by Akmal BURKHANOV, Director Anti-Corruption Agency of the Republic of Uzbekistan
The fight against corruption has become one of the most pressing problems facing the international community today. Its catastrophic impact on states, regional economy, politics, and public life can be seen on the example of the crisis in some countries.
Another important aspect of the problem is that the level of corruption in a country directly affects its political and economic prestige in the international arena. This criterion becomes decisive in such issues as relations between countries, the volume of investments, the signing of bilateral agreements on equal terms. Therefore, in recent years, political parties in foreign countries have made the fight against corruption a top priority in the parliamentary and presidential elections. Concerns about this evil are increasingly voiced from the highest tribunes in the world. The fact that UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres claims that the world community loses USD 2.6 trillion annually due to corruption shows the heart of the problem.
The fight against corruption has also become a priority area of state policy in Uzbekistan. This can be seen in the conceptual regulatory acts adopted in recent years in this area, on the example of administrative reforms aimed at preventing corruption. In particular, the National Action Strategy on Five Priority Development Areas 2017-2021, adopted at the initiative of the President, plays an important role in increasing the effectiveness of the fight against corruption.
Improving the organizational and legal mechanisms of combating corruption and increasing the effectiveness of anticorruption measures was identified as one of the important tasks in the priority area of the Action Strategy – ensuring the rule of law and further reforming the judicial and legal system.
On the basis of this policy document, a number of important measures have been taken to prevent corruption.
Firstly, the system for considering appeals of individuals and legal entities has been radically improved. The People’s Receptions of the President as well as hot lines and virtual receptions of each ministry and department have been launched. 209 people’s receptions offices have been created throughout the country, the priority task of which is to restore the rights of citizens. In addition, the practice of conducting on-site receptions of officials at all levels in remote areas has been established.
The people’s receptions provide the citizens with the opportunity to take an active part in the events taking place in the region where they live, as well as throughout the country. Ensuring the freedom of people to directly address with various issues and direct communication of officials with people led to a decrease of corruption in the lower and middle levels in itself .
Secondly, practical measures have been taken to ensure freedom of the media, journalists and bloggers, the openness of government structures to the public and the media, and the establishment of close communication and
cooperation between senior officials and journalists in their daily activities. As a result, every action of the officials was made public. After all, if there is openness, it would be more difficult to engage in corruption.
Thirdly, the system of government services has been radically reformed and more than 150 types of government services are provided to the population using convenient, centralized and modem information and communication technologies.
In this process, the reduction of the human factor, the elimination of the direct contacts between the civil servant and the citizen, and the widespread use of information technologies, undoubtedly, significantly reduced the factors of corruption.
Fourthly, in recent years, the mechanisms for ensuring openness and transparency of government agencies, as well as public control institutions, have radically improved. The widespread use of digital and online technologies has increased the accountability of government agencies to the public. A system of online auctions of land plots and state assets, as well as state numbers for vehicles has been created and is constantly being improved.
Information on state procurement is posted on the website www.d.xarid.uz. The open data portal (data. gov.uz), the registered database of legal entities and commercial entities (my.gov.uz) and other platforms play an important role today in ensuring the principles of openness and transparency and public control, which are the most effective tools for combating and preventing corruption. Licensing and permitting procedures have also been radically improved to completely improve the business and investment climate, remove unnecessary bureaucratic barriers and outdated regulations.
Fifthly, a Resolution signed by the President in 2018 provides for the creation of a public council under each ministry and department. Of course, such councils are an important link in the establishment of effective public control over the activities of government agencies|4].
More than 70 regulatory acts aimed at combating corruption in all sectors of state and public construction have served as a solid basis for the implementation of these reforms.
The most important step in this area was the signing of the Law ‘On Combating Corruption’ as one of the first legislative acts after the President came to power. The law, adopted in 2017, defines several concepts, including “corruption”, “corruption offenses” and “conflict of interests”. The areas of state policy in the fight against corruption were also determined .
