Those of us involved in corruption investigations and asset recovery know how important it is to gain fresh perspectives, contribute to international policy discussions, learn from others in the field and hopefully help them, too. In this spirit I am happy to share my experience from attending the 7th Session of the Conference of the States Parties (COSP) in Vienna in November 2017.Held every two years, the five-day Conference is the main policy-making body of the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC). I was invited to attend this important event in my role as Director General of the Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) of Malawi.
During panel discussions organised by the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (STAR) and the International Centre for Asset Recovery (ICAR), I presented Malawi’s success – and challenges – in recent asset recovery activities. Discussions with fellow panellists and the audience were lively. How do you stop recovered assets being plundered again? What do pre- and post-confiscation plans look like? What is the role of civil society in asset recovery?
There was also a lot of buzz about a new online tool, the Guidelines for the Efficient Recovery of Stolen Assets, which was initiated by the Swiss Government and already received much attention during the 5th and 6th Sessions of the COSP. In providing practical guidance throughout the asset recovery process, it will be extremely valuable to the FIA and our equivalents worldwide.
A presentation on the G20 High Level Principles on Organizing Against Corruption offered practical insights into how to make anti-corruption a reality in the public sector. It is clear that we need to implement these principles in Malawi, covering everything from administrative processes to recruitment, training and transparency.
I was provided with yet another perspective during a session led by Alliance Integrity and Transparency International on promoting integrity in state-owned enterprises. The recently released 10 Anti-Corruption Principles for State-Owned Enterprises includes many of the principles we discussed during that session.
Partnerships & support
My participation in the 2017 COSP is thanks to support from the Basel Institute, through ICAR and within a programme of work funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID). ICAR’s experts have helped us greatly during the last three years, providing technical assistance and guidance on the ground.
At a working partnership lunch organised by ICAR, I had the chance to exchange experiences with other countries both supporting and benefiting from ICAR’s technical assistance. It was interesting that we all encounter similar challenges: building relationships with local and foreign counterparts, managing public expectations and dealing with lengthy timeframes for investigation, prosecution and recovery of stolen assets.
The challenges of financial investigation and asset recovery are too great for any one organisation or country to bear alone. Through networking, shaping policy and learning from one another at the COSP, we return to our countries with fresh perspectives and a renewed sense of belonging to a robust, international network of support.