Government transparency is a key aspect of the democratic exercise of power demanded under the Inter-American Democratic Charter, and thus the fight against corruption is a priority task for the Organization of American States (OAS), Secretary General José Miguel Insulza said Thursday in Washington.
During a meeting of government anti-corruption experts taking place this week at OAS headquarters, Insulza underscored the correlation between corruption and the lack of confidence many citizens have in democracy. He cited 2005 statistics from the polling firm Latinobarómetro showing that only 31% of Latin Americans are satisfied with their democracies and only 30% feel there has been progress in fighting corruption.
"Governments have to continually be more efficient in tackling and resolving people's problems" Insulza said, "but at the same time they have to be more transparent in formulating and implementing their public policies and practices. And they need to vigorously punish corruption committed by public officials, as well as by the private interests that corrupt them".
The Secretary General referred to studies estimating that the cost of corruption in government contracts can add between 20% and 50% to the costs of certain projects, and added "How much could these sums contribute to eliminating poverty in our countries?"
Gonzalo Sánchez, Government General Auditor of Chile, is chairing the Ninth Meeting of the Committee of Experts of the Mechanism for Follow-Up on the Implementation of the Inter-American Convention against Corruption.
During the meeting, which continues through Saturday, the experts will adopt reports on anti-corruption efforts in five countries ?Belize, Brazil, Grenada, Guyana and Suriname ?which will conclude the first round of review of the 28 countries that participate in the process. They will also consider a draft hemispheric report that summarizes the first-round results, and will study proposals to strengthen the methodology to be used in the second stage.
Noting that the General Assembly had declared 2006 the "Inter-American Year of the Fight against Corruption", Insulza stressed that this review process strengthens the member states' capacity to implement the Inter-American Convention against Corruption and to comply with their commitments under the treaty.
The recommendations developed will give member states more effective tools to prevent conflicts of interest; safeguard public resources; foster the reporting of acts of corruption; detect illicit enrichment of public officials; strengthen access to information in the power of public institutions; promote the participation of civil society in combating corruption; strengthen and improve the entities created to impose controls; and ensure greater effectiveness of legal assistance and mutual technical cooperation.
"We are here not to make accusations; that is neither the responsibility nor the role of the OAS. We are here to offer cooperation to the states in their efforts to combat corruption," Insulza said.