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World Bank 'law library' to help policymakers fight corruption

Wednesday, November 14, 2012    

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THE World Bank has launched a Financial Disclosure Law Library to help policymakers and practitioners establish strong financial disclosure systems and help countries take the fight to corruption.

The Library compiles over 1,000 laws and regulations on financial disclosure and restrictions on public officials' activities from 176 countries.

In a statement last Thursday, the bank said financial disclosure laws requiring public officials to file a statement of their assets, liabilities and interests can make corruption easier to detect. However, a new database has found that although 78 per cent of countries covered by the database have financial disclosure systems, only 36 perc ent systematically check public servants' disclosures for irregularities and inconsistencies.

It said the Law Library was to support countries in the fight against corruption.

"Financial disclosure by public officials provides law enforcement with information and evidence for the prevention, investigation and prosecution of corruption, illicit enrichment and tax crimes. It also gives citizens the information they need to hold public officials accountable for their actions," the bank said.

In the meantime, the library shows that not all public officials are obligated to declare their assets and interests. High-level officials are generally included; 93 per cent of covered countries require disclosure for cabinet members, 91 per cent for members of Parliament, and 62 per cent for high-ranking prosecutors. However, only 43 per cent of countries provide the public with open access to public officials' financial disclosures.

"Financial disclosure systems make it harder for corrupt officials to hide their criminal activities or ill-gotten wealth. Civil society and corruption fighters should back the G20's call for asset disclosure systems, because they can be an effective tool for bringing thieving public servants to justice, " said Jean Pesme, manager of financial market integrity at the World Bank.

A World Bank analysis published earlier this year said that as much as 93 per cent of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have disclosure systems, compared to 53 per cent in Middle East and Northern Africa. While significant variations in implementation and access exist across the world's financial disclosure systems, stakeholders agree that such systems are essential.

"Financial disclosure is key in the fight against corruption. Until now, countries have been unaware of each other's efforts when it comes to asset disclosure laws. The World Bank law library will certainly help practitioners and policy makers from different countries learn from one another and boost financial disclosure in their own countries," noted Navil Campos Paniagua, manager, Complaints and Investigations Area, general comptroller of the Republic of Costa Rica noted.

The World Bank's work in financial market integrity supports transparent and inclusive financial systems, and the fight against illicit financial flows.

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