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Press release | Transparency International: Corruption threatens the success of international missions

Transparency International: Corruption threatens the success of international missions
Anti-corruption NGO publishes handbook for military and civilian leaders

London, 30 September | Transparency International UK (TI-UK) today published guidance for reducing corruption on international interventions. It called on mission leaders and civilian and military officials to include anti-corruption in policies, doctrine, and plans for international interventions, such as military and humanitarian interventions, saying that they will only succeed if this problem is addressed.

Press release | Transparency International: excessive secrecy increases corruption risk in defence and security

New study finds that classified information laws often lack safeguards to protect accountability

Jakarta, 11 September – Too often, governments keep information about defence and security secret from the public, citing national security concerns. A new report from Transparency International UK’s Defence and Security Programme calls for better legislation that balances national security concerns with the public right to access information.

This article was originally published in the opinion pages of the New York Times on 7 October 2014. It has been republished below with permission. The original article can be found here.

Aleksandr Lapko is a senior specialist-assistant in the NATO Liaison Office in Ukraine. He wrote the following article on wartime corruption in Ukraine while seconded with TI-UK's Defence and Security Programme.

This summer I received an official letter informing me that I had been called up for service in the Ukrainian Army, and that in a few weeks I would be deployed to the east, where our soldiers are fighting Russian-backed separatists.

I care deeply about my country and I want to defend it. But I was facing a dilemma: Should I go to war knowing that I will have to pay more than $2,000 out of my own pocket to get the military equipment that could save my life because official corruption has left the Ministry of Defense without enough adequate supplies to issue to new recruits? Or should I pay a $2,000 bribe to obtain papers falsely testifying that I am medically unfit and should thus be taken off the conscript list?

I’ve always been deeply opposed to corruption, a major problem in my country, not least for our soldiers fighting the insurgency. My brother, who is serving in the east, wasn’t issued anything but an old-fashioned AK-47 when he joined the army. My family, like too many others, had to spend their own money to buy what he needed: We found a secondhand NATO uniform, body armor, a helmet, a gun sight for his weapon, and kneepads and boots, all for roughly $2,400, including winter gear.

We were fortunate to have the money. The median monthly salary in Ukraine is about $260, which means that it’s impossible for the average family to equip their sons and brothers for war. The salary of a conscripted soldier varies from $185 to $417, depending on rank and specialty.

In times of peace, corruption hurts people indirectly. In times of war, corruption can be as deadly as a bullet.

Ukraine’s war with Russian-backed separatists came suddenly and caught the government unprepared. In Soviet times the military was relatively well equipped, but in the decades since that era ended our forces have deteriorated as defense spending has shrunk. In recent times, the Defense Ministry’s processes of procurement have usually been kept secret — specifications for body armor, for example, aren’t published. This means that the government can get away with purchasing low-quality gear. And it usually does.

The Office of the General Prosecutor recently announced that it is bringing charges against several former Defense Ministry officials who purchased substandard body armor for the army. They are accused of spending $5.6 million to buy 17,080 pieces of low-quality body armor, which, according to reports in the Ukrainian media, have led to dozens of casualties and deaths during military operations in the east. The armor was apparently incapable of withstanding a direct hit from a bullet.

In August, President Petro O. Poroshenko fired two Defense Ministry procurement directors for corruption. According to media reports, they will be charged with misuse of public funds, but not with manslaughter.

New procurement procedures were supposed to prevent corrupt practices that put our soldiers at even greater risk. In 2013, the Defense Ministry said that its Department of Internal Audit and Financial Control was starting a special investigation on behalf of the army under the direction of the then-minister of defense, Pavlo Lebedyev. Previously, it was relatively easy for bureaucrats in the ministry to jeopardize the integrity of an investigation. But last June, representatives from the internal audit department were excluded from procurement committees and lost their mandate to check army contracts. The military’s official explanation was that in times of war the army leadership needs the authority and flexibility to conduct its own purchases in order to supply troops as quickly as possible.

My brother says he was recently told he should buy his own winter equipment because the army couldn’t guarantee supplies. If they’ve changed the procurement system to make it faster, why are they still telling soldiers that they must fend for themselves?

