Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Independent body better to fight corruption

By Du Zhizhou (China Daily) Updated: 2013-11-07 07:25

Being subject to local government leaders, the members of anti-graft agencies also depend on local leaders for their promotion and welfare, making themselves vulnerable to the intervention of higher power. In cases where local government leaders are involved in corruption, local anti-graft staff often fail in their duties because they are not able to resist such intervention.

Hence it is imperative that anti-graft agencies are given more independence from local government leaders. If anti-graft staff no longer receive orders from those they are supposed to supervise, their performance will definitely improve.

Lack of power is another headache for local anti-graft personnel. China's anti-graft system consists of multiple agencies and departments: the discipline commission of the Party, the prosecutors' office, and the economic police. Besides these, there are also corruption prevention bureaus in the various levels of government, while some special government branches like the auditing office and customs also have their own anti-graft departments.

Each of these agencies has powers to fight corruption, yet for all of them their power is incomplete and their powers do complement one another; worse, their duties and powers contradict each other.

The various agencies should be integrated into one big anti-corruption agency that can conduct investigations and prosecutions independently. The powers and responsibilities of the various existing agencies could be gradually incorporated into the new one.

A good example of an independent agency and its powers is the Independent Commission Against Corruption in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Founded in 1974, the commission is headed by a commissioner who is directly responsible to the Chief Executive of the HKSAR government, thus ensuring its independence from all other powerful departments; it is also granted full power to investigate corruption cases without the help from other branches.

With full power in hand, the ICAC employs a three-pronged approach to fight corruption: law enforcement, prevention and community education. The result is quite satisfying, as Hong Kong is now widely considered one of the cleanest governance places in the world.

Thus reform of the mainland's anti-graft system should prioritize the creation of an independent fully authorized agency free from the interventions of power and the headaches of insufficient power, this would be a big step toward winning the fight against corruption.

The author is deputy director of the Clean Governance Institute, Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

(China Daily 11/07/2013 page8)

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