By Mendee Jargalsaikhan and Julian Dierkes
In a previous post, we discussed the joint efforts of President Kh Battulga, MP L Oyun-Erdene (MPP), and concerned citizen O Darkhanbaatar, regarding the current leadership of the IAAC. The most publicized reason for the removal of Director Kh Enkhjargal and Deputy Director Ts Nyamdorj is their unwillingness to investigate and resolve the ’60 billion tugrug’ case, which is closely linked to M Enkhbold, Chairman of the State Ikh Khural. For many, this is a valid point, but we wonder if the change of IAAC leaders will be a cure for the country’s endemic corruption. Instead, all senior leaders need to strengthen the existing institution by staying out of corruption investigations and letting corrupt individuals be prosecuted lawfully. This would help the nation develop its economy, political parties getting rid of the gradually-evolving cartel-type structures, and politicians gaining public trust and support.
Is anti-corruption a new effort?
The fight against corruption is not a new effort, it is rather an interrupted one. Historically, besides the communist party investigation commission (Намын Хянан Шалгах Хороо), there was the People’s Committee for Control and Investigation (Ардын Хянан Шалгах Хороо), which reported to the Presidium of the People’s Great Khural. The main duty of the committee was to investigate complaints and potential corruption cases (mostly misuse of the public office and state property), and then to transfer to law enforcement organizations and judiciary for further investigation and prosecution. Under the Law on People’s Control and Investigation (1980), the People’s Committee for Control and Investigation had a main office (50 permanent staff), branches in all provinces, major cities and districts (90 permanent staff), and was supported by 1027-2683 control groups in state industries and organizations as well as 1930-2487 control posts in agricultural units. 26-30,000 people were elected to these control groups and posts.
We are not making a nostalgic argument that the People’s Committee for Control and Investigation was effective and efficient. But there are several points we would like to highlight: First, both corruption and efforts to fight against corruption have existed during any periods of Mongolian history just like in other countries. However, the fight against corruption requires institutionalization. The institutionalization process needs a time and endorsement from top leaders. For example, Mongolian political leaders gave such efforts in the period of 1972-1990.
Second, it is an interrupted effort. The People’s Committee for Control and Investigation was de-commissioned in 1990 resulting in a loss of all experienced professionals, dismantling of institutions, and dismissal of cases under investigation. In 1995, parliament established a weak State Control and Investigation Committee; however, leaders and staff were constantly changed following the elections. It was understaffed and non-operational body. Then, another body, the State Auditing Agency, was established in 2003, but remained less influential and dependent on the politics. So, Mongolia had 15 years for corruption to gain its institutional strength while anti-corruption efforts lost their institutional champion.
Just as the communist party was regenerated (re-born), if the People’s Committee for Control and Investigation had been regenerated into new political and economic circumstances, the country could have at least expertise in place, rules and laws were valid and enough evidence could have been archived. Hence, political leaders, including those at the decision-making bodies, must refrain any efforts to make