Investigating Corruption The Southeast Asian Experience
Traditionally closed areas of public life have been made more open and transparent. What officials own. Corruption in public office. How decisions and policies are made. How much elections cost. Who finances campaigns.
I. Investigating Assets (the fruits of corruption) Comparing asset statements (financial disclosures) with actual assets Showing disparities between what is declared and what is actually owned by examining other public records Exposing how officials hide assets (through dummies) or inflate liabilities (through fake loans)
Investigating Estrada First Lead: How we began We got reports from that fancy mansions were being built for mistresses of the President. There were persistent rumors of big amounts of money being given to the President in exchange for government contracts. There were reports that mistresses of the President were involved in various businesses.
What we Found from Corporate Search : Estrada and his families are listed as board members of 66 corporations but declared less than 10 companies in his statement of assets. The assets of 14 companies alone total more than P600 M (US$12 M). But in 1999, Estrada declared a net worth of P35.8M (US$760,000) and a net income of P2.3M ($46,000).
Land Records Showed… 17 Properties worth over P2 billion ($40M)
Paper Trail for Investigating Assets Statements/Declarations of Assets Property Records - Land - Companies - Vehicles Licenses and permits (for businesses, etc.) Listings, records of trade and professional organizations Biographies, news articles, family histories
Paper Trail for Investigating Assets Houses Vehicles (cars, yachts, planes) Jewelry, Clothes Hobbies, recreation Social affiliations Bars, restaurants and shops frequented Foreign travel Schools of children Cars in Congress
II. Investigating Petty Corruption Interviews with victims or eyewitnesses Undercover or surveillance-type investigations Simple observation Participant-observation
III. Investigating the consequences of corruption
Corruption in Philippine education Payoffs eat up 20 to 65% of textbook funds. Because of corruption, textbook:pupil ratio is only 1:6 in grade school and 1:8 in high school. The public school system lacks 70 million textbooks. Under-deliveries range from 30 to 60% of the total contract. 3.5 million of 15 million schoolchildren do not have a desk or chair.
Validating corruption in the field… Unfinished Bridge in Abra
Estimating the costs of corruption Sterilizer bought for $29,000 Actual price: $250. $175- garbage can Pencils at $2 each
IV. Investigating Conflicts of Interest Business Interests of Congressmen Sector9 th House (%) 11 th House (%) 12 th House (%) Agricultural Land 58 42 39 Agricultural Enterprises3229 Fisheries15118 Banking91513 Financial Services211413 Media, Publishing & Telecommunications111415 Construction11138 Food Manufacturing91110 Nonfood Manufacturing181714
Databases on line Assets of officials http://www.i-site.ph Political families Political Clans Cost of legislation Fewer laws, bigger budget
What types of stories succeed? Well documented evidence of scandalous, individual wrongdoing in high places – especially lifestyles Sustained reporting on an issue of wide public interest – e.g. education When public is outraged When there are reform-oriented politicians or factions pushing for change Timely release
What types of stories are more difficult? Systemic, instead of individual, wrongdoing Complex stories that are hard to explain or to document Stories that have no fixed constituencies Stories that involve conflict of interest and other forms of unethical, but not necessarily illegal, behavior where the wrongdoing is not immediately obvious
Despite more openness, money politics and corruption continue. The press is generally more successful in toppling old regimes than in positively shaping new ones.
Of 100 Filipino journalists surveyed... 71 had been offered money by their sources 33 said they took the money: 22 kept it while 11 turned it over to their editors
In Indonesia… In 2001, 64 state-owned companies and government departments set aside $173 million for pembinaan wartawan or cultivating journalists. Alliance of Independent Journalists 2001 survey: 70 percent of journalists in East Java and 97 percent in Jakarta admitting to taking envelops of cash.
What needs to be done Upgrade research & reporting skills Provide editorial support & direction Address issues of ethics and journalists pay Ensure access to information Protect sources Protect journalists