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Recommendations to the OAS Special Committee

on Inter-American Summits Management:

Third Summit of the Americas

 

I. Strengthening Democracy

Transparency International is an international non-governmental, non-partisan coalition dedicated to combating corruption and promoting government transparency and accountability. TI has over 70 chapters worldwide, of which 19 are in the Americas. We appreciate the opportunity to participate in the consultation process of the OAS special Committee on Inter-American Summits Management and respectfully submit the following recommendations.

Leaders have committed in the two Summits and in the 1996 Inter-American Convention Against Corruption to a broad range of measures that will enhance transparency and accountability. The OAS, under the leadership of Secretary General Gaviria, has begun to lay the groundwork for translating those commitments into concrete action. In particular, the Working Group on Probity and the Department of Legal Cooperation are playing important roles.

However, corruption continues to corrode democracy, weaken public institutions, and deter investment in the hemisphere. There is mounting public pressure to implement commitments made at past Summits. Therefore, Leaders should commit to steps and timetables that demonstrate their resolve to secure concrete progress.

 

At the Third Summit of the Americas in 2001, Leaders should commit to take the following actions:

  1. Establish immediately an OAS mutual review mechanism to secure ratification and effective implementation and enforcement of the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption.
  2. The Convention is a comprehensive legal framework for addressing public sector corruption. However, fourteen countries have not ratified the Convention and eight have not signed. Moreover, there is little evidence of consistent, effective implementation and enforcement.

    Experience with similar multilateral agreements in other fora has demonstrated that mutual review mechanisms help promote progress. In November, 1999, experts from the hemisphere were convened by Transparency International, American University Washington College of Law, and the Inter-American Bar Association, to consider that experience in the OAS context. They recommended the adoption of a mutual review mechanism for the Convention. In February 2000, Finance Ministers called for such a mechanism, and at the June OAS General Assembly meeting, ministers adopted Resolution AG/RES. 1723 calling for a recommendation by year-end on the most appropriate model. The OAS Working Group on Probity, under the leadership of the Government of Argentina, is expected to issue its recommendation on time, so that the launch of the mechanism could be a Summit "deliverable." Leaders should ensure that it has adequate funding and provides for consultations with civil society and the private sector.

  3. Establish legal requirements to promote meaningful public participation, such as public hearings, timely publication of laws, regulations, administrative actions, and other information, including on procurement, budgets and expenditures, trade negotiations and the Summit. Governments should make best efforts to place such information on-line and should call on the Inter-American Development Bank to provide financial and technical assistance.
  4. Transparent legal and regulatory systems and regular publication of information provide citizens with the tools necessary to foster democratic and accountable public institutions and create a hospitable environment for trade and investment.

    However, in general, this has not become widely accepted practice. Government do not regularly and broadly disseminate information to the public, and they provide only limited opportunities for public participation.

    In the context of trade negotiations, the FTAA Committee of Government Representatives on Civil Society Participation (CGR) was created by Trade Ministers to receive civil society input. However, it has failed to provide concerned citizens with a forum for a meaningful exchange of views with policymakers in their countries. The process is limited to infrequent solicitation of written submissions and does not provide for interaction with policymakers.

  5. Include bribery of domestic and foreign officials among the "predicate offenses" for the application of anti-money laundering statutes.
  6. The Caribbean Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering and FATF recommendations call for countries to criminalize laundering of proceeds from all "serious crimes." Leaders should promote legislation that makes clear that serious crime extends to bribery and ensures that the standard is adopted across the hemisphere.

  7. Institute procedures to promote independence and integrity in the administration of justice, including merit-based criteria for selection of judges, public review of candidates, ethics training and oversight mechanisms.
  8. There is a widespread concern about judicial independence and probity, which has undermined the confidence of citizens and the private sector. Steps must be taken to ensure that judges are and are perceived to be independent of political or financial influence in dispensing justice.

  9. Call for a report to Ministers at the OAS General Assembly meeting in 2002, and annually thereafter, on progress on these commitments.

 

II. Creating Prosperity – Procurement Transparency

  1. Call for the implementation by 2002 of the transparency elements agreed to by the FTAA Government Procurement Negotiating Group, as a Business Facilitation Measure.
  2. Billions of public procurement dollars are spent annually in the FTAA region, yet procedures and standards vary widely. There is widespread agreement that transparent procurement procedures promote competition and minimize the potential for irregular practices.

    There is also broad consensus within governments and the private sector on the elements of procurement transparency. The participants in the 1999 Americas Business Forum and the members of the FTAA Government Procurement Negotiating Group recognize the following necessary elements:

    · Publication of laws, policies, rules and practices;

    · Adequate and timely notice;

    · Neutral standards;

    · Objective criteria;

    · Public bid opening;

    · Award based on pre-established criteria;

    · Dispute settlement and bid protest including arbitration.

    Unless these elements are adopted as a Business Facilitation Measure, they will not be instituted or even agreed until the 2005 target date for conclusion of the FTAA.

  3. Agree to make best efforts to publish government procurement information and procedures on the Internet by 2002, as a Business Facilitation Measure.
  4. Placing government procurement procedures and information on-line can enhance the transparency and efficiency of the process. A website should include laws and regulations, specifications, tender opportunities, evaluation criteria, standards, and notices of awards in order to effectively foster transparency and accountability and minimize the risk of replicating shortcomings in existing procurement regimes.

    The programs of Argentina, Canada, Chile, and Mexico may provide useful experiences.

  5. Promote legislation that obligates bidders for projects, including those financed by the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank, to have corporate anti-bribery codes of conduct and compliance programs.
  6. Efforts to increase the transparency and integrity of public procurement should not be limited to regulating the behavior of governments. An obligation to have corporate anti-bribery codes of conduct and compliance programs would promote private sector compliance with legal requirements and the highest ethical standards.

  7. Encourage the use of "integrity pacts" in government procurement.
  8. An "Integrity Pact" that commits all bidders to refrain from bribery and that sanctions violations can be effective tool to support ethical behavior in procurement.

  9. Support the prompt adoption of uniform procurement documents and policies of the highest

standard by all multilateral development banks.

 

Uniformity among procurement documents and policies can reduce the opportunity for corruption.


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