In Mongolia: A Valiant Fight against Corruption
December 5, 2007
December 9th marks International Corruption Day. But, is this a holiday Mongolia can rightly commemorate? This year, the year-old Mongolian Independent Authority Against Corruption (IAAC) is leading commemorative events on International Anti-Corruption Day, and for good reason.
Over the past decade, Mongolia has made considerable progress towards a market economy. The same can be said about Mongolia’s fight against corruption over the last two years. In 2006 the Mongolia’s government ratified the Anti-Corruption Law and, in January 2007, it created the IAAC. Since then, eight corruption cases involving 18 people have been prosecuted. Since September 2007 alone, the IAAC has referred 21 cases of corruption to the General Prosecutor’s Office for prosecution and is now investigating over 50 cases.
This is no small feat given Mongolia’s history of indifference towards corruption prosecution.
The Mongolian people and their government are making important strides to fight corruption and instill integrity in the public and private sector. The Asia Foundation’s recently-released fourth semi-annual Corruption Benchmarking Survey confirms that patterns over the past two years show progressive — though modest — improvement in key areas. The frequency of bribe-paying is decreasing, while intolerance towards corruption is increasing. A generally favorable pattern is corroborated in the recently-released Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). In 2007, Mongolia’s score improved over the prior year, rising from 2.8 to 3.0 on a 1.0 ” 5.0 scale. There is still significant distance to cover before Mongolia joins countries perennially at the top of the list, but signals are pointing in the right direction.
Over the four survey periods, the fraction of those respondents paying bribes has trended downward, from a high of 28% in September 2006, to 22% in the most recent survey. The percentage of those who would refuse to pay a bribe increased over the prior period indicating renewed intolerance. This is supported by a decreasing number of those who would pay if they had the money.
Since early 2006, when the first Benchmarking Survey was conducted, the situation in Mongolia has changed with the introduction of the IAAC. Less than a year old, the IAAC staff is fast-approaching the legislated level of 90 staff members and has boosted its initial budget to fight corruption from approximately $300,000 to nearly $1.65 million. This is a critical hike: under the Anti-corruption Law, subsequent years’ budgets can never be less than that appropriated in the prior year. The IAAC’s nationwide and comprehensive income and asset disclosure effort successfully collected disclosure forms from 97% of the senior-most Mongolian government officials, and posted these on the IAAC website. Through its effort to connect with the public, the IAAC established a Corruption Reporting Center and hotline, which is fundamental to corruption prevention and future investigations. The Center is being promoted by a “Zero Tolerance” campaign that encourages citizens to report corruption. Since September, 150 reports have been received.
As a result of these achievements, the IAAC is earning public trust and confidence. A growing proportion of the Mongolian population believes that the IAAC can, and should, lead the fight against corruption. This public support is extremely important as a single agency cannot combat corruption alone. To fight corruption successfully, the IAAC must work in partnership with government ministries, the judiciary, the Parliament, the private sector, professional bodies, civil society groups, donor agencies, the media, and the public.
These are not only positive signals for Mongolians, but for those looking to invest in Mongolia’s economy. Though much remains to be done to improve the investment climate — and to increase transparency, accountability, and integrity in the public and private sector — Mongolia deserves credit for the positive steps it is taking to fight against corruption and should proudly celebrate its efforts on December 9th.
Betina Infante is the Outreach and Communications Advisor for The Asia Foundation in Mongolia.
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