The Role of Parliament in Curbing Corruption

By Rick Stapenhurst; Niall Johnston et al. | Go to book overview

5
Parliament and Anti-Corruption Legislation
Jeremy Pope
Introduction
Parliament has a critical role to play in fighting corruption, both in enacting appropriate laws to counter corruption and in seeing, through its committees, that these laws are enforced. Relevant laws cover a wide field, as the United Nations Convention against Corruption (ratified in 2003) aptly demonstrates. Indeed, many of the laws that parliaments will be considering over the months ahead will be intended to implement countries’ obligations arising from their being party to that convention.A principal focus is the criminal law. However, the criminal law can act as a deterrent to corruption only up to a point. If the laws are not enforced or enforceable, then those who breach them have little to fear and the laws themselves can become meaningless.Indeed, the first question a lawmaker must ask is whether a new law is needed at all. A classic case occurred in Geneva when it was found that the official who licensed the opening of new restaurants had been extorting large sums from wouldbe restaurateurs. Only then was it asked whether the post was needed at all. It was not, and it was abolished. Another example concerns the inspection of motor vehicles in a transition country where virtually all the cars were substandard and bribing the inspectors was near universal. The answer was not to try to enforce a clearly unenforceable law, but to address the question in some other way. In the meantime, the law was repealed and the inspectors dismissed.Some see the passing of new anti-corruption laws as a necessary first step toward countering corruption (even in countries that already have an adequate range of laws that could counter corruption—if only they were enforced). As a result, laws to punish bribery and other forms of corruption have proliferated around the world—and frequently at the expense of paying attention to ensuring that the laws can and will be enforced or to see that preventive measures are also taken. Passing a new law can seem to be a cost-free way of appearing to take action while in reality changing little.Three categories of laws are discussed here:
Laws that punish the corrupt (for example, criminal laws and conflict-ofinterest laws) and so deter possible offenders

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