This section describes the Toolkit's "governance approach" to promoting transparency at the local level. It also presents five strategic entry points as a framework for improving transparency: (i) assessment and monitoring; (ii) access to information; (iii) ethics and integrity; (iv) institutional reform; (v) targeting specific issues
The governance approach is based on an institutional perspective that sees corruption as primarily a failure of institutions. As UNDP has argued, "weak institutions are incapable of supplying society with a framework for competitive processes and obstruct the legitimate procedures that link the political and economic areas. Empirical evidence suggests that where competing political and economic forces are closed out of the system, we are more likely to see corruption tha sustainable development". (35) In essence, UNDP is arguing that corruption undermines the institutions responsible for advancing a country’s social and economic goals.
This institutional approach advocates four strategies: reducing the discretionary power of officials; improving law enforcement; civil service reform; and increasing transparency and citizen oversight. In practice the emphasis of an institutional approach has tended to focus on changing laws and reforming the civil service. These are undeniably valuable, but are not easily implemented, or specifically targeted, at the local level. Furthermore, they have tended not to involve all the stakeholders with an interest in promoting good urban governance.
The Toolkit advocates taking the institutional approach to its next logical level: a more focused governance approach that involves identifying the roles and responsibilities of all key stakeholders in promoting good urban governance and making the most of their potential contribution. The resulting action is based on several strategies that encourage each actor to contribute to a common objective based on their comparative advantage.
The crucial need for a “governance approach” to transparency is also highlighted by Transparency International:
“A triangular relationship exists between government, capital and civil society. Corruption can take root in all three parties to the relationship. It is thus both theoretically and in practice impossible for just one of the parties to address the issue of corruption on its own and in isolation from the other two – and it is arguably impossible to tackle the issue effectively without the participation of all three.” (36)
Five strategies for promoting transparency through a governance approach are discussed below. It is useful, however, to first review the source of legitimacy and comparative advantages of the major stakeholders in promoting good urban governance:(37)
National Government, as articulated in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (1948), derives its legitimacy from the will of the people, normally expressed through the constitution and laws.(38) As Transparency International has argued, "If government is accountable to democratic control, if it is bound by the rule of law and if it respects universally accepted standards of human rights, government can rightly claim to act on behalf of the people. It is this legitimacy that gives government the strength to undertake reforms to quell corruption."(39) Leadership, therefore, is government's (particularly national government's) pre-eminent role in promoting good urban governance and in the fight against corruption. This leadership applies in particular to ensuring an equitable distribution of benefits and to creating an enabling framework for development. Their responsibility is to lead the implementation of required reforms and to scale-up and institutionalise successful initiatives from the local level. Their usual strategies include passing laws, reforming the civil service, and promoting economic liberalisation, but can also include public awareness and integrity campaigns.
Local Government: Local government's legitimacy is based on the same principle as that of national government: it acts in trust on behalf of the interests of its people. Its comparative advantage in the promotion of good urban governance and in the fight against corruption lies in its proximity to the people. It is better placed than national government to understand and act on the wishes of its citizens. Its scope for action against corruption is greater as it is more likely to be able to mobilise a finite number of stakeholders behind a common strategy for enhancing transparency and combating corruption. It has a crucial leadership role to play, which, if discharged successfully, will ensure continued and enhanced support from the citizenry. Local level successes can thus form the basis for implementing broader national reforms.
Private Sector: The private sector's legitimacy is based on its role of creating jobs and employment that in turn generate revenue through taxes. These taxes are used to design the social programmes that benefit citizens. There is, therefore, a mutual dependence between the economic and social spheres of society that must be mutually supportive. It has a legitimate interest in ensuring that its productivity is not undermined by excessive transaction costs imposed by corruption. At the same time, however, it also has an obligation to avoid paying bribes. Tools such as Integrity Pacts (see Section 2C) offer specific mechanisms to help ensure that both government and businesses are not tempted down the path of corrupt practice.
Non-Governmental and Community-based Organizations (NGOs/CBOs): The legitimacy of these organizations is based on their ability to faithfully champion the interests of citizens, particularly under-represented groups such as women and the poor. Another aspect of their legitimacy is their explicit not-for-profit orientation. transparency, however, is as vital to these organizations as it is for government and the private sector. Their advocacy role can be undermined by undemocratic internal structures that may raise suspicion regarding their motives or their not-for-profit status.
