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Comparative analysis of anti-corruption measures in infrastructure procurement

Learning from global practices



In the pursuit of fostering corruption-free infrastructure development, nations worldwide employ diverse strategies to address challenges within their procurement frameworks. This article examines how Sri Lanka can draw inspiration from both developing and developed countries, such as Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, to enhance anti-corruption measures.


Developing countries' approaches


Countries like Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and India have made significant strides in combating corruption in infrastructure procurement. Notably, they recognize engaging in fraudulent and corrupt practices as valid grounds for blacklisting contractors. The implementation of functional online databases provides transparency, aiding in the identification and avoidance of unscrupulous firms.


India


India has implemented a robust legal framework to combat corruption in infrastructure procurement. Their Prevention of Corruption Act explicitly lists corrupt practices as offenses and blacklisting provisions serve as a deterrent. India's Central Public Procurement Portal ensures transparency by providing real-time information on blacklisted firms. Sri Lanka could benefit by emulating India's clarity in legal provisions and the accessibility of information.


Bangladesh


Bangladesh's experience highlights the effectiveness of a comprehensive approach. The Public Procurement Act of Bangladesh considers corruption as a serious offense, leading to blacklisting. The e-GP (Electronic Government Procurement) system enhances transparency, providing a centralized platform for procurement activities. Sri Lanka can draw inspiration from Bangladesh's holistic strategy, combining legal measures and technological solutions.


Lessons from Developed Nations


On the other end of the spectrum, developed countries like Australia, New Zealand, and Canada showcase robust anti-corruption practices. These nations prioritize preventative measures, emphasizing the importance of clear legal frameworks that explicitly address fraud and corruption as grounds for blacklisting. Moreover, their online databases are not only functional but regularly updated, ensuring real-time access to crucial information.


Australia


Australia's success in combating corruption lies in its stringent legal framework. The Commonwealth Criminal Code includes offenses related to bribery and corruption, serving as a foundation for blacklisting contractors. The Australian Government's AusTender platform maintains an updated list of debarred entities. Sri Lanka could benefit by adopting a similarly clear and comprehensive legal approach.


Canada


Canada's approach involves proactive measures to prevent corruption. The Integrity Regime, administered by Public Services and Procurement Canada, blacklists firms involved in corruption. The regime emphasizes the importance of self-reporting, encouraging companies to disclose unethical practices voluntarily. Sri Lanka could consider incorporating proactive measures, promoting a culture of transparency and accountability.


Key differences and innovations


One notable distinction is the proactive stance of developed nations in preventing corruption. They often implement stringent legislation, leaving no room for ambiguity. Australia, for example, employs a comprehensive legal framework that explicitly includes corruption as a reason for blacklisting, coupled with stringent enforcement measures.


Sri Lanka's progress and challenges


While Sri Lanka has identified critical gaps in its infrastructure procurement, it has made strides in comparison to some other developing nations. Sri Lanka's initiation of the PROMISe online database in 2020 reflects acknowledgment and a step towards transparency. This aligns with the practices in developing nations, where online platforms enhance visibility. However, the effectiveness of this initiative is hindered by the existing legal gap regarding corruption as a reason for blacklisting.


The critical gap identified in Sri Lanka's legal framework, where corruption is not explicitly addressed, poses a significant challenge. Unlike countries such as India and Bangladesh, Sri Lanka's legal provisions lack the clarity needed to combat corruption effectively. Addressing this gap is pivotal for progress. 


To align with global standards, Sri Lanka should consider amending legislation to explicitly include fraud and corruption as valid reasons for blacklisting contractors. Simultaneously, there must be a focus on enforcing these regulations effectively. Regular updates to the online database will enhance transparency and accountability.


Legal amendments: Sri Lanka should consider amending legislation to explicitly include corruption as grounds for blacklisting. Learning from Australia and Canada, where clear legal frameworks are foundational, this step is crucial for a comprehensive anti-corruption strategy.


Enforcement measures: Drawing from the success of countries like India, enforcing the legal provisions effectively is imperative. Strict penalties and efficient oversight mechanisms will deter corrupt practices and ensure compliance with anti-corruption regulations.


Transparency and technology: Emulating Bangladesh's e-GP system, Sri Lanka can enhance transparency through technology. A user-friendly online platform, regularly updated, will facilitate easy access to information and contribute to a more accountable procurement process.


Learning from global successes and failures: Countries facing more significant challenges than Sri Lanka offer valuable lessons. By examining cases where corruption is rampant, Sri Lanka can better appreciate its efforts. Conversely, studying success stories provides a roadmap for improvement.


To combat corruption in infrastructure procurement, Sri Lanka can learn from both developing and developed nations. Clear legal frameworks, proactive measures, and transparent online databases are the common elements of successful anti-corruption strategies. By implementing these practices, Sri Lanka can bridge the identified gaps, fostering sustainable development and safeguarding the nation’s precious public resources.


By Shanika Gamage


The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article reflect the author’s views, and not the wider views of the Alliance for Sustainable Infrastructure.

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