Improving Justice Systems and Building Anti-Corruption Capacities in Uzbekistan
2 December 2020
Anticorruption Agency, Academy of the Prosecutor General’s Office
of the Republic of Uzbekistan
The seminar was attended by 152 participants from different professions.
Moderated by Umida Tukhtasheva, the Deputy Director of AC Agency, it was opened with the welcoming remarks of
Senator Nariman Umarov (Head of Anticorruption Committee in the Senate),
Akmal Burhanov (Director of ACA),
Mjusa Sever (Director of RD),
and the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Jorgan K. Andrews.
Mr. Andrews: “I would like to start by congratulating Uzbekistan on its progress in the fight against corruption and congratulate you on the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Agency.
The United States has been an important supporter of and partner to Uzbekistan for many years, including through our funding for Regional Dialogue and its work to support the government in deepening the rule of law and fighting corruption. Uzbekistan could find no better partner in this task than Regional Dialogue, which brings a wealth of real-world expertise in designing anti-corruption policies, legislation, and government structures.
A key focus of our foreign policy is to support governments and civil society in building transparent and accountable public institutions, which are the cornerstone of a strong, stable, and fair society. This mission is based on the understanding that combatting corruption is in the interest of our both countries and the international community – it promotes regional stability, makes it easier for our governments to cooperate, and increases Uzbekistan’s attractiveness for U.S. businesses looking to invest.
Today’s event is an opportunity for Uzbekistan’s leadership and its people to mark their commitment to building a society free of corruption, one that has the potential to become a model for the region. But even more importantly, such a society can bring hope and trust to its own citizens, especially the poorest and most vulnerable who are typically most affected by corruption.
President Mirziyoyev often speaks about his desire for Uzbekistan to undergo another renaissance, similar to what occurred centuries ago when this area of the world was home to leading innovators in science, mathematics, and medicine, and served as the center of regional trade connecting the East and West. The President has wisely put addressing corruption at the center of these efforts.
We are all aware corruption is a cancer in our society that undermines basic democratic values, stifles the economy, weakens the government, and threatens the well-being of our citizens. In its most basic aspect, corruption teaches citizens they should not believe the lofty words of public officials nor rely on government services to help them in times of need. It undermines the trust of citizens that justice will prevail, regardless of an individual’s wealth or power. Corruption is often facilitating organized crime, which can lead to conflicts that endanger regional stability.“ (quotes from his keynote address)
Session 1: Integrity plans and ethical standards, moderated by Goran Klemenčič (RD)
UK AC expert, Quentin Reed, briefly covered both topics. He started with defining the concept of integrity of public officials and public administration, accentuating the importance of the governance aspect when implementing any integrity-related measures or plans. He warned against the risk of focusing too narrowly on corruption and suggested viewing corruption as one of the problems on the way to integrity while addressing the context and conditions that are in place that may enhance or obstacle integrity. The importance here must be given not to the processes (rules) that prevent public officials from behaving corruptly, but to the processes that would enable officials or administrations to make decisions objectively, impartially, and in a transparent manner. Hence, the ethical standards of an organization should contain general principles of honest and impartial behavior and more detailed rules for specific situations. Such standards should be guiding the management and employees on how to behave. Therefore, integrity plans need to include essential measures or policies to prevent breaches of integrity in an organization in a wider sense. Integrity risk assessment is a fundamental tool to determine issues that need to be addressed before designing appropriate solutions.
Elizabeth Horton (US Office of Government Ethics) described norms and practices that are used by the US Office of Government Ethics to regulate conflict of interest, bribery, and ethical conduct of employees of the executive branch. She elaborated on the 14 general principles of ethical conduct, supplemented by the Code of Federal Regulations on gifts from outside sources, gifts among employees, conflicting financial interests, impartiality, misuse of position, outside activities, and seeking other employment that help to guide employees of the executive branch in ethical decision-making. Horton further expanded on civil and criminal sanctions that are applicable in different situations of conflict of interest.
UNDP’s Nodira Zikrillayeva shared the outcomes of the project on “Preventing corruption through effective, accountable, and transparent governance institutions in Uzbekistan” that has been implemented in 7 government entities in 2019-2020. Zikrillayeva finished her extensive presentation by outlining major concepts to promote the integrity of public officials, as recommended by the newly published OECD Public Integrity Handbook (2020).
