August 19, 2016

Nation Building, Anticorruption Drive and Rule of Law

(Continued from 14-3-2015)

They were demonstrating in response to the Diarios Secretos, or Secret Diaries, a ground-breaking investigative journalism project led by four Brazilian journalists – James Alberti, Katia Brembatti, Karlos Kohlbach and Gabriel Tabatcheik – – – that led to the biggest-ever scandal at Paraná’s legislative assembly in Southern Brazilian state.
For two years the team of journalists had been investigating and compiling data on Parana state assembly spending. Combing through more than 750 assembly memos, they analyzed and compiled all registries in the assembly’s payroll, painstakingly recording more than 15,000 lines of data. Once complete, they published their reports on Brazilian News Networks.
What the journalists reported had drove thousands of people onto the streets to call for justice. From deceased employees on the active payroll, to “ghost employees” hired to receive a salary they later transferred the pay to their own bank accounts. The journalists claimed that millions of dollars were being systematically rerouted from public funds into private bank accounts.
The reports quickly sparked major action from the side in the state powers. Directors that were implicated in the scandal lost their jobs, and criminal investigations were opened. The assembly introduced greater oversight on hiring matters and made it easier for citizens to access public information. According to the journalists, it was reported that the number of employees at the Parana assembly ultimately dropped by more than 1,000. They estimate that these changes could be saving the state as much as US$5 million each month.
Transparency International and the Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (Press and Society Institute), awarded the four Brazilian journalists with the 2011 Latin American Investigative Journalism Award. Illustrating the power of transparency, their story shows what better thing can happen when an independent media helps citizens access the information they need to stand up and demand change. In the words of the student protester, history is set in motion.
Police whistleblowers
A Police whistleblower is a person who exposes any kind of information or activity that is deemed illegal, unethical, or not correct within the police organization.
Back in 2012, Maurice McCabe and John Wilson were respected police officers working in Ireland. When they found evidence that traffic offence cases were being wiped out and interfered with the reports, they did what their job demanded of them. They reported it to the higher authorities.
According to McCabe and Wilson, traffic penalty points were being waived for dubious and uncertain reasons. They believed this was happening in “almost every town and village of Ireland”. Among those thought to have benefited were a rugby star, a judge and a national journalist, as well as some police officers.
At a time of growing financial crisis, the reportedly cancelled payments were costing taxpayers an estimated Pound 1.5 million a year. Reckless drivers were also allegedly going unpunished. As many as seven road fatalities might have been avoided if rules against dangerous driving had been properly enforced and regulated.
First their complaint was ignored or dismissed – – – not only by their immediate superiors, but by the police commissioner, the minister for justice and the prime minister.
Then the two policemen were forced under watch list as their careers were nearly destroyed.
Both men were denied further access to the police database, thus making their job impossible. Watching Police officers visited their homes unannounced or called their mobile phones while they were on leave. Occasionally, they were stopped and searched without warrant.
“It destroyed me, my career and my family,” Police Officer McCabe later said.
Ultimately Police officer Wilson resigned from his position. McCabe remained, but says he was threatened with disciplinary action if he testified about his complaint at the court.
As their isolation increased, they called the Irish Whistleblower Helpline (IWH). Taking over 200 calls a year; IWH offers advice and help to the victims and witnesses of corruption.
“My phone call changed the whole case,” says Police Officer McCabe. “My family and I couldn’t have survived this ordeal without the support we received from IWH.”
Offering guidance on coping with retaliation over whistleblower, IWH called publicly for an investigation into their claims and their treatment.
Ultimately, both Police men were vindicated, proving that they were not guilty. As the case hit and dominated headlines, official reports examined the claims. Analyzing data released in the reports, IWH calculated that 9,000 traffic cases had been cancelled in questionable circumstances between 2011 and 2012 alone.
An investigative commission was established to look into further allegations and the minister for justice and police commissioner resigned and took early retirement.
Since then, the Irish government has apologized for how the two men were treated, and the Irish public crowned them “People of the Year” for their courage and bravery.
The new ministerial and police leadership have pledged reforms to the police complaints system.
Balancing the budget in West Bank
A vast number of Palestinians in the West Bank live in abject poverty. Many lack access to health and education facilities. Moreover, ncountless buildings, roads and sewage systems are in urgent need of repair. Instances of government officials misusing public funds have fuelled calls for the Palestinian Authority to introduce tighter controls on public sector spending.
Through its work with the public, Transparency International Palestine (AMAN) received a number of complaints about the use of government cars in the West Bank. In 2009, more than 6,000 civil servants owned one car each, and Pound 18 million was being spent on their fuel, maintenance and licensing. Many of the cars were frequently used for private journeys, or by friends and relatives. Some were reportedly even being sent abroad.
AMAN took its findings to the Ministry of Transport. The Ministry admitted that it was aware of the problem, but they lacked the resources to tackle it. So AMAN undertook to assist them. It launched a broad-based media campaign comprising radio, billboard and newspaper advertisements, encouraging citizens to phone and report on incidents of public vehicle misuse via AMAN’s free hotline.
Sure enough, the initiative was a huge success. Within a short space of time AMAN logged more than 150 complaints. The cases were relayed back to the Ministry of Transport for further investigation. Knowing that this was unlikely to bring about lasting change, however, AMAN called on Prime Minister to address the issue more systematically.
Consequently, Palestine’s Council of Ministers (PNA) declared a ban on the use of all government vehicles outside office hours, with the exception of the Prime Minister and his deputy. In 2010 around 6,200 vehicles were reclaimed from civil servants. Some of them were given to the government ministries for shared use, but the majority could be purchased by civil servants to use privately.
AMAN realizes that this is only one step towards reform, and a lot of work remains to be done to bring integrity and transparency to government spending.
Birth rights in Nepal
Childbirth can be a dangerous prospect in much of Nepal’s remote mountainous regions. Following the traditional custom, most women give birth at home, without medical equipment or supervision. When there are complications, treatment is administered by a local birth attendant with little experience without any formal training. As a result, as many as six Nepalese women die giving birth every day. Many of them are teenagers.
Looking to improve the situation, the government started a new incentive programme that offers small cash allowances to women who gave birth in hospital. It is the kind of initiative that is desperately needed. Despite the good intention, one district local officials failed to promote it among their constituents. Instead, they created lists of fake mothers, and pocketed the money themselves for personal gains.
When a whistleblower rang the Nepal Help Center to report the situation, the NHC helped him break the story to the media. Making national headlines, the case helped bring the plight of rural women into the public sphere. The fraud being exposed, the officials admitted their wrongdoing, and returned the money to the state budget to be redistributed where it is needed most namely among expectant mothers. The NHC keeping watch to make sure it stays that way.
It is my great pleasure in sharing country-wise cases on misappropriation through research work.
In conclusion, the writer would like to add that Wikipedia defines “Knowledge sharing” as an activity through which knowledge namely, information, skills, or expertise is exchanged among people, friends, families, communities or organizations.
The simple and sincere purpose of the writer of this article is to share knowledge through research work with the esteemed and valued readers of the Global New Light of Myanmar in connection with the “Nation Building” on “Anticorruption Drive and Rule of Law”.


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