Corruption is a disease that threatens the hopes of the poor: for a better future for themselves and their children. It drains finances that might otherwise go to programs that bring education within reach of poor children, or that offer health care to an ailing farmer or a young mother.
Parliamentarians have been entrusted with the enormous responsibility of amplifying the voices of citizens in the halls of government—and ensuring that governments are making decisions that best serve the interests of their people. Parliamentarians can also play a vital role in empowering citizens to call to task governments that don’t do enough to stop corruption.
For nearly a decade now, the World Bank Group has been at the forefront of diagnosing corruption as part of its mission to fight poverty. Since that time, the World Bank has supported more than 600 anti-corruption programs and governance initiatives in partner countries. For example, the Bank has conducted indepth country governance and corruption surveys and diagnostics; developed multi-pronged anti-corruption strategies; and assisted both governmental and nongovernmental institutions in building their capacity.
Initially, the World Bank’s anti-corruption efforts emphasized strengthening “horizontal” accountability at the government level through building up the judiciary, audit institutions, ombuds offices and anti-corruption agencies. In recent years, these efforts have been complemented by an emphasis on “vertical” accountability to citizens through institutions like the media and civil society.
The parliament is an important institution which cuts across both vertical and horizontal accountability. In most countries, parliament has the constitutional mandate to both oversee government and to hold government to account. At the same time, parliaments can play a key role in promoting horizontal accountability— amplifying the voices of citizens—through such mechanisms as constituency outreach, public hearings, and parliamentary commissions.
This book addresses the role of parliament in curbing corruption. It examines some of the papers presented at three conferences organized jointly by the World Bank Institute and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association over the past four years, supplemented by specially commissioned chapters. It covers such topics as parliament and anti-corruption legislation, effective financial scrutiny, parliament and supreme audit institutions, the role of the media in curbing corruption, and building parliamentary networks, among others.