Is Mongolia Fighting or Preparing to Fight Corruption?

By Mendee Jargalsaikhan

Mongolia seems succeeding to create the legal environment to tame the corruption by institutionalizing its efforts.  But, these laws and any agencies will be powerless in the absence of political will and interest to clean up the Mongolian public service before massive mining revenues appear from 2013.

The Transparency International’s corruption perception index of Mongolia again regressed from 116 to 120 in 2011.  It was 43 in 1999. Of course, we can argue there might be some deficiencies in the measurements or analysis of the Transparency International.  Because some may argue, Mongolia is doing so well in eradicating the corruption – joined all international endeavors, passed laws, established a special organization to deal with it.  In January, Mongolia adds another new bill on preventing conflict of interests into the collection of laws to tame the corruption.

It seems these laws powerless without political will and commitments.  Or just, attempts by shrewd politicians to ease the public outcry domestically and international pressures, if there is any.  Many politicians (not all) seem to be concerned about slices of larger pies, which will be generated from the mining revenues.  Therefore, they are not ready to fight against corruption, but ready, albeit reluctantly, to approve the laws with lesser penalty and potentiality of execution.   Two examples could be the laws on anti-corruption and conflict of interests.  Both laws were passed by the parliament, but only a handful members of the parliament pushed for passage with strong public support.  These pressures created an atmosphere for legislators that they can not oppose these laws.

The Law on Anti-Corruption established the Anti-Corruption Agency.  The international and particularly domestic audience perceived this agency as the frontline law enforcement agency in fight against corruption.  But, one looks carefully the law, it will be clear that legislators did not want to give law enforcement powers to this organization.  It looks like a corruption study think tank to develop corruption index, policies, programs, and to do analysis.  Or, an educational institution to increase public awareness of corruption and to teach public servants to compile their incomes. Maybe an archive to collect income reports of public servants. And, a little investigative power is given to the agency.  Can a small agency fulfill all of these tasks – which are certainly belong to other government agencies?  Civil Service Commissions can do compiling of income reports of public servants.  The Ministry of Education can do enlightenment tasks.  Any non-governmental organization do the research and indexing.  So, let this agency just conduct independent criminal investigation and eradicate corrupted officials from the public services.  Because they haven’t given this important power and politicians (un)intentionally crowded their “to do list,” now they are easy target for the “blame game.”  The first chief of the agency died in Australia – the case remain unsolved.  The second director ousted for doing surveillance, although the parliament never endorses the Prosecutor’s Office’s decision.  Now a new team is in position.  In addition, it has a 15 member board appointed by the President advises the Agency.  Although any judiciary and Presidential posts should be apolitical, but the President is nominated by the political party and then gets power to nominate the Prosecutor General, who has enormous power over the Anti-Corruption Agency.

The second law was indeed a success – because this was the first time Mongolia succeeded at least on the paper to disconnect business and political interests.  Politicians are now aware of the existence of the conflict of interest law.  If we get lucky to have many politicians with political will and interest, the law is ready although the punishment is soft.  Because it was just before the upcoming parliamentary election, members approved the law; otherwise, there will be consequences.  The initial bill was intended to be valid from July 15, 2012 – which means people who get elected in the parliament or public posts would not dodge from this bill.  However, the President veto-d that date and suggested to implement the law before the upcoming parliamentary election in June.  Now, again, parliament members reluctantly received the Presidential veto – agreed to accept its implementation before the election.  The law also changed the term for public servants.  The public servants were legally labeled as “state servants,” but they will be called as “public servants” who are serving for “public interests.”  One would see it as a conceptual change, but only a few members of the parliament like Temujin explains the essence.

These are indications of tightening, if not at least, setting the trap, for corrupted officials to survive and misuse public money.  However, enforcement is not coming alone.  The Parliament Member Kh. Battulga, a former member of the coalition government, reported on several occasions about domination of the major business groups.   A former President N. Enkhbayar and incumbent Member of Parliament and Minister of the Justice and Internal Affairs Ts. Nyamdorj engaged in dyad recalling each other’s connections in corruption through several media interviews. [Also, there is a new dyad between Kh. Battulga and Ts. Nyamdorj in regards with infrastructure projects and the growing MCS’s influence in politics.]  A Korean newspaper reported the current government officials sold a land to Korea, but reported in Mongolia as leased.  Japanese and Mongolian media are disclosing about secret negotiation involving the Mongolian, Japanese, and the US governments on creating nuclear waste dump in Mongolia.   None of these issues explained properly to public, except Mongolia’s stance on non-nuclear principles.

The positive note is that Mongolians freely criticize the government, but the sad note is the public officials are not responsive and reactive to public inquiry and for their actions.  Some politicians may be just waiting for the good time to bust his/her opponents – so they need to get a hold of key government institutions, which could serve for their purposes.  Only way ahead is to give more power to government law enforcement agencies and judiciary rather than politicizing them.  Professionalism must succeed the populism and corruption.

About mendee

Jargalsaikhan Mendee is a Deputy Director of the Institute for Defense Studies of Mongolia. He holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of British Columbia, and MAs in International Relations from the US Naval Postgraduate School and in Asia-Pacific Policy Studies from the Institute of Asian Research of the University of British Columbia.
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2 Responses to Is Mongolia Fighting or Preparing to Fight Corruption?

  1. Pingback: Politics Heating up Ahead of Election? | Mongolia Today

  2. Chingghis Khan says:

    Mongolia has many good LAWs in accordance wit international standards but 98% of them are not enforced. What good is a LAW that is written on paper but ignored? There is a parlamentarian MAFIA which use Police. Prosecutors and Courts if they were their private Employees.

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