Panama City - summary of day 6

Date : 05/12/2016

The world's largest anti-corruption gathering, 29 November - 4 December 2016, Panama City

Day 6

The last day’s seminar - entitled "Citizen participation and the risks of corruption" - was mainly to give space to two new distinguished TI founders’ new books on Corruption. Frank Vogl introduced his, entitled "Waging War of Corruption", where he outlined the evil effects of corruption - mainly to dispel the myth of victimless corruption. He illustrates this with facts about income inequalities eg the Walmart USA CEO who earned 1100 times the average wage of a Walmart shop-floor employee. Vogl writes about victims worldwide - not just in the DRC but elsewhere in Africa, in Nigeria and Russia and mentions the scourge of sexploitation - a subject rarely mentioned or highlighted.

Another author and co-founder of TI, Laurence Cockcroft, co-authored a book with Anne-Christine Wegener writes - unusually - on corruption in sport and on environmental corruption where natural resources are sold through corrupt developers and creating vast swathes of long-term environmental damage and also about the growth of the lobbying industry in Europe and the United States. In the Panel discussion, the Kenyan member emphasized the damage to non-urban communities through the focus by development agencies on urban problems.

In parallel with the workshops, several films were shown, one on the plight of native groups in Papa New Guinea, where ruthless developers succeeded in ejecting the groups from their habitat and forced them to move to marginal areas with little chance of employment. A recent film on the scourge of the global arms trade and the huge sums involved was also projected.  Some of these films could be shown in Brussels.

Another discussion was about the importance of supranational organizations and NGO’s in the combat of corruption. If they are leading the combat, then who are lagging? One of today’s sessions addressed the role of the traditional gatekeepers in the corporate world: credit rating agencies, accountants and regulatory authorities. It seemed to the speakers that they had lost much of their credibility during the past 10-15 years. Revolving doors, conflict of interests and regulatory capture have taken their toll. Variations on a theme. It all comes back to true independence, critical stance, and self-reflection for these crucial functions. Insiders from the credit rating industry had admitted during hearings that the selling of toxic products had indeed been a corrupt practice. Further, it was reminded that the accountancy sector had not reported the intoxicated bank balances in 2008 nor had it addressed the wide scale offshore practices, as revealed in the Panama Papers. It was also noted that lawyers and accountants help designing, implementing and approving such practices. Finally, examples were given of revolving doors leading to regulatory capture, which is expected to happen again under the Trump-administration.

Several flights per hour connect Europe to Panama, a country with a rainy season of 8 months and a population of 4 million.

Brendan Sinnott and Evert-Jan Lammers, 5 December 2016