The State Anti-Corruption Program 2017-2018 was also adopted. The Law on Public Procurement, the Law on Public-Private Partnership, the Law on Dissemination and Access to Legal Information and the Law on Public Control, adopted under the Program, are also aimed at ensuring economic growth by combating corruption.
President Mirziyoyev, in his speech on the occasion of the 26th anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan, proposed the creation of special anti-corruption committees in the chambers of the Oliy Majlis based on best foreign practices and the requirements of our Constitution.
In 2019, the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis adopted a resolution “On the establishment of Committee on Judicial-Legal Issues and Anti¬Corruption” of the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan .
In the same year, the Senate of the Oliy Majlis also established the Committee on Judicial-Legal Issues and Anti-Corruption .
At the same time, the committees and commissions of the Jokargy Kenes of Karakalpakstan and the regional, district and city councils of people’s deputies were reorganized into a “Permanent Commission on Combating Corruption”.
Their main tasks were to conduct systematic parliamentary oversight of the implementation of anti-corruption legislation and government programmes, to listen to information from government officials involved in anti-corruption activities, to take measures to eliminate legal gaps in existing legislation that permit and create conditions for corruption, to study generally recognized principles and norms of international law on combating corruption and to develop proposals for further action.
A joint resolution of the Kengash of the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis and the Kengash of the Senate “On measures to increase the effectiveness of parliamentary oversight of anti-corruption efforts” was adopted to coordinate the activities of committees and councils and identify priorities .
These chambers and kengashes serve to improve the effectiveness of parliamentary oversight of the fight against corruption.
In particular, the Senate of the Oliy Majlis and the responsible committee of the local council critically discussed information on the status and trends of corruption of public officials carrying out anti-corruption activities in the regions as part of parliamentary oversight.
The information of Minister of Higher and Secondary Specialised Education on the progress of the Corruption-Free Sector Project was listened.
The Prosecutor General also briefed on the work being done to prevent corruption in the health, education and construction sectors. The activities of the Ministries of Health, Education and Construction were critically discussed.
Regular dialogue was held in the regions with the judiciary, sector leaders and the public to discuss anti-corruption issues in cooperation with local Kengashes of people’s deputies and to assess the responsibility of officials in this regard.
The Committee on Judicial-Legal Issues and Anti-Corruption of the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis held hearings on the work of the State Customs Committee, the Ministry of Construction and the Ministry of Health in preventing corruption in its system.
The Committee made effective use of effective parliamentary oversight mechanisms during the period under consideration, and about 20 oversight and scrutiny activities were carried out by the Committee during that period. These included examining the implementation of legislation, listening to the heads of State and economic bodies and monitoring the implementation of the decisions of the Legislative Chamber and the Committee.
The responsible committee of the Legislative Chamber also works effectively with citizens and non-governmental organizations. In particular, since the Committee began its work, civil society institutions have submitted proposals for 22 relevant amendments and additions to the codes and 54 to legislation. These contain reasoned opinions on amendments and additions to the Criminal Code, the Labour Code, the Courts Act and other legislation.
In addition, during the past period, the committee has done work on timely study and resolution of citizens’ appeals on systemic issues in the field. In particular, 565 appeals of individuals and legal entities submitted to the committee have been reviewed.
In 2018, committees for combating and eradicating corruption were created in the Legislative Chamber and the Senate of the Oliy Majlis. These structures serve to enhance the effectiveness of parliamentary control over the fight against corruption.
The Civil Service Development Agency was launched in 2019. In order to increase the prestige of the civil service at all levels, eliminate corruption, red tape and bureaucracy, the Agency was instructed to take measures to provide financial incentives and adequate social protection for civil servants |.
The State Anti-Corruption Program 2019-2020 was adopted to implement specific tasks, including further strengthening the independence of the judiciary, eliminating conditions for any undue influence on judges, increasing the accountability and transparency of government agencies and institutions .
