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Reporting to an Anti-Corruption Agency

Anti-Corruption Agencies (ACA) are independent bodies that aim to prevent corruption and to receive information about corrupt activities. There are two main types of ACAs:

  • Preventative ACAs that have an advisory role concerning anti-corruption policies and laws; and
  • Investigative ACAs that can receive complaints and reports into corruption in the State, and work on and sometimes prosecute concrete cases of corruption.

Investigative ACAs are usually independent of the police and prosecution service but have many of the same powers. They can sometimes be called national anti-corruption watchdogs.

Example: The Public Protector (South Africa)

The Public Protector is an independent body in South Africa that has the power to investigate and take action relating to improper conduct from public officials and bodies. The institution can help with complaints into the following issues:

Abuse of power;

Unfair, discourteous or other improper conduct;

Undue delay;

Decision taken by the authorities;

Maladministration;

Dishonesty or improper dealing with respect to public money;

Improper enrichment; and

Receipt of improper advantage.

Check if your country has a similar body that could help you with your corruption complaint. This can be a valuable way to get advice, start an investigation, and get assistance with corruption complaints generally.

Key Resource: Global Mapping of Anti-Corruption Authorities

This analysis report provides data of the existence of Anti-Corruption Authorities in  114 countries and territories. You can find which authorities are endowed with investigative and/or prosecution powers to combat corruption.

1

Is Reporting to an Anti-Corruption Agency Right for Me?

ADVANTAGESDISADVANTAGES
Anonymity. In some countries, complaints can be made without having to reveal your identity. Time. ACA receive a large number of complaints, thus, it can take time for your case to be reviewed.
Low cost. It’s free to make a complaint and the ACA will be responsible for taking further action.Lack of funding. In some countries, ACAs don’t have the necessary funds to effectively respond to all credible reports of corruption.
Expertise. ACAs are specialised in corruption investigations. They are often the most effective body to take action against corruption.Insufficient investigative powers. In some countries, ACAs don’t have broad enough investigative powers and have to rely on other authorities for obtaining evidence.
Powers. Reports can lead to investigations, criminal prosecutions, or a range of other penalties.Authority to bring charges is missing. It is more an exception than the rule that an ACA can press charges in court and in case a corrupt prosecution service has monopoly over indictments it can prevent a criminal prosecution regardless the quality of the evidence the ACA gathered.
Independence. ACAs are independent from police and prosecutors. If general law enforcement is tainted by corruptions, ACAs can still be effective.

ACAs can be especially important where the police may be involved in corruption and it could be dangerous to report a corrupt act to local police authorities.

Before reporting a corrupt act to an anti-corruption agency, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is there an anti-corruption agency with powers to investigate and take action against corruption in your country or another appropriate country?
  • Do you want the individual wrongdoer to receive a criminal sanction or an administrative punishment? 
  • Is the anti-corruption agency trustworthy and independent?

If the answer to these questions is yes, reporting to an anti-corruption agency may be appropriate for you.

2

How Do I Make a Report?

The reporting procedure will depend on the specific anti-corruption agency, but it is often possible to make a report by:

  • Calling the anti-corruption agency on their reporting hotline or public number;
  • Submitting a complaint in writing at their offices;
  • Submitting a complaint online; or
  • Making a complaint in a drop-in clinic of an ACA.

Example: Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Practices Commission (Nigeria)

In Nigeria, the ICPC is an independent body that can start investigations and bring criminal prosecutions against persons and organisations suspected of corrupt practices.

They have a section on their website where you can:

  • Provide them with a “tip” on a corrupt action you believe has happened; or
  • Submit a petition to get the ICPC to start an investigation into a corrupt activity.

Example: The Public Protector (South Africa)

Anyone can make a complaint to the PP in South Africa by:

  • Writing to the PP or getting someone to write on your behalf;
  • Phoning the PP’s office where staff will listen to your complaint;
  • Visiting their regional offices for an interview or consultation.
  • They even have a drop-in clinic where people can go directly to make inquiries, seek advice or make complaints.

