Background studies

Officials' asset declaration laws: Do they prevent corruption? Gokcekus, O., and Mukherjee, R., 2006 in Hodess (ed.) Global Corruption Report 2006.  

Despite the somewhat outdated dataset, this article remains useful as it is one of the few pieces of systematic evaluation on the efficacy of disclosure regimes. Examining 42 countries, it finds compelling evidence that there is a strong positive correlation between requiring public officials to declare interests and assets and lower corruption levels. Corruption was found to be lower in: (1) countries whose declaration laws permitted the anti-corruption body to prosecute the offending official, (2) countries which verified the content of officials' asset declarations and (3) countries which made declarations publically available. Moreover, the combination of content verification and public access to the declarations was found to have a still greater association with lower levels of corruption.  

Income and asset declarations: tools and trade-offs. Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative, 2009.  

This document provides practitioners with the key principles to follow, the trade-offs to consider, and tools used in the design and implementation of effective income and asset declaration systems. In particular, the report considers how practitioners should design disclosure systems which balance attempts to tackle core corruption concerns with institutional capacity, looking at types of disclosures, verification and storage, and compliance. While the primary focus is on the creation of effective disclosure systems for public officials, the report also considers the role disclosure plays in detecting and preventing asset theft, and assisting efforts to recover the proceeds of corruption.  

The report is based on an analysis of national legislative frameworks and a series of cases studies examining how disclosure systems are put into practice. Annex 1 provides a useful, if somewhat outdated literature review for those new to the topic. Annex 2 presents the methodology of the World Bank's Public Accountability Mechanisms (PAM) initiative which has developed a set of in-law and in-practice indicators to monitor the transparency of governments and the accountability of public officials in five areas: asset disclosure, conflict of interest, freedom of information, immunity protections and ethics training.  

Income and assets declarations: Issues to consider in developing a disclosure regime. Messick, R., 2009.  

This is a useful background brief on the pros and cons of asset declaration systems, and provides advice to development agencies drafting asset declaration mechanisms in developing countries. Drawing on the World Bank's experience of providing technical assistance to countries developing disclosure regimes, the paper describes the issues policy makers should consider when deciding to adopt a financial disclosure law and what provisions it should contain. The report cautions against being overly ambitious when deciding on the scope of asset disclosure regimes, arguing that disclosure systems should be targeted at the most senior officials. It also strongly advocates making misreporting a criminal offence in its own right. Overall, the brief finds that disclosure regimes are useful for combating corruption, but that they must be tailored to individual countries.  

Sunshine in the state house: Financial disclosure requirements for public officials. Lavin, A., and Rush, L., 2009. in Selkin, P.E., (ed.) Ethical Standards in the Public Sector, 2nd edition, chapter 4  

This is an informative survey of financial disclosure regulations in the United States. It begins with a discussion of the constitutional issues relating to financial disclosure before moving on to explore current financial disclosure requirements. The appendix provides an exhaustive survey of US state-level financial disclosure laws prepared by the Center for Public Integrity. It finds, for instance, that 35 states do not require legislators to report the value of outside income or investments, and 33 states do not require income disclosure by governors.

See also: US Office of Government Ethics (2009) Report: Elements of a Successful Financial Disclosure Program, Washington D.C.  

Income and asset disclosure systems: Establishing good governance through accountability. Burdescu, R., et al., 2010. World Bank, Economic Premise No. 17, June 2010  

This paper examines the role of asset declaration systems within the wider context of good governance measures. Attempting to ascertain best practice on implementation and design, the authors find that key considerations are limiting the number of filers to improve the odds of success, setting modest and achievable expectations, providing resources commensurate with the mandate, prioritising verification procedures to align with available resources, and balancing privacy concerns with public access to declarations. There is also a useful stocktaking exercise analysing how different countries legislate or ignore the finer details of disclosure systems, such as verification, where declarations are stored and accessible, and for how long records are maintained.  

Public office, private interests: Accountability through income and asset disclosure. Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative, 2012. Office Private Interests.pdf  

This valuable report builds on the previous study, Income and Asset Declarations: Tools and Trade-Offs, to examine income and asset disclosure requirements for the executive and legislative branches of government. It is intended (together with its companion, Income and Asset Disclosure: Case Study Illustrations) to be a guide for practitioners and policy makers and for others with an interest in anti-corruption tools and procedures. While the report demonstrates the virtue of disclosure systems as deterrents to corruption, it finds that international standardisation of asset declaration system design is undesirable as local context is crucial. Examining different types of disclosure systems, the report therefore sets out to identify the broader rationale, objectives, core features, and mechanisms that can contribute to their effectiveness and enhance their impact in different contexts. It finds several key challenges are resource and capacity constraints, political resistance to implementation, a lack of public awareness, and limited civil society capacity. Ultimately, it calls for renewed commitment to asset declaration regimes and their proper enforcement. The findings are based on case studies, desk research and analysis of data gathered under the World Bank's Public Accountability Mechanisms initiative to examine the legal frameworks of disclosure in 88 countries.  

Income and asset disclosure: Case study illustrations. Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative, 2013.  

Public Office, Private Interests presents eleven national case studies of disclosure systems from across the world: >span class="moreabs">Argentina, Croatia, Guatemala, Hong Kong, China, Indonesia, Jordan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Rwanda, Slovenia and the United States. This volume summarises the key findings of Public Office, Private Interests and then describes the experiences of implementing disclosure regimes in each individual context and the approaches taken to address specific challenges in each jurisdiction. Each case study outlines the legal framework for the disclosure regime, the mandate and structure of the responsible agency, and the resources and procedures of the asset declaration system. The characteristics of each system are highlighted along with other findings that illuminate the challenges faced in implementing the system, the steps taken and the progress achieved by the relevant agency in fulfilling its mandate. The hope is that these experiences provide valuable insights to assist policy makers and practitioners devising their own disclosure regime.   

Open Government Partnership webinar series: Asset disclosure. Global Integrity, 2013.  

This 90 minute webinar hosted by the World Bank Institute and OGP provides a comprehensive overview of the fundamentals of asset disclosure systems. It presents findings that the World Bank Financial Integrity Unit compiled and analysed from 176 countries, and uses this experience to present global and regional trends on the implementation and reform of asset declaration systems. It also features an in-depth case study from Georgia and seeks to understand how the lessons learned there can be applied elsewhere.  

Asset declarations: An effective tool to fight corruption? Transparency International working paper, 2014.  

This recent working paper from Transparency International provides a brief but comprehensive introduction to the issue of asset declaration. It first considers who should be covered by disclosure regimes and what should be declared. The paper then considers the key features and challenges of asset declaration and asks whether it can be a door to forfeiture. It concludes with an examination of Georgia as a good practice example and a list of recommendations.

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