Rooting out corruption
G20 Summit

Rooting out corruption

At the Toronto Summit in 2010, G20 leaders established the Anti-Corruption Working Group (ACWG) in recognition of the negative impact that corruption has on economic growth, international trade and development. The ACWG has diligently worked to partner with international organisations to ensure a coordinated approach to combat corruption. As part of its practical actions for 2015-16, G20 members have identified a number of high priorities in the fight against corruption, including a focus on high-risk sectors such as border management agencies. The World Customs Organization (WCO) is pleased to be working with the G20 on this important topic. The WCO has long been a leader in promoting integrity in customs. Customs integrity is a vital international objective because customs administrations are significant actors in international trade and globalisation, particularly as a result of articles V, VIII and X of the 1994 World Trade Organization agreement, as well as its 2013 Trade Facilitation Agreement.

In February 2015, the WCO held its 14th Integrity Sub-Committee session, during which Mexico Customs presented the G20 anti-corruption initiative. The sub-committee noted the information and update provided by Mexico on the G20’s Anti-Corruption Implementation Plan for 2015-16. Appreciation was expressed to Mexico for leading this initiative, as the G20 recognises that governments cannot fight corruption on their own. Governments need to work closely with G20 engagement groups and international organisations such as the WCO in order to implement commitments. The sub-committee also endorsed the proposal to develop a publication on WCO strategies, instruments, tools and activities for tackling corruption.

Tools to combat corruption
The WCO has developed a number of instruments and tools to promote customs integrity and combat corruption. The Revised Arusha Declaration, the WCO’s set of core principles related to integrity, states that the adverse effects of corruption can include reduced national security and community protection and foreign investment. Those effects also include revenue leakage and fraud, and increased costs that are ultimately borne by the community. Corruption results in barriers to international trade and economic growth. It erodes public trust and confidence in government institutions, as well as the level of trust and cooperation between customs administrations and other government agencies. It reduces the level of voluntary compliance with customs laws and regulations. Moreover, it lowers staff morale and esprit de corps.

The Revised Arusha Declaration states that an effective national customs integrity programme must outline the principles for addressing corruption, namely leadership and commitment, transparency, automation, reform and modernisation, audit and investigation, code of conduct, human resource management, morale and organisational culture, and relationships with the private sector.

The WCO conducts capacity-building missions to assist customs administrations with reform and modernisation. It organises workshops on promoting integrity for senior managers in order to generate and sustain political will. Such workshops provide for an exchange of views with WCO experts on questions directly related to corruption, such as the relationship with users and the impact of national policy objectives on operational practice, governance, staff accountability, performance and quantification. Such events allow for open discussions among experts and senior managers on those managers who have, or have not, applied measures to combat corruption, and to discuss the kinds of constraints and requirements they must face in doing so. In addition, discussing the concepts linked to the anti-corruption tools provides an opportunity for experts to reflect with senior managers on the key elements of their engagement in the fight against corruption.

Taking stock of integrity strategies
With respect to the G20 initiative, several deliverables are in progress. The WCO prepared a strategic paper that was submitted to the G20 ACWG at the G20 summit in Antalya in November 2015. The paper identifies successful strategies for promoting integrity within customs administrations. In addition, a self-assessment survey of G20 members was conducted to help take stock of strategies for promoting integrity and addressing corruption in customs.

To conclude, the WCO will continue to contribute to the G20’s ongoing efforts to fight against corruption and promote integrity.
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