Session IV: The Key Role of Civil Society and Business Community Towards Developing Comprehensive and Effective Anti-Corruption Approaches

As prepared for delivery by Robert Leventhal
Economic and Environmental Forum First Preparatory Meeting
Dublin, Ireland
April 24, 2012

Thank you, Mr. Moderator.

Civil society plays an important role in effective and accountable administration in the United States.  Without providing space for nongovernmental actors to press for accountability, gather information about government activities, mobilize public sentiment, offer opinions on laws and policies, and report wrongdoing, the U.S. government would be much less effective in combating corruption and improving public administration.

Civil society cannot contribute to good governance unless laws and policies permit and facilitate that interaction.  Public policy in this area should include rules and practices that guarantee independence for nongovernmental actors and the media, safeguard the ability to organize, and ensure freedom from harassment, reprisal and threats.  Effective policy creates transparent processes, grants the public access to information, provides formal opportunities for public input on policymaking and legislation, and allows individual citizens and non-governmental bodies to report wrongdoing.  To illustrate the point, whistleblowers save the U.S. government hundreds of millions of dollars a year, a clear win for government and public alike. In July 2006, Tenet Healthcare agreed to pay the Federal Government $900 million for billing violations that include manipulation of outlier payments to Medicare, as well as kickbacks, upcoding, and bill padding – as a result of whistleblowers.

Yet the mere creation of formal rules is not sufficient.  They must be clear and shared with the public, and they must be easy to follow and applied fairly and universally.  Interaction between officials and civil society should be viewed as regular and normal.  Civil society should have the support of government officials, and civil society’s input should be included in the decision-making, policy development, and other actions of the government. In the U.S., most proposed federal regulations must be published in draft form for public comment.  Likewise, many kinds of government meetings are open to the public, and there are public hearings prior to decision making on many issues.  Government entities can set up citizen advisory boards, and we are working on a new initiative, ExpertNet. This platform will enable government officials to better communicate with citizens who have expertise on a pertinent topic. It will give members of the public an opportunity to participate in a public consultation relevant to their areas of interest and knowledge, and allow officials to pose questions to and interact with the public in order to receive useful information.

Civil society’s contribution to governance is not just a domestic matter.  It is also implicates international commitments.  For example, civil society’s role is reflected in the UN Convention against Corruption – and the OSCE should lead by example, involving civil society in our UNCAC reviews, inviting site visits, and publishing our review reports.  As another example, civil society involvement in the OSCE has been a key element in following up on implementing our commitments, and we appreciate their participation at this event as well.

One way to encourage transparency and accountability is by participating in multi-stakeholder initiatives that involve business, governments and members of civil society as partners in governance.  The Open Government Partnership, or OGP, is one of these: a new initiative that encourages countries to make innovative commitments to define and adopt their own open government, oversight, and public participation measures.  Last week, representatives from more than 60 countries – over half of which are OSCE participating States and Partners for Cooperation – and over 200 organizations involved in OGP convened in Brasilia to share experiences, providing real examples of how openness can drive economic growth and reduce widespread corruption.  The United States encourages other OSCE participating States to explore this initiative.  We serve on the Steering Committee of OGP and would welcome a chance to share our experiences.

Thank you, Mr. Moderator.