The year 2020 occupies a special place in the history of our country in terms of improving the institutional framework for combating corruption, because, on June 29 of that year, two important documents were adopted. Those are the Decree of the President ‘On additional measures to improve the system of combating in the Republic of Uzbekistan’ and the Resolution of the President ‘On the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Agency of the Republic of Uzbekistan’. These documents provided for the establishment of a new institution for the implementation of state policy aimed at preventing and combating corruption – the Anti-Corruption Agency, .
The Agency is defined as a specially authorized government agency responsible for ensuring effective interaction between government bodies, the media, civil society institutions and other nongovernmental sectors, as well as for international cooperation in this area. The Decree also reorganized the Republican Interdepartmental Anti-Corruption Commission into the National Anti-Corruption Council.
In addition, as of January 1, 2021, 37 licenses and 10 permits were revoked. A Road Map was approved for the implementation of measures to strengthen the activities of ministries and departments to combat the shadow economy and corruption, as well as to improve tax and customs administration.
Along with these regulatory documents, ministries and departments adopted and implemented departmental documents aimed at increasing the effectiveness of combating and preventing corruption, “corruption-free sector” programs, as well as other plans and programs in various areas.
In 2020, under the chairmanship of the President, about a dozen meetings and sessions were held addressing the issues of combating corruption. All this means that our country is determined to fight this evil at the state level. This is perceived not only by the citizens of our country, but also by the international community as a serious political will.
In particular, the head of state delivered a speech at the 75th session of the UN General Assembly. In his speech, he emphasized the importance of combating corruption, noting that this work in Uzbekistan has reached a new level, important laws have been adopted and an independent anti-corruption structure has been created. The Uzbek President showed the whole world how important this road is for our country. Positive transformations, along with ensuring the social and economic growth of our country, serve to increase in international ratings and indices and improve the image of our republic.
In the 2020 Corruption Perception Index by Transparency International, Uzbekistan climbed 7 positions compared to 2019 and achieved stable growth for 4 consecutive years (from 17 points in 2013 to 26 points in 2020). Therefore, in its 2020 report, the Transparency International recognized Uzbekistan as one of the fastest growing countries in the region.
However, despite the results achieved, we still have a formidable challenge ahead of us. In his Address to the Oliy Majlis, the President also touched upon the problem of corruption, stressing that intolerance to any form of it should become a part of our daily life.
A number of tasks set in the Address to combat corruption are also reflected in the State Program ‘Year of Supporting Youth and Strengthening Public Health’. In particular, the Anti-Corruption Agency was tasked with further improving the mechanisms for ensuring openness and transparency in government agencies.
According to study and analysis carried out by the Agency, today the Open Data Portal contains more than 10 thousand collections of open data from 147 ministries and departments. Based on the results of the study and analysis, a list of 240 proposals for expanding open data submitted by 39 ministries, departments and institutions were selected and compiled. The State Program also includes the development of the E-Anticorruption project, which will take anti-corruption reforms to a new level. The project will conduct an in-depth analysis of the existing factors of corruption in all ministries and departments in the context of sectors and regions.
This process will involve representatives of civil society institutions, international experts and interested organizations. As a result, for the first time in our country, an electronic register of corruption-prone relations will be formed 113]. This, in turn, makes it possible to gradually eliminate existing relations with signs of corruption with the help of open and transparent mechanisms using modem information technologies.
The State Program also focuses on another important task. In particular, it is planned to develop the National Anti-Corruption Strategy 2021-2025 in order to continue work in this direction on a systematic and comprehensive basis. In developing this strategy, special attention is paid to a holistic plan that fully covers the real situation. The experience of countries that have achieved successful results in the development and implementation of a comprehensive political document for five years is being studied. It is noteworthy that many countries achieve significant positive results in the fight against corruption through the adoption of such a strategic package of documents and the systematic implementation of its tasks.
