Political corruption, in which political actors are captured by large-scale private sector interests and/or are not allowed to compete on a level playing field due to abuse of state resources, is often the result of inadequate regulation of money in politics. Political finance (i.e., both campaign finance and political party finance) controls can increase accountability of political contestants and elected officials. Features of effective political finance systems often include: 1) disclosure, 2) public funding and subsidies, as well as guaranteed media time, 3) contribution and expenditure prohibitions, 4) contribution and expenditure limits, 5) campaign time limits, and 6) oversight, compliance, and enforcement. Comprehensive, detailed, regular, and timely disclosure is the foundation upon which a transparent and accountable political finance system is built. To identify the effectiveness of these features, it is critical to understand the existing legal and regulatory framework, a country’s readiness for reform, and the capacities of state and non-state actors.
Political finance systems are built over time. Reforms require political will and an enabling environment such as a political finance scandal which is often a driver for reform. Reforms are also best taken in the period between elections and not immediately before an election. In order to identify and report on such scandals, investigative journalists need to understand the role of money in politics. It is also important for reformers to identify and seize these windows of opportunity to facilitate collaborative, trust-based relationships and build consensus among key stakeholders – legislative champions, political finance regulators (PFRs), political actors, civil society groups, media, academics, and, ultimately, the public.
Once the purpose of the political finance system is identified and defined, it is important to work with legislative champions and regulatory bodies to review and support legal, regulatory, and procedural reforms. Such reforms are often grounded in developing an affective disclosure regime. Disclosure, particularly if public, generates greater accountability to the voters by encouraging more informed decision-making and political debate. Further, it encourages compliance with applicable laws and regulations by providing regulators with the political financial account information to enforce the laws that define the features of the system and better apply public funding mechanisms.
It is also critical to support independent institutions for effective oversight, monitoring, and enforcement by working with PFRs such as election commissions, audit agencies, and other similar bodies tasked with implementation and enforcement of political finance laws and regulations. In so doing, their capacities can be built through training, mentoring, and technical assistance to support their operational and financial independence.
To ensure appropriate, timely, and fair enforcement, political party agents need to comply with the laws and regulations, and prosecutors and judges need to understand the political finance regulatory systems. Doing so allows the latter to effectively work with PFRs, particularly auditors, to identify and address transgressions through prosecution or other remedies (e.g., fines, arbitration). Further, non-state actors in civil society and the media can use disclosure and other means (e.g., expenditure counting, tracking abuse of state resources) to monitor political finance, hold political actors to account, and educate the public
Reform requires a feedback loop that starts with an enabling environment (i.e., window of opportunity) which recognizes the political finance priority and encourages key stakeholder to assess and analyze the current state of the political finance system, and ends with an evaluation of the political finance system once the dust settles from an election. Working with a coalition of political finance stakeholders can bring about greater transparency and accountability among electoral contestants and politicians tasked with reflecting the will of the people.
Through technical assistance, training, and mentoring, UNISHKA supports coalitions of political finance stakeholders to ensure greater transparency and accountability during each step of the Reform Cycle. To do this, we:
UNISHKA conducts assessments that analyze the legal and regulatory framework, readiness for reform, and institutional capacities, while mapping out political actors and civil society.
UNISHKA trains journalists on the role of money in politics and in how to identify and report on political finance scandals in an accurate and impartial manner.
UNISHKA identifies and seizes windows of opportunity to facilitate collaborative, trust-based relationships and build consensus among key stakeholders – legislative champions, political finance regulators (PFRs), political actors, civil society groups, media, academics, and, ultimately, the public.
UNISHKA conducts workshops to define the purpose and direction of political finance reforms by examining comparative practices from other countries facing similar challenges.
UNISHKA reviews and supports reforms by providing comparative practice, model laws, and technical advice to legal reformers and regulatory bodies.
UNISHKA introduces disclosure, review, and audit mechanisms through technical assistance and digital solutions.
UNISHKA provides this guidance in the introduction or enhancement of direct and/or indirect public subsidies for political parties and candidates.
UNISHKA collaborates with local partners to conduct monitoring of routine political party and campaign finance account information.
UNISHKA promotes oversight, monitoring, and appropritate, timely, and fair enforcement among PFRs and the judiciary by training and mentoring political party agents in compliance, and prosecutors and judges to better understand the political finance regulatory systems.
USAID – Iraq
Working directly with the Office of the Inspector General at the Ministry of Health, UNISHKA developed a process for managing corruption complaints; mapped the distribution of medicines and medical supplies while providing contextualized recommendations; and increased transparency in the procurement processing.
ISAF/RS – Afghanistan
Working with the High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption (HOOAC), UNISHKA documented extensive corruption at the Dawood National Military Hospital in Kabul, primarily in procurement and acquisitions. This documentation formed the basis of a criminal investigation by the Office of the Attorney General and prompted an overhaul of their procurement processes.
OECD – Ukraine
UNISHKA’s Team Lead for Corruption & Healthcare, Drago Kos, currently serves as a member of the Selection Committee for identifying a new Head of the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecution Office (SAPO) in Kiev. He is also a former member of the International Anti-Corruption Advisory Board (IACAB) in Ukraine (2017-2019), and the former Co-Chair of the Ukraine Defence Corruption Monitoring Committee (NAKO) (2016-2019). In each one of these positions, Drago has also been involved in the Ukrainian healthcare sector addressing the nexus between corruption and healthcare. In his position in the IACAB he advised the Parliament of Ukraine (Verkhovna Rada) on drafting of drafting specific healthcare legislation. Additionally, in his position as Co-Chair of the NAKO, Drago forced the adoption of a report on the procurement and distribution of medical equipment and pharmaceuticals, directly initiating stronger internal controls for purchasing and tracking medical equipment and drugs.