You must make your complaint within 2 years of the incident and the PP advises people to include the following in their complaint:

  • The nature of your complaint;
  • Background and history of the complaint; 
  • The reasons why you think the PP should investigate the issue;
  • The steps you have taken to solve the problem; and
  • Your address/phone number.

For information on what you should include in a complaint, see How Can I Report Corruption?

3

What Can an Anti-Corruption Agency do if They Accept My Report?

In general, an anti-corruption agency could do any of the following if they accept your report:

  • Start an investigation or inquiry into the complaint or corruption generally in the company, public body or organisation and individuals; 
  • Issue a sanction such as a fine on the company, public body or organisation, or the individuals involved;
  • Refer the issue to the police or prosecutors to start a criminal investigation if it has not been initiated;
  • Press charges in Court  against the individual wrongdoer, company or organisation; or
  • Sometimes anti-corruption agencies can start administrative/public law cases against individual wrongdoers or public bodies.

Example: The Anti-Corruption Agency in Kosovo

Another example is the Anti-corruption Agency in Kosovo, created in 2006, this Agency processes individuals complaints on potential corruption cases.

Once it hears complaints, it has an obligation to notify other authorities about the existence of an alleged act of corruption, such as the police and prosecution if it finds grounds for further investigation. This can lead to the beginning of a criminal investigation.

A key feature of this anti-corrupt agency is it can investigate complaints into private actors, such as businesses, companies and other organisations

Some Anti-Corruption bodies have had results that have reached the highest levels of government.

Example: Public Protector’s Report on Nkandla, South Africa 

“Secure in Comfort” was the name of South Africa’s Public Protector’s office report on President Jacob Zuma’s improvements on his private residence with taxpayers’ money. This report was a direct result of seven complaints received at the Public Protector’s office in 2011 and 2012.

What happened:

  • The improvements to President Zuma’s private home were planned for security reasons with an initial R 65 million (around £3 million) but by the time  the report was published, R 215 million had already been spent (around £10 million).
  • The first complaints were submitted after the Mail and Guardian newspaper published a story related to the improvements of President Zuma’s private residence at an enormous expense for the State.
  • After the report, South Africa’s highest court ruled that President Zuma had to repay the government funds used to improve his private home to the State.

This case highlights the importance of having a truly independent body in charge of investigating corruption allegations by the general public.

4

Can I Make a Report to an Anti-Corruption Agency in another Country?

In many Anti-Corruption Agencies it is stated that anyone can make a complaint. Also, most agencies have an option to report or lodge a complaint anonymously. This means that it will often be possible to make complaints to anti-corruption agencies in other countries. 

  • For example, New South Wales’ Independent Commission Against Corruption, Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption and South Africa’s Public Protector state that anyone can report corruption, although some have different channels that could complicate submitting a report from another country.

There are certain laws such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in the United States or the United Kingdom Bribery Act that allow you to report a corrupt act, regardless of where you come from. 

To report corruption to an anti-corruption agency in another country, there will generally have to be a link to that country. There could be a link where:

  • The corrupt act (or part of the corruption) took place in that country;
  • A company or individual involved in the corruption is from that country; or
  • The money related to the corruption is being held in a bank account in that country or was transferred through the financial system of that country;
  • Real estate, luxury items, art objects, company shares or anything else of value purchased by corrupt funds are held in the country.

For example, if you are a Kenyan national and know about a British company that  has been engaging in corrupt activities in Kenya, you may report this directly to the UK anti-corruption authorities (the Serious Fraud Office).

Example: KBR Nigeria

In 2009, a US engineering company named KBR pleaded guilty in a US court to charges arising out of the payment of $180m in bribes to Nigerian officials over the course of ten years, in order to win contracts to build and expand a liquefied natural gas terminal.  KBR and its parent company agreed to pay sanctions amounting to $579m. The bribes (some of which were handed over in a briefcase filled with $100 bills) were paid to officials in Nigeria’s government and the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corp.

If the anti-corruption agency or rule of law in your country is weak, the best option may be to report the corruption to an anti-corruption agency in another country. Also, anti-corruption agencies in different countries may be able to work together when they are investigating corruption that has links to different countries.

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