Good news: After weeks of political gridlock, Mexico’s three main parties have agreed a framework for a new anti-corruption system. It should be put to a vote in the lower house of Congress this week.
But the devil is in the details. Does it go far enough? Will it get watered down before it comes to a vote? And, the biggest question of all, will it stop corruption?
The jury is out. But before taking a look about what’s good and what should be better, it is worth remembering why Mexico so urgently needs a serious anti-corruption strategy. Corruption has long been an accepted part of life in Mexico. If you start digging, you will find it, says one political analyst – much like how the missing bodies of 43 students in the state of Guerrero has turned up other undiscovered mass graves.
But as officials try to rebuild public confidence, the question is, will the anti-corruption system deliver? There are good things about the framework agreed on by the three main political parties, says Marco Fernández, a researcher at think tank México Evalúa and a professor at the Tec de Monterrey’s School of Governance. They include: subjecting the nomination for state auditor of public service to Senate approval and boosting the powers of the auditor-general’s office.
But Mr Fernández believes the government will have squandered an opportunity for meaningful reform if it does not oblige public servants to make their finances fully public. The government believes this is a “private” issue, according to a senior official. Indeed, failure to do so creates a double standard, Mr Fernández believes. Under the government’s tax reform, he says, the tax agency can check people’s tax returns against, say, their bank income. Politicians would not be subject to the same level of scrutiny, hindering the cross-checks that could uncover dodgy dealing.
“How come that in the case of public officials and congress members, we as citizens do not have the same assurance that the authorities can confirm they are telling the truth. It’s absurd. It’s a double standard that really calls into question their willingness to become accountable,” he told beyondbrics.
Mr Fernández has been an expert from civil society consulted by Congress in its anti-corruption reform. He is waiting, now, to see what the full text of the law will say.
He is cautious. Congress has watered down initial proposals on boosting transparency, he says, and he fears the same could happen to anti-corruption at a time when accountability has moved to the centre of public concerns. He will be carefully checking the fine print.
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