Tetyana Chornovil, a former journalist who was put in charge of the new government’s anticorruption policy, recently resigned her post. “There is no political will in Ukraine for an uncompromising, wide-scale war on corruption,” she said in a newspaper interview.

Ordinary people in Ukraine want to help their soldiers. They buy special bracelets to support the troops and donate their time to volunteer organizations. But there have been reports that some initiatives are simply get-rich-quick schemes. I’ve heard of one organization whose members collected donations from the public to buy military equipment for the troops, then actually tried to sell it to soldiers.

Corruption scandals occur in many countries. But in Ukraine, it is the system itself that is corrupt. It greases the wheels between all institutions, be they in the public or the private sector, volunteer movements, or even NGOs. Without this grease, nothing moves.

There is a will to reform among the Ukrainian people and among our more forward-looking political leaders, but the momentum has slowed since the protests that helped rid the nation of President Viktor F. Yanukovych last winter. Now, amid the tensions with Russia and the unrest in the east, many of us are worried that the fight against corruption will be lost. If reforms don’t come now, they probably will never come.

As part of my job as a liaison officer with NATO, I was recently sent to Britain to research anticorruption programs with Transparency International. Their work is very important, tackling transparency issues in military enterprises and governments around the globe. But for Ukraine, these efforts aren’t enough; to “cure” the country all layers of society need to be involved. The political will to fight must also be in place.

As of now, the fighting in the east has quieted down and I may not have to be deployed after all. In any case, if it flares up again and it turns out that I am called to service, I have decided not to bribe my way out of the army. After all, I am 33 years old, and fit and able to serve. But if I am called to fight for my country, I want to be properly equipped to be able to defend myself. If I put my life on the line, I want to know that my government is committed to giving me the best protection it can afford. At this moment, I cannot be so sure. And I fear for my brother, who is still at the front.

Transparency International’s chapter in Kosovo, Kosova Democratic Institute, has joined the call for a full investigation into alleged corruption at the EU’s largest international mission. EULEX, a rule of law mission that started work in Kosovo in 2008, has come under fire for allegedly covering up evidence of corruption among its senior ranks. 11 Kosovar civil society organizations urged EULEX and the European Parliament to investigate wrongdoing and hold those responsible to account. Their statement reads:

"The return of public trust and credibility, as a precondition for the proper functioning of the EULEX Mission, can be done only when all these allegations and reports are immediately investigated in an independent manner, and appropriate measures are taken against all those who have committed violations."

Read the full statement here: Transparency International: Civil society organisations in Kosovo call for investigation into corruption allegations at EULEX.

02/10/2014 | Leah Wawro, Advocacy & Communications Lead

On Tuesday, September 30th, we launched our new handbook, Corruption Threats and International Interventions: practical guidance for leaders, at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defence University.

Read more: VIDEO: Peacekeeping and Corruption: Taking Stock and Best Practices

Photo: U.S. Army / Flickr.

Major General D. A. Hook CBE, Royal Marines (Retired) | 06/10/14

I went to Afghanistan in 2008 as the Deputy Commander of Regional Command (South), an area that includes Kandahar, Uruzgan, Zabul and Daykundi. Before I left, we only had one discussion of corruption during pre-deployment training, and we concluded that dealing with corruption was an important issue. But when we got our Operation Order, which gives tasks to leaders on the ground, corruption was not in it. This meant that we were not really required to address the problem of corruption, or to put our resources towards reducing it. In our view, the military had little to do with corruption—we saw it as part of the civilian effort.

When I returned to Kabul 2 years later, ISAF—and I—had finally grasped that corruption was undermining the success of the mission in Afghanistan, and ISAF had instituted initiatives to address the problem. There were two main developments: SHAFAFIYAT, an ISAF task force aimed at reducing corruption in Afghanistan generally, and Task Force 2010, which focused on anti-corruption in contracting. Both organisations had mixed results, but were a belated acknowledgement that everyone, including the military, had an important role to play in addressing corruption within Afghanistan.

It is clear to me now that if both of these organisations had been established at the start of the ISAF campaign, they would have made a more significant contribution to fighting corruption—and therefore to the success of the campaign.

