The Role of Parliament in Curbing Corruption

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

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Introduction:
Parliamentarians Fighting Corruption
Rick Stapenhurst, Martin Ulrich, and Severin StrohalParliamentarians from around the world met in the Chamber of the Canadian House of Commons October 13–16, 2002, and formed the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC). At this meeting, corruption was identified as the greatest threat to the democratic ideal of self-government, endangering representative institutions selected in free elections by a broadly enfranchised people. Corruption was not only seen as a threat to democracy but also perceived to undermine economic development, violate social justice, and destroy trust in state institutions. In addition, if most commentators were right, corruption is getting worse in many countries and becoming an increasingly widespread phenomenon.Citizens bear the heavy economic and social costs of corruption. In a democracy that works, they look to their parliament—the people they select to set the framework of law and oversee its implementation—for help. This does not imply that corruption is caused by a weak parliament or parliamentary inaction; rather, because the causes of corruption are many and complex, it suggests that parliament plays an essential leadership role in combating corruption. Especially in systems in which the executive is not directly elected, parliament becomes the most direct instrument citizens have to influence the executive, the locus of most state corruption.To date, most efforts to curb corruption focus on the executive and judicial branches of government. This chapter will, after an initial introduction to the topic, outline how anti-corruption policies should be extended to
include each of the core governance responsibilities of parliament (legislation, oversight, and representation),
address issues related to party-political financing and parliamentary ethics, and
strengthen international parliamentary networks fighting corruption.

Setting the Context

Before this chapter proceeds to describe the roles of the legislature in curbing corruption, it will be necessary to grasp the context in which it flourishes and the broader anti-corruption policies in which the parliament’s work should be set.

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