Monday, February 17, 2014

Fighting corruption in its lair

In logic, necessary and sufficient conditions are required for certain things to take place.


Today the world has accepted that the necessary conditions for socio-economic development are a parliamentary system with democratic governance, a market economy where private property is allowed, and restricted government involvement. However, the existence of those necessary conditions alone are not sufficient to achieve development. The missing sufficient condition is transparent and accountable public governance. People in democratic countries can only enjoy a better livelihood when government involvement is minimized and its efficiency optimized. The extent of government involvement and its efficiency are dependent on the competence of the political parties that have won elections and obtained ruling power.

If we use the same logic, it can be said that Mongolia already has the sufficient conditions to achieve development. Every politician talks about how our country has undergone political and economic reforms for the last 20 years, and how we managed to irreversibly establish a democracy as well as a market economy. If that is the case, how do we explain the fact that the majority of Mongolians are poor and one-third of the population is living in poverty? The answer lies in the poor quality of our public governance, as the efficiency of the Mongolian government fails to keep up with the pace of the age we are living in. The politicians who obtain ruling power have always promised to shape a brighter future for everyone, but the only outcomes they produce are some statistics that are supposed to imply progress.

The Mongolian government is still producing billionaires. The foreign press has even started to look into the revenue statements of our government officials and have been writing about how our government has become a “billionaires club”. Mongolians today acknowledge and recognize private business owners who have achieved great success and made huge profits on their own despite fierce market competition. Young people should understand that the only people who are capable of expanding their businesses and creating new jobs are the people who have the money to do so.

On the contrary, people do not wish to accept government officials who are getting wealthier and wealthier even though they have never worked in the private sector. The public sector collects tax from the private sector and is responsible for making necessary investments in the infrastructure that serves common interests and ensures conditions for the private sector to operate normally. The salaries of those who work for the public sector comes out of the operating cost that comes from public investment, therefore, public servants should not be able to accumulate much more wealth than others. The reason why our government officials are able to collect a tremendous amount of wealth for themselves is that as soon as they obtain ruling power, they can steal from the money designated to benefit the public.

MOST PRESSING PROBLEM

If we greatly improve our public governance and stop the theft of public property and land committed in the name of the government, Mongolia will have the sufficient conditions for development.

Finding and removing the roots of such theft have become a sacred duty of our citizens.

The ruling power goes to whichever political party wins the parliamentary election. Those who sit at the top of those political parties have been making fancy promises and been appointed to the most senior positions of our government, one after another. However, their promises have not helped the children who do not have food to eat, or their parents who drink to forget their despair. How many more winters do the families in the suburban ger districts have to spend living in the dark and breathing smoke?

Mongolians, especially the younger generation, must remove the roots of corruption that have been growing in government. Those roots are found inside our political parties. It has been a long time since the law stopped affecting Mongolian political parties. Political parties in Mongolia just pretend to abide by the law. The organizations that operate outside the law are called “mafia”, where money rules all. The law states that political parties must produce expenditure reports, have them audited and report them to the public. Such reports cannot be found on the websites of any political party today. The website of the General Election Committee has an excel sheet that includes the names of some political donors and the amounts of their donations. However, the available information is far from complete and it is unclear who put it together. No one is raising questions about the bribery that takes place several months before elections, taking the form of various naadams with valuable prizes such as expensive cars.

It is obvious that our political leaders today will do nothing about removing the roots of corruption but will only talk about doing so. That is because these politicians have already become corrupt. Since they cannot completely remove the roots of corruption from inside their political party, they do the cleaning in one room and proudly talk about it during their election campaigns. This way, these politicians pretend to be fighting corruption only to get re-elected.

Those who make the biggest donations become the de-facto leaders of their political party. As a result, Mongolia has political parties bigger than the government, and political party factions more influential than the political party itself. This means that our government is being managed by a small political faction. Companies that make the largest financial contributions appoint their associates to the most senior positions inside the government, they “win” public tenders, and make a tremendous amount of money compared to their initial spending.

PUBLIC SCRUTINY

Political parties that keep their sources of funding a secret and choose not to have audits or publish available reports for the public are the roots of corruption. After obtaining ruling power, these political parties become the lair of corruption at all levels. Such lairs do not produce political leaders but make corrupt officials who become a hindrance to development. That is why a strong, true leader is being sorely missed in the politics of Mongolia.

As the law on political parties is facing revision, we need to grant the Supreme Court more responsibilities, not just registering political parties, but also ensuring legal compliance and enforcing accountability. The Supreme Court should also have the right to disband political parties.

Another thing that needs more attention is the issue around whether the public budget should have political party funding included. Many countries have taken a similar measure of public funding in order to separate government and the business sector. By including political party funding in the public budget, these countries have improved the quality of political action plans, introduced specific operational standards, ensured transparency of capital expenditure, and created fair competition among political parties. For instance, Japan and Korea set limits to campaign financing against the number of voters in a given district. Pre-campaign expenditures even apply to such limits.

Justice will be served when political parties that do not produce their last campaign finance reports, or have them audited, are not allowed to receive funding from the public budget or take part in the next election.

Mongolian political parties have a duty to abstain from corruption and are responsible for keeping the country free of corruption. It is time for the press and civil society to impose scrutiny and ensure that our political parties fulfill their utmost duty.

We need to develop our political parties as institutions, make their operations transparent, have them produce finance reports, and encourage them to mobilize the political will of the public.

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