Military officers and planners are now comfortable with the military and political aspects of counter-insurgency (COIN) campaigns, but it is only recently that they have come to appreciate that understanding and addressing corruption is an essential component of any campaign plan. Failing to address corruption undermines the credibility and legitimacy of an international mission. Corruption has a devastating effect on the wellbeing of local populations, reducing their support for the international mission and for the government the mission supports. For example, if a mission backs highly corrupt local leaders or interlocutors, who use the mission to bolster their own wealth and position, it can inadvertently undermine government and mission credibility.

The Defence and Security Programme of Transparency International UK has produced a new handbook, Corruption Threats and International Missions: Practical guidance for leaders. It is a must-read for civilian and military practitioners who will be undertaking and managing operations in complex contemporary operating environments. The new handbook articulates the threats corruption poses to campaign credibility, legitimacy and accountability, explaining how and why a political commitment to reducing corruption is key to achieving campaign objectives. Most importantly provides practical tools enabling leaders to implement a more comprehensive approach to mission design and avoid some of the pitfalls related to corruption.

Understanding the risk of corruption, and the pathways through which corruption happens, should be a starting point for all those involved in planning international interventions. This threat should be integrated into campaign design and mission planning. Corruption Threats and International Missions offers a comprehensive set of questions to be asked during mission preparation to ensure that corruption issues are captured in the planning process and campaign design, as well as ways to monitor and track them during mission execution to avoid entrenching corrupt practices and exacerbating their influence.

If we are serious about learning from our recent campaigns, it is imperative that we all get a better understanding of how corruption has an impact on a mission’s credibility, legitimacy and outcomes. Failure to do this will condemn future operations to making the same mistakes again.

About David Hook: Major General David Hook CBE QCVS (Retired) served for 33 years in the Royal Marines. He deployed on operations and commanded in every rank and spent 27 months in Afghanistan, between 2008 and 2011. He has seen training and operational service around the world as well as appointments in the UK Ministry of Defence dealing with strategy, policy and resources, and was a key player in the UK Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2010/11.


Earlier this month, African leaders and President Obama met in Washington, DC, for a major summit. Corruption was on the agenda, and so was security—two deeply interconnected issues. Two initiatives emerged: a new Security Governance Initiative with a dedicated $65m USD, and a pledge to provide $110m for peacekeeping efforts on the continent over the next three years.

The focus on security governance is important and this initiative is a good first step—corruption in this sector has often been ignored, or seen as inevitable.

But in order for these initiatives to contribute to peace, good governance, and public trust, throwing money at the problem isn’t enough. As the case of Afghanistan has shown, an influx of funding without accountability mechanisms can even do more harm than good.

So with the creation of the Security Governance Initiative and peacekeeping funding, here’s what policymakers and planners should keep in mind:

  • Guidance should be developed that targets reducing corruption risks on peacekeeping operations, and training, capacity-building, and oversight should be put in place.

  • The initiative should be used to push for greater transparency in defence budgeting and a reduction in off-budget spending.

  • Within security governance, the full spectrum of defence and security sector corruption risks should be taken into account—this shouldn’t just be about soldiers asking for bribes, but also corruption in international arms contracts.

  • Legislative and civil society oversight of the defence and security sector should be included as a component of the initiative’s work. It’s vital to build the capacity of security forces, but those that they’re accountable to—their citizens—should ultimately be the ones to hold them to account.

TI is currently assessing the corruption risks in the defence sectors of all 54 African countries, for the next round of the Government Defence Anti-Corruption Index. This assessment will enable TI, other NGOs, and national defence establishments to reduce corruption risks in this challenging sector. TI plans to work in close coordination with national governments, defence establishments, and civil society in ten African target countries to improve their ability to address corruption vulnerabilities.

Why is corruption a concern? Corruption can mean that arms are diverted and end up in the wrong hands—arms sold to Libya, for example, have moved south to multiple conflict zones. The links between conflict and corruption are clear—corruption impoverishes and disenfranchises populations, leading to public anger and instability; it weakens defence and security forces, often meaning that they don’t get the equipment they need and adequate salaries for soldiers; and it ruins the legitimacy of government.

Improving security sector governance won’t be a speedy process, but sustainable peace won’t be built without it.

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