Approximately 5 percent of the world’s annual GDP is lost to corruption. This figure is estimated to be 10 times the amount of official development assistance in developing countries.
In Europe and Central Asia, 1 in 3 citizens rate corruption as one of their country’s main problems.
That’s why we spoke to a mayor who is pioneering anti-corruption initiatives in her municipality — Valentina Casian (Straseni, Moldova).
You can see our interview below. The answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.
Can you tell us very generally about the work you do at the municipality? How long have you been serving as the mayor?
I am the first woman mayor in the history of Straseni, Moldova. I have been a mayor for two consecutive mandates here, since 2011. My work is focused heavily on promoting measures of integrity to break the chain of corruption at the local level, making the most of emigrants’ resources for local development, improving the quality of our local services and strengthening the capacity of our institutions.
All of you have done pioneering work to tackle corruption in your cities. Can you tell us what kind of measures you have taken, which have worked?
We have worked very hard to improve transparency in Straseni. For example, through our City Hall webpage, we have made public our annual procurement plans, procurement notices, tenders and award notices. In terms of accountability, we publish reports on low-value public procurement contracts and summary of all public procurement contracts on line. Additionally, with UNDP support, we now have live conferencing system in the municipality City Hall premises which enables citizens to access online public hearings.
As a result of your efforts towards tackling corruption, have you seen an impact on how citizens engage with your services?
We can see very clearly that the level of citizens’ trust in the mayor and civil servants has gone up. In the 2015 local elections, the Mayor was elected in the first round, gaining 74 percent of votes. We owe that to the work we have done on transparency. For example, our citizens are able to report any unauthorized/illegal constructions and unlawful trade.
What are some changes you’re proud of in your city?
At first, in 2011, I carried out anti-corruption actions on my own, with no external help. Soon I realized that I will not be able to perform on my own in a totally corrupt system. A civil servant earning a salary of 2000 MDL cannot manage immovable and movable property worth millions. I decided not to dismiss them, but to engage them in identifying the areas most prone to corruption and drafting of an Action Plan. Since 2016, thanks to UNDP in Moldova, Straseni Municipality is the first and only locality selected in the programme to implement the Islands of Integrity methodology in Moldova.
It’s extremely important to build the capacity of municipalities for strengthened integrity and accountability in urban governance. The UN foresees that by 2050, 68% of the world’s population will be living in cities. With this expanding urban population there is increasing pressure on local governments to deliver on a high quality of life for their residents. Local governments stand closest to the population as they are mandated to solve the most urgent needs of citizens.
Tackling corruption remains a long journey, but it doesn’t have to be so — with technology and innovative approaches, the path to corruption-free municipalities is closer than ever.
Mayors of municipalities, especially those of smaller ones in the past have been faced with a double burden — gaining trust as public servants in places where corruption is perceived to be institutionalized; in the midst of tight networks of power, weak accountability systems and non-transparent operational procedures, leaving in this way a small room for public servants to impact to the community.
That’s why UNDP, supported by the government of Romania, works with the local governments, civic activists and media, to identify corruption risks and design integrity action plans, and most importantly, to support in their practical implementation. Projects highlighted above show breakthrough examples, where the use of technology and innovation brings forth positive change in efforts to tackle corruption. Some of the small innovative acts, such as open access to municipal documents for the public interest, online (e-) services of the municipalities, and online availability of participatory budgets, which the citizens themselves can decide how to use, not only that increase the transparency of the municipalities, but also help to build public trust in the public servants.
The latter, building municipal capacities and trust, remains the most important pillar to strengthening integrity and accountability. While eradicating corruption is impossible, taking small steps during the road, may bring positive outcomes in the near future, and along the way create a greater involvement for the exponentially growing population of the cities.
You can find more information on corruption risks on local levels and how to mitigate them in our Online Guide to Corruption-Free Local Government.
This is an excerpt for an article of UNDP in Europe and Central Asia.