncaccoalition.org/en/uncac-review/cso-review-reports.html

Note to editors: The United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) is the most comprehensive global legal framework for combating corruption. It is a binding agreement ratified by 160 countries on standards and requirements for preventing, detecting, investigating and sanctioning corruption. The adoption of an effective review mechanism at the upcoming Conference of States Parties is essential for the success of the UNCAC.

The UNCAC Coalition was formed in 2006 and is composed of more than 300 civil society organisations in more than 100 countries. Its goal is to promote ratification, implementation and monitoring of the UN Convention against Corruption.

For more information and to interview Eric Gutierrez of Christian Aid, please contact Andrew Hogg on 0207 523 2058 or 07872 350 534 or ahogg@christian-aid.org