The experience of countries such as Georgia, Estonia, and Greece shows that a comprehensive long-term program has led to an increase in the effectiveness of the fight against corruption and its prevention, as well as to an increase of their positions in international rankings. In our country, the development and implementation of a long-term, systematic, comprehensive program to combat corruption will serve to increase the effectiveness of reforms in this area in the future.
Today, the Anti-Corruption Agency is actively working on the draft National Strategy. The document includes an analysis of the current situation, positive trends, and problems, main factors causing corruption, goals and its indicators. In order to cover all issues and take into account the opinion of the government and society, it is widely discussed at national and international consultation meetings with the participation of representatives of government agencies, officials, members of NGOs, academia, and international experts.
It is planned that the draft Strategy will be submitted for public discussion in order to learn the opinion of our people.
The Agency has also studied this year the facts of corruption and conflicts of interest in the field of state procurement in regions. Reasonable proposals have been prepared for the public disclosure of information on the shortcomings identified during the study, as well as information on the composition of tender commissions for state procurement and investment projects, commissions for issuing permits, participants in the process of buying and selling state assets and public-private partnership projects, as well as on recipients’ tax and other benefits. Work is currently underway to further improve these proposals.
It should be noted that the fight against corruption is not a task that can be solved within one organization. It is necessary to mobilize all government agencies, public organizations, the media and, in general, every citizen to fight this evil. Only then will we get to the root of the problem.
Of course, it is gratifying to see the positive results of the work done over the past three-four years. That is, today it is clear from the views of our people that corruption has become one of the most used words in social networks, in our daily life. This indicates that the population, which plays an important role in the fight against corruption, is becoming increasingly intolerant of this evil.
Since the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Agency, many ministries and government departments, nongovernmental organizations, international organizations and citizens have expressed their readiness to provide free assistance, and cooperation is gaining momentum now.
The main thing is to strengthen the spirit of intolerance towards corruption in our modem society, the fighting spirit of anti-corruption in journalists and bloggers, and so that government agencies and officials look at corruption as a threat to the future of the country. Today, everyone is against corruption, from senior officials to the majority of the population, the clerisy, the media have understood that it needs to be eradicated, and the country cannot develop along with it. Now the only task is to unite all efforts and fight against evil together.
This will undoubtedly serve to fully implement the development strategies of our country for the years to come.
- “The costs of corruption: values, economic development under assault, trillions lost, says Guterres” UN official site. 09.12.2018.
- Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On the strategy of further development of the Republic of Uzbekistan”. 07.02.2017. #PD-4947.
- Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On measures to further improve the system of dealing with the problems of the population”. #PR-5633.
- Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On additional measures for the accelerated development of the national system of public services” 31.01.2020. #PD-5930.
- Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On additional measures to improve the anti-corruption system in the Republic of Uzbekistan” 29.06.2020. #PR-6013.
- Resolution of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On measures to implement the provisions of the Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On Combating Corruption” 02.02.2017. #PD-2752.
- Resolution of the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On the establishment of the Committee on Combating Corruption and Judicial Issues”. 14.03.2019. #PD-2412-III.
- Resolution of the Senate of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On the establishment of the Committee on Combating Corruption and Judicial Issues”. 25.02.2019. #JR-513-III.
- Joint Resolution of the Council of the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Council of the Senate of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On measures to increase the effectiveness of parliamentary control in the fight against corruption”. 30.09.2019. #782-111/ JR-610-III.
- Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On measures to radically improve the personnel policy and the system of civil service in the Republic of Uzbekistan”. 03.10.2019. PD-5843.
- Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On measures to further improve the anti-corruption system in the Republic of Uzbekistan”
- Resolution of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On the organization of the Anti-Corruption Agency of the Republic of Uzbekistan”.
- Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On measures to implement “the strategy of further development of the Republic of Uzbekistan for 2017-2021” for the Year of Youth Support and Public Health”. 03.02.2021 #PR-6155.