Implementing openness, transparency principles lead to change in perception of corruption nationwide

ASTANA – The growth model designed to ensure Kazakhstan’s global competitiveness identifies important priorities, including institutional reforms, security and anti-corruption.

Alik-Shpekbayev

Alik Shpekbayev

President Nursultan Nazarbayev outlined the third stage of modernisation in his Jan. 31 annual address to the nation. The head of state set a task to strengthen efforts to identify and eliminate the causes and prerequisites of corruption, actively involving the entire society. A successful solution to this task is in the interest of everyone who cares about the future of the country, free from corruption and protectionism.

The country has taken significant steps to reduce the level of corruption which are primarily connected with implementing the new anti-corruption policy based on the experience analysis and best practices of developed countries.

“The level of domestic corruption has been significantly reduced, administrative barriers have been reduced and the quality of public services has been improved in recent years. The civil service turned into a career model in compliance with the principle of meritocracy and open competition. The elements of transparency and state accountability to the society are systematically introduced. The level of the legal and anti-corruption culture of citizens is increased and a constructive dialogue of the state and civil society institutions is established,” Civil Service Affairs and Anti-Corruption Agency Deputy Chairperson Alik Shpekbayev said in an interview for this story.

Results of the agency’s activities

The law “On fighting corruption” proves the qualitative changes taking place in this sphere. It determines fundamentally new approaches for the organisation in anti-corruption work.

The issues of strict adherence to the principle of the inevitability of punishment for corruption crimes and improving the corresponding norms of criminal liability are extremely important.

The fight against illegally enriching officials and abuse of office becomes increasingly systematic and effective, said Shpekbayev. At the same time, for all the elements of such acts, confiscating income and property of convicted persons is envisaged and large fines are imposed. The budget received 6.5 billion tenge (US$20 million) over two years as part of implementing the multiple penalties institute.

“We rejected the practice of applying the statute of limitations for corruption crimes. A conditional penalty for bribery is also excluded. The main factor constraining this negative phenomenon was the risk of exposure and punishment,” he said.

There are also the first signs of encouraging changes in the public consciousness, according to the sociological research. The anti-corruption policy contributes to forming an atmosphere of rejection of corruption.

“Successful implementation of the principles of openness and transparency led to serious change in public opinion. Civil Service and Anti-Corruption Agency Chairperson Kairat Kozhamzharov pays special attention to these issues,” added Shpekbayev.

The agency took part in the 7th Civil Forum in November and provided a number of valuable and creative initiatives. The anticorruption audit, a public project, will be executed in cooperation with non-governmental organisations. The project aims to give powerful impetus in identifying and eliminating the causes and prerequisites of corruption and conflict of interest.

Forming the public anti-corruption ombudsmen institution and revising the state and social procurement concept also started as a result of the forum. Earlier, implementing the civil control and open agreement projects began jointly with public and non-profit organisations in all regions.

Explanatory work was also completed among the population, which became one of the reasons for the emerging changes in perceiving corruption.

“We began to implement ‘from door to door’ and ‘from university to university’ projects, the practice used in Hong Kong. The municipal accounts of anti-corruption booklets will be sent to the residents of towns and villages. Large-scale campaigns in each city and social networks will be also organised,” he said.

Mobile anti-corruption groups to conduct large-scale awareness-raising work among employees and mobile public reception offices are expected to be introduced. Specially equipped buses with specialists will go to all regions on a regular basis and receive citizens directly at state institutions and organisations that provide the most demanded services.

“We will organise anti-corruption campaigns and actions in cooperation with the Nur Otan party, Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan, Government for Citizens, Kazpost, trade unions, Alliance of Bloggers, religious associations and public organisations. Teaching young people the basics of anti-corruption culture is of great importance, too. This subject is included in the curricula of higher education institutions and the same textbook has been published with the support of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE),” said Shpekbayev.

The anti-corruption activities forum of entrepreneurs was held in cooperation with the Atameken Chamber of Entrepreneurs. The roadmap for eliminating corruption risks in 16 spheres with high administrative barriers was adopted as part of the event. This document will contribute to the policy aimed at protecting and supporting business. The analysis of corruption risks in all areas will be completed in the near future and will be discussed with all interested state bodies to ensure control over their elimination.

“We continue to cooperate with international organisations working in the field of combating corruption. Due to the partnership with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), its anti-corruption network meeting was held in Kazakhstan for the first time with the participation of 50 delegates from 24 countries. Last year, we agreed to Kazakhstan’s entry into the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), an international organisation established by the Council of Europe,” he said.

Current and future priorities

International experts should have the opportunity to obtain all the up-to-date information on countering corruption on their official websites in English, said Shpekbayev. Public authorities should provide complete information on anti-corruption measures in English in accordance with the requirements of the current legislation.

“Last year, 389 applications were received about violations of official ethics by officials. We plan to conduct the annual sociological surveys for the satisfaction of citizens with the ethical conduct of officials. We intend to seek to optimise the state apparatus, raise salaries and legislatively approve the personal responsibility of heads of state bodies for corruption offenses committed by servants. This practice is widely and effectively applied in top national universities,” he said.

There’s also a lot of work to do to eliminate corruption-related factors in the provision of public services. The agency conducted more than 1,500 control checks on the quality of public services, during which more than 800,000 violations were identified in 2016.

“We have to intensify and expand the work of online control over the applications and introduce the use of electronic regulations and protocols into the practice of state bodies, which is especially important for local police units. These activities should be based on the experience of developed countries and in accordance with the recommendations of the European Union. The development of the mobile government is of particular attention. We will develop the format of rendering government services through mobile platforms, to use the powerful potential of instant messengers such as WhatsApp and Telegram,” he said.