Session 2: The issues of financial disclosure and asset declaration, moderated by Uyghun Nigmadjanov (Deputy Director of PGO Academy)
Dmitro Kotlyar, who collaborated with RD and World Bank in drafting the law on the declaration of assets of public officials in Uzbekistan, shared the latest trends that are observable in more than 160 countries that have implemented a financial disclosure system up to date: – A multi-functional approach (the declarations cover both assets and interests of a public official); – Declarations cover the whole career cycle of a public official; – Declarations are submitted and processed through an electronic platform; – Most parts of the declarations are openly available online (this helps increasing public accountability and transparency of public administrations, enhancing public trust, and reducing cases of illicit enrichment);
-Declarations are regulated by special software to identify which personal data of a public official should be protected from common access and which information can be publicly disclosed; -Monitoring, processing, and verification of declarations is based on risk assessment; -Declarations have a user-friendly design to simplify the submission and avoid errors and mistakes in filling-in; -Declarations require submitting information about virtual assets, cryptocurrencies and participation in shell companies for a public official and members of her family. However, the problem remains that in 65% of countries implementing an asset declaration system there are still no requirements to disclose financial information about family members.
Cathie Jackson (Financial Disclosure Resources, USA) outlined the practices of financial disclosure among judges, specifying reportable categories (source, nature, the dollar amount of income), and which of them are also applicable to spouses. She further elaborated on the two parts of such declarations: a non-asset based part, where different sources of income, representation, or hospitality expenses are indicated together with liabilities (including mortgages, car loans, and other personal loans), and an asset-based part, where the benefits received exceeding a pre-determined threshold need to be disclosed (e.g., dividend on stocks, financial transactions). Jackson briefly touched upon the gift policies for judges and underlined that the practices of financial disclosure employ measures of personal data protection prior to public release to prevent possible physical security risks to judges and members of their families.
The session concluded with the presentation of the ACA’s Otabek Ruziyev, who shared the latest legislative and legal developments in the area of asset declaration in Uzbekistan, how the mechanism of the declaration of assets will operate in Uzbekistan, what types of declarations will be used, and which corruption prevention effects the asset declaration system will have in Uzbekistan. In the end, Ruziyev talked about the ACA’s joint project with Yuksalish on “Anti-corruption laboratory”, where he described the research methodology that will be used to perform the assessment of corruption risks and produce relevant recommendations.
Session 3: Conflict of interest and limitations of gifts, moderated by James Eaglin (RD)
A third part of the international seminar included presentations by two international experts and the Chief Inspector of the Public Service Development Agency in the Presidential Administration of Uzbekistan. Both international experts addressed international integrity standards for public servants regarding an actual and potential conflict of interests and limitations on the acceptance of gifts.
UK’s Quentin Reed shared the experiences of European countries with a unified formulation of standards for good conduct that emphasizes conflicts of interests in a context that extends well beyond anti-corruption. Regarding acceptance of gifts by public servants, he pointed to the importance of clear thresholds regarding the value of gifts, individually and cumulatively, in establishing regulations for gift acceptance by public servants.
The second international expert, U.S. Appellate Judge Ralph Erickson, focused on ethical standards for federal judges and other civil servants in the U.S. He emphasized the importance of the public’s perception of judges and public servants’ needing to conduct their duties with the highest integrity and avoiding even the appearance of a conflict of interest. Judge Erickson, who currently chairs the U.S. Judicial Conference Committee on the Codes of Conduct for Federal Judges. He mentioned a number of specific rules and codes of conduct that govern conflicts of interest and gift acceptance by U.S. federal judges and specified that all gifts should be reported to avoid even the appearance of partiality and bias in a judge’s work. There are clear rules that indicate what gifts, gratuities and favors a judge can accept.
Chief Inspector Golibjon Abduazizov presented a brief overview of the draft law covering conflict of interest and gift regulation, noting the importance of the proposed legislation to address and talked about specifics of regulating gifts giving, especially in civil service, the problems of which are compounded by the lack of trust in the government agencies, mentality, and local culture.
At the end of the session, Sherzod Saparov (Deputy Chairman of Yuksalish) made a presentation of an “Anti-corruption laboratory” project that the movement is undertaking together with ACA and with Regional Dialogue’s support.
The concluding discussion, moderated by Nodirjon Juraev (RD) addressed questions about gift thresholds, how to determine them, and how to avoid formalism and “window dressing” when implementing gifts and conflict of interest regulations in Uzbekistan.
The Anti-Corruption Agency of the Republic of Uzbekistan
Akmal Burhanov (Director of the Anti-Corruption Agency of the Republic of Uzbekistan) and Umida Tukhtasheva (Deputy Director of the Anti-Corruption Agency of the Republic of Uzbekistan)
Nariman Umarov (Senate of Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan)
Mjuša Sever (Director of Regional Dialogue)
Jorgan K. Andrews (Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs – USA)
Goran Klemenčič (Regional Dialogue)
Quentin Reed (Anti-Corruption Expert – UK and Czech Republic)
Nodira Zikrillaeva (UNDP Expert)
Uyghun Nigmadjanov (PGO Academy)
Dmitro Kotliar (World Bank Expert)
Cathie Jackson (Financial Disclosure Resources, LLC Director of Legal Services – USA)
James Eaglin (Regional Dialogue)
Hon. Ralph Erickson (Judge of the U.S. 8th Cir. Court of Appeals – USA)
Nodirjon Juraev (Regional Dialogue)