In this interview first published in Liter newspaper, former Minister of Internal Affairs and former Secretary of the Security Council, current Mazhlis deputy, member of the ruling Nur Otan party and chairman of the National Public Council for Combating Corruption of the party Kairbek Suleimenov discusses the multi-pronged efforts undertaken to defeat the scourge.
This year, Kazakhstan ranked 127th in Transparency International’s ranking, compared with 140th place in 2013. What influenced this change?
First of all, the transition to more drastic measures to combat corruption. In his state-of-the-nation address on the Kazakhstan 2050 Strategy, President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev noted the need to quickly intensify the fight against corruption in order to achieve our ultimate goal and stamp out corruption as a phenomenon.
The political will of the President on the issue is expressed not only through the activity of law enforcement and intelligence agencies to expose corrupt officials at all levels, but also through the fact that Kazakhstan addresses the issue systemically.
As chairman of the Nur Otan party, Nazarbayev gave instructions to develop an appropriate party programme at the beginning of 2014, and at the Nov. 11 political council it was adopted. I think a very important preventive factor was the very discussion of the party programme. Its draft was submitted to a broad public debate in the primary party organisations and extended meetings of the political councils of party branches. A pool of regional experts was created to submit its comments on the programme. Constructive proposals to the anti-corruption programme were received from the party faction in the Mazhilis [lower chamber of Parliament]. The party also received a lot of suggestions from citizens and nearly 800 nongovernmental organisations.
Within the party programme, a number of new laws governing the rights of civil society and individual citizens in monitoring the performance of government officials will be adopted. The importance of monitoring derives from Nazarbayev’s words at the 15th congress of the party: “People in offices know bribe-takers personally, which means that ordinary party members also know them. They should be the first to sound the alarm and expose corruption. The task of the party and the law enforcement agencies is to protect corruption fighters and assist them. Not a single tenge from the state treasury should remain unattended. Only then will the fight against the embezzlement of public funds succeed!”
It is necessary to identify and punish corrupt officials. However, if we do not eradicate the causes of corruption, we will not achieve positive results. Corruption is a unique social phenomenon, it mimics and mutates, and it quickly transforms to fit changes in legislation.
The President’s Nurly Zhol economic programme calls for a fight against corruption. In your opinion, what areas are particularly relevant now?
[In the Nurly Zhol policy], the President attached special importance to responding to negative external factors. Improving the efficiency of the economy is the main condition.
Corruption is now a global problem. The UN sees corruption as a key obstacle to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Annual damage from corruption to the economy of the European Union amounts to about 120 billion euros. Total losses around the world are more than 5 percent of world gross domestic product, more than $2.6 trillion annually. Reducing corruption equals increasing prosperity and strengthening the economy. We have a goal to enter the 30 most developed countries in the world. It is impossible without a sharp decrease in the level of corruption.
Therefore, our anti-corruption programme presumes the adoption of a new law “On combating corruption.” It must take into account current realities and new objectives set by the President. In addition, the programme assumes an update of the public procurement act, which is an area prone to corruption. The development of draft laws “On combating corruption” and “On public procurement” has already been incorporated in the work plans of our faction in the Mazhilis.
How widespread is corruption in the country?
As chairman of the National Public Council on Combating Corruption, I am sufficiently informed about the real state of corruption in our country.
I must admit that the results of the fight against corruption do not satisfy the people of Kazakhstan. It is no secret that many people complain about bureaucracy and bribery within the walls of public institutions, giving specific examples of callousness and corruption. Corruption has penetrated all levels of society.
A significant number of our citizens have accepted the idea that if you do not give a bribe, you cannot solve your problems. Not only local officials and law enforcement officials receive bribery, but also directors of schools, kindergartens, et cetera.
We examined in October the corruption level in the Mangistau region and found out that only in the last three years in Aktau, half a dozen heads of kindergartens and school principals were prosecuted for bribery and abuse. You can imagine what kind of psychological stress students at these institutions face. Teachers should engage in training and educating children and not “solve” issues related to tenders, construction and building repair, school meals, et cetera. I fully agree that a couple of law enforcement and judicial measures cannot solve the problem. It is necessary to create an atmosphere of intolerance to corruption in all its forms.
Therefore, the cornerstone of the party’s programme is the desire to create an anti-corruption worldview in society. It is possible to solve the problem through the implementation of the anti-corruption strategy that will be adopted in the near future, and the new Nur Otan party programme. Synchronicity and effectively implementing the policies and programmes is our main task, and the guarantee of an irreversible process of eliminating the causes of corruption.
How does the programme reflect the fight against the causes of corruption?
We are constantly analysing the conditions conducive to the spread of corruption. One of them is weak internal control over the actions of officials. The decisive factor in eradicating corruption is the further development of private enterprise.
The party programme contains provisions for the implementation of relevant orders by the President on reducing the number of permits, increasing transparency in the procedures of state property privatisation, decreasing various kinds of formal business checks, et cetera.
I think one of the success stories is the introduction of Centres for Servicing the Population CSPs and e-government. Provision of public services electronically and via CSPs seriously reduced domestic corruption.
What will be emphasised in working with the community?
Any change in society begins with the consciousness of the people. If we want to get rid of corruption, we must change our attitude to corruption. In 2014, we conducted a case study. The study found that 42 percent of the country’s citizens believed that corruption was widespread, while 33 percent of our citizens were directly affected by corruption, of which 71 percent had to give bribes. The main reason is the low level of legal and anti-corruption culture and social control.
Therefore, the programme pays special attention to the formation of an anti-corruption culture. People should, at an early age, learn their rights and realise the harm of corruption.
How will the programme be implemented?
It is based on the existing anti-corruption infrastructure. First, it includes the National Public Council for Combating Corruption and the Party Control Committee. The programme assigns responsibilities for its implementation in all branches. The centre is transferred to the primary party organisations.
The programme is special because it has articulated figures to assess implementation. It aims to synchronise measures to enter the 30 most developed countries in the world in combating corruption. We set a goal to become one of the top 30 countries in the Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) with low levels of corruption by 2025. By 2025, Kazakhstan should enter top 30 countries on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rating.
Are there ways to evaluate these results? Now, we focus on Transparency International, World Bank and other rankings, for example. What other ways of assessing corruption exist?
External ratings are the most valuable in increasing investment attractiveness. Low levels of corruption create a comfortable environment for business. That is why within the programme, an annual national corruption index will be assessed. It will be a comprehensive and public document, which gives a clear assessment of the level of corruption by sector and by state agency. It will contain the level of public confidence in the government, which will be annually assessed through surveys and research.
An annual monitoring report will be prepared for the President on the implementation of the programme. The report will contain information on the perception of corruption in the country and give an objective assessment of the implementation of the planned activities of the programme. The report will be published in the media, and everyone will be able to obtain information on the situation.