How to fight against corruption?
Senior Policy Analyst of the Economic Research Center
After the arrests of a number of district executives on corruption charges, the arrests of Rafig Bayramov, the Deputy Minister of Culture, and Zakir Sultanov, the head of the State Service for the Protection, Development, and Restoration of Cultural Heritage under the Ministry of Culture, on the same charges clarified a number of issues. I would like to share my opinion on this. Such that it became clear from the arrests of 5 district executives and high-ranking officials of the Ministry of Culture that have taken place so far that:
1) Corruption is widespread not only in local executive bodies but also in central executive bodies.
2) Corrupt people are not only old cadres but also new cadres, so corruption covers all age groups, including young and middle-aged.
3) The majority of corrupt people are either members of the ruling party or the neutrals they answer for.
4) Money misappropriated as a result of corruption is funds of the state budget. This is due to the fact that the funds allocated from the budget are spent through non-transparent and non-public tenders at the level of both local and central executive authorities, and those funds are diverted from their address and final destination.
5) Even if the facts of corruption are revealed and the number of arrests increases, the corruption is still going on, and such means of struggle cannot stop them. Corruption is systemic, it is widespread, and systemic and comprehensive reforms are needed to prevent it. These reforms must start from the top and continue with the declaration of income and property and the increase of public participation.
Such that officials who do not declare their income and property, and government agencies which do not take advantage of formal institutions of public participation and accountability, will always be corrupt. There is no effective practice to prevent it with arrests. In fact, a head of the state who really wants to fight against corruption must first declare his income and property. However, this information is not disclosed not only regularly but also from election to election.
In this regard, I would like to draw attention to the following issues.
First, according to Article 5.4 of the Regulations on the State Oil Fund of the Republic of Azerbaijan (SOFAZ) approved by Decree No. 434 dated December 29, 2000, in order to ensure general control over the activities of the Fund, a Supervisory Board consisting of representatives of relevant government agencies and public organizations, as well as other persons is formed. For 20 years, the relevant article of the Regulations on SOFAZ has not been amended or complied with. So far, representatives of public organizations have not been represented on the Fund's Supervisory Board. Even according to the Order of Ilham Aliyev dated December 9, 2019, the Supervisory Board of SOFAZ includes the Prime Minister, Presidential Aides for Economic Affairs, Minister of Finance, Minister of Economy, Chairman of the Central Bank, and Deputy Speaker of the Milli Majlis.
Second, despite the fact that the Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan on Public Participation came into force on January 1, 2014, there are no Public Councils operating in the Ministry of Economy, the Ministry of Finance, or the State Oil Fund.
Third, the activity of the Public Council operating in the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of the Population (MLSPP) ended on February 25, 2020, and a new one has not yet been formed. In fact, it is necessary to restore the activity of the Public Council in the MLSPP, which outraged the public due to incompetent organizational work in the lump sum payments (190 AZN), and to intervene in such issues.
In conclusion, I would like to note that the loyalty of pro-government NGOs represented in Public Councils already weakens the opportunities to take public opinions and positions into account in the decisions of government bodies. Public Councils under the Ministry of Education and some state universities are working relatively effectively in this direction. However, some central and local government officials do not comply with the Law even formally. Even if some local executive powers nominally establish a Public Council, in recent days, neither Bilasuvar nor Imishli district executive power has had such an organization in recent days. Therefore, calls for public participation are meaningless statements, and the arrest of corrupt officials is a political show. It seems that the coronavirus pandemic will end in Azerbaijan, but there will always be a corruption virus pandemic.