The main driving force behind the development of anti-corruption strategies is Article 5 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), which obliges member countries to maintain “effective, coordinated anti-corruption policies”, write Zamirat Borsieva and Hudayberdi Tursunbekov.
In Uzbekistan, the rapid anti-corruption reforms began in 2017. On January 16, 2016, the Government of Uzbekistan issued the first policy statement, titled “Comprehensive Plan of Practical Actions for the Implementation of Anti-Corruption Measures for 2016-2017.” Its adoption at that time was considered significant progress by experts within the IAP. Comprehensive plans have not been able to take the role of a more or less comprehensive strategy, although they can be employed in isolation as minimum effective measures.
Uzbekistan has chosen the route of adopting yearly State programs for fighting corruption, which establish the key areas of state policy in the fight against corruption in the medium term. This is done in an effort to increase the effectiveness of the anti-corruption system. Representatives of all ministries and departments, as well as civil society institutions, academic circles, and the business community are actively involved in the development of draft State programs. They are regularly reviewed and updated as necessary, and policy documents are published on the platform of the National Legislation Base, on the website of the Anti-Corruption Agency.
The Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On Combating Corruption” (adopted on January 4, 2017) defines the legislative framework for the country’s anti-corruption policy and the institutional system for its implementation.
Evidence-based policy development is facilitated by the fact that sources of evidence are data provided by government bodies, research results and assessments of third parties (business and academia), recommendations of international organizations such as UNODC, OECD, World Bank, GRECO, FATF, IAP, surveys conducted by civil society institutions, the Yuksalish Nationwide Movement, the Public Opinion Research Center, measuring perceptions and experiences of corruption.
An Electronic criminal justice in the unified information system, statistical data on corruption crimes committed by employees of state bodies and organizations, as well as an electronic database on cross-sections and territories of court decisions, entered into force in order to ensure the transparency of the statistics of court proceedings on corruption crimes.
In order to develop a system for assessing and eliminating corruption risks in the implementation by state bodies of their functions in the field of preventing corruption in the field of public administration, the E-Anti-Corruption Project was launched on September 1, 2022. It is implemented and published on the electronic platform E-Anticor.uz. Based on the results of the assessment, in 2022, Programs of comprehensive measures were developed and are being implemented to eliminate relations prone to corruption in the field of capital construction, education, and public procurement.
In the case of Uzbekistan, the responsibility for the formation and implementation of state policy in the field of preventing and combating corruption was assigned to the Anti-Corruption Agency. It is it that is at the center of the implementation of anti-corruption programs. In public authorities and large economic entities, the activities of internal anti-corruption control units are being established.
The National Anti-Corruption System includes mechanisms to help promote and monitor the implementation of national anti-corruption programs: Coordination; Management; Methodological guidance or practical advice to assist in the implementation of the policy through the establishment of standards and codes of conduct; Regular monitoring and evaluation; Human resources capacity building.
A prerequisite for the successful implementation of the anti-corruption policy is the institutional independence of the Anti-Corruption Agency, the sufficiency of its resources and powers. This implies that the Agency must be equipped with the necessary resources and mandate to carry out overall coordination and encourage stakeholder participation. For these purposes, in order to strengthen the institutional framework, the Fund for the Development of Public Control of the Anti-Corruption Agency of the Republic of Uzbekistan was established. The Fund’s resources can be used, among other things, to allocate grants for projects implemented by civil society institutions aimed at ensuring the openness of the activities of state bodies and organizations, funding research and sociological surveys conducted in this direction. Starting from 2022, annually, a separate article in the parameters of the State budget provides for the funds necessary to form the funds of the Fund.
In international practice, the anti-corruption policy over the past two decades, including in the Republic of Uzbekistan, has been influenced by the approach of “state modernization”.
To achieve this, Uzbekistan has implemented a number of significant anti-corruption policy initiatives. The Anti-Corruption Agency has been established, the Law “On Combating Corruption” has been adopted, the Judicial-Legal and Administrative Reform Concepts are being implemented, etc. Institutional approaches to the development, coordination, and implementation of anti-corruption policy are being implemented.
The researchers note that although the anti-corruption package has remained largely standard over the past three decades, there has been some evolution within the “state modernization” approach, which has also had an impact on the nearly standard package of anti-corruption measures implemented in Uzbekistan.