Media: The media have an important role to play in combating corruption and promoting good urban governance. Their role should not be seen as limited to identifying and exposing corruption, but should also recognise and capitalise on their role as a source of truth. They have an important role to play in reinforcing and building momentum for change by recognising good practice and highlighting successes in achieving development objectives. Like non-governmental organizations, however, their credibility may be undermined by unprofessional conduct that leads to questions regarding their bias. Codes of conduct and training in investigative and ethical journalism are important tools to ensure the media play their role responsibly.
Professional Associations: The legitimacy of these organizations is based on the professional standards they profess to uphold. Their responsibility regarding promoting good governance and combating corruption is to publish and disseminate their standards and sanction those members who violate them. Including codes of ethics or anti-corruption clauses in their membership requirements can serve as valuable tools that contribute to creating a culture intolerant of corruption.
The Individual Citizen: No good governance campaign can succeed without committed individuals. While the rights of individuals are widely discussed when it comes to issues of corruption, they also have a responsibility to promote good governance: to be informed and to actively participate in the decisions that affect their lives. Public relations campaigns informing people of their rights can play an important role in promoting such participation. The responsibility of individuals taking on leadership roles is also equally important: office holders must act with integrity on behalf of those they act in trust. Integrity improvements at the level of the individual, therefore, have an important role to play.
Five Strategies for Promoting transparency at the Local Level
The Toolkit proposes a five-pronged strategy framework for promoting transparency and good urban governance, while also minimizing the negative effects of corruption. Four of these strategies are then used to organize the tools (see Table 1). The Toolkit will work to expand its focus on specific issues for the fifth strategy (Targeting Specific Issues) in future editions, building on the collective experience of governance initiatives.
Table 1: Strategies and Tools to Support Transparency in Local Governance
2.7 Public Meetings
2.25 One Stop Shop
2.26 Oversight Committees
2.5 Report Cards
2.19 The Integrity Pact
2.12 Media Training
2.20 Code of Ethics
2.13 Public Education Tools: Media Campaigns, School Programmes, Public Speaking Engagements, Publications
2.14 Public Participation: Public Hearings, Study Circles, Citizen Advisory Boards, Government Contract Committees, Public Watchdog Groups
2.22 Ethics Training
Assessment and Monitoring: Understanding the types and scale of corruption and the degree of transparency in local governance, while creating a base-line against which progress in improving transparency can be measured. This strategy is also valuable for increasing public awareness and mobilising a constituency committed to tackling corruption.
Access to information: Measures to improve stakeholders' access to information so that they may participate in decision-making more effectively.
Ethics and Integrity: Tools for clarifying what is expected from professionals and including monitoring mechanisms to ensure they adhere to their commitments and are sanctioned if they break public trust.
Institutional reforms: Including both the streamlining and simplification of administrative procedures and structural innovations to promote participation and accountability .
Targeting specific issues: Using specific issues as entry-points for improving transparency. These issues must be important in terms of local development and have the potential to serve as rallying points for positive changes in local governance. These same issues can also be vulnerable to corruption.
In practice, these tools are often used in different combinations depending on the specific context. In the case of Bulgaria, for instance (see Box 3), a variety of measures have been recommended that fall under different strategies, to enhance local governments' effectiveness in building transparency and combating corruption at the local level. These include increased information flow between residents and the local authority, development of a code of ethics and establishment of an independent ethics commission, and training on the appropriate role of councillors.
Similarly, a synthesis of the American experience (see Box 4) with weeding out corruption on the local government indicates that a range of tools need to be applied in combination in order to significantly bring down corruption and enhance transparency.
Notes and references
See UNDP (1999), op. cit., p.10.
Transparency International (2000), op. cit., p. 134.
See Eigen, Peter (1997) The Role of Civil Society, in UNDP (1997b), Corruption and Integrity Improvements in Developing Countries, Chapter 5, New York, UNDP, pp. 84-86; and Pope, Jeremy (2000) TI Sourcebook 2000, Transparency International, pp. 132-134.
Universal Declaration on Human Rights, as cited in UN-HABITAT (2002) International Legal Instruments Addressing Good Governance, Nairobi, p. 26. See also Article 25 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), cited in the same publication, p. 18.
Peter Eigen in UNDP (1997b), op cit., p. 84.
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