Celebrating the unsung heroes of integrity and anti-corruption: government officials

Blog by Julio Bacio Terracino, Acting Head of the Public Sector Integrity Division, Directorate for Public Governance, OECD

Today is anti-corruption day and as every year we hear a fair share of bad news. Corruption is everywhere and much more action is needed. That we know. But for a change, today let’s celebrate. Let’s cheer for those who often go unnoticed, whose efforts and determination are making a difference but do not get the recognition that they deserve. This group is large, from whistleblowers, to investigative reporters, to prosecutors. But today let’s celebrate especially government officials.

Government officials are at the forefront of fighting corruption. Often they have little resources and even less political support, yet they are ingenious and manage to take steps, sometimes small, to strengthen public integrity. Over the course of this year, they have achieved much. In Slovakia, officials in the Ministry of Interior designed a new integrity e-learning programme and officials at the Prime Minister’s Office are working to find better ways to detect fraud and corruption of EU funds. Argentina adopted its first ever anti-corruption plan following an independent review of their system, thanks to a group of committed persons in the Anti-Corruption Office. Thailand also introduced impactful reforms, including an electronic asset declaration system, and improved co-ordination between investigative agencies with the help of committed public officials. And just last week, government officials discussed new ways to address corruption in infrastructure projects in Asia at the Asian Development Bank and the OECD’s regional conference. In Latin America, government officials, with the help of the  OECD/IDB LAC Integrity Network, identified their different strengths and weaknesses for integrity reform.

Many of these anonymous government officials meet at the OECD Working Party of Senior Public Integrity Officials which leads all OECD integrity efforts. Their sometimes daily struggles in their own bureaucracies, with often little support, have resulted in creating valuable tools that benefit themselves and others. If you are a teacher or interested in education, do check out our materials on teaching anti-corruption and integrity. If you are procurement official and tired of being told that procurement is a high-risk corruption process, there are many tools here. If you are a government auditor, the OECD Auditors Alliance can provide support material. Are you interested in how public policies are made and wondering what astroturfing is all about? Then join the OECD Coalition of Influencers to ensure that governments are working in the public interest and not for the interest of the 1%. If instead, you want to use psychology and behavioural economics to nudge for integrity, read about some lessons learned. Last but not least, you can benefit from the experience of some government officials who are using data to detect fraud and corruption.

A lot of effort is put into fighting corruption, but little is known about the fundamental role played by the government officials who are in the middle of it all, making a big difference with little resources and little recognition. Today, let’s make it a celebration of their commitment and a call to not despair. They are not alone.

Further reading:
OECD Anti-corruption and Integrity Forum
OECD work on Anti-corruption and Integrity in the Public Sector
Bribery and corruption

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