The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) score for Uzbekistan has gone up gradually since 2013, rising by 14 points. Uzbekistan had a consistent rise in the Corruption Perceptions Index in 2022, moving up steadily to 126th rank out of 180 countries with 31 points (from 140th place with 28 points in 2021), or +3 points from the year before.
In the Rule of Law index, an increase of 26 points was recorded, an increase in the coefficient of the “lack of corruption” sub-index and all sub-indices contained in it (the overall result increased from 0.40 points to 0.48 points).
The country has focused on sectoral issues, improved legal instruments, strengthened institutional specialization, taken steps to strengthen social responsibility, started implementing e-government technologies and tools, and established a required online public procurement platform. A national methodology for evaluating the implementation of the state anti-corruption program was developed, and an appropriate research base is being developed to evaluate the results of anti-corruption reforms. The Development Strategy of New Uzbekistan for 2022-2026 attached particular importance to ensuring the development of legislation on the principle of “legislation without corruption”.
The anti-corruption campaign in Uzbekistan is part of a larger national development strategy. The government has decided to take action to reduce the prevalence of corruption, extremism, and bribery in all of their manifestations as a national task within the context of achieving SDG-16 in order to organize systematic work to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
It has been demonstrated that this integration into national development plans is a successful strategy for promoting inter-agency cooperation in the advancement of sustainable development.
Since 2022, Uzbekistan has implemented an Electronic corruption risk assessment system that is integrated with the information systems and databases of the pertinent ministries and departments via the interdepartmental data transmission network of the Electronic government in order to digitalize the process of evaluating the implementation of anti-corruption programs.
The practice of decentralizing responsibility for the implementation of anti-corruption programs is actively developing. During 2021, in Uzbekistan, the Regional Councils, created on the basis of the National Council, carried out a number of regional projects in 2021 to produce unique reports of how local government entities had carried out anti-corruption initiatives. The rating system and criteria for combating corruption were adopted for regional councils and the city of Tashkent in order to regularly assess the operations of regional councils. A mechanism has been introduced to reward persons who reported corruption violations or otherwise contributed to the fight against corruption.
According to the decision of the government as an experiment, in 2019, the implementation of the Field Without Corruption project in the fields of capital construction and higher education began in the country. Thus, the anti-corruption policy is aimed at areas and sectors with a high risk of corruption, which are identified through research.
Such a sectoral approach to fighting corruption is acknowledged as more realistic and the outcomes are more quantifiable, allowing the development and implementation of short-term, adaptive sectoral anti-corruption projects and programs based on risk assessment, aiming at more targeted use of allocated resources, and strengthening the institutional culture of openness, accountability, and integrity. The successful implementation of anti-corruption sectoral initiatives encouraged their expansion to the banking, healthcare, and public procurement sectors in 2021.
Measuring and monitoring corruption is an integral part of any anti-corruption strategy. The Anti-Corruption Agency on an ongoing basis monitors the timely and high-quality implementation of measures provided for by the state program. Based on the results of each quarter, the Agency submits a report to the National Anti-Corruption Council, which conducts a quarterly critical discussion of the implementation of measures provided for by the state program. The Agency’s report on the evaluation of the implementation of the state program is published on the Internet, which reflects the written comments of all non-governmental interested parties.
Based on the national rating system for evaluating the effectiveness of anti-corruption work, the implementation of intradepartmental and sectoral anti-corruption programs is regularly evaluated.
Based on the proper monitoring and assessment technique, the Agency also monitors compliance with the established requirements to ensure the transparency of the actions of state entities and organizations. At the end of the year, an openness rating is published that evaluates the openness commitments of state bodies and organizations, as well as local government bodies. This way, a national system of vertical and horizontal evaluation is being introduced.
Experts from IAP claim that strategic planning in Uzbekistan has improved, and that governmental anti-corruption programs are being developed and implemented successfully in based on the requirements of the UNCAC provisions. Strategic policy and legal frameworks are developing into powerful tools for promoting anti-corruption reforms, offering opportunities for efficient coordination, regular evaluation and monitoring, means of broader and more open involvement of interested parties at all stages of policy implementation.
This Article first appeared in Asia Today, and is republished here with the consent of the authors.
The Authors, Zamirat Borsieva and Hudayberdi Tursunbekov are respectively:- Associate Professor of the Department of International Law and Protection of Human Rights at the Law Enforcement Academy of the Republic of Uzbekistan, and Head of the Scientific and Educational Center for Combating Corruption at the Law Enforcement Academy of the Republic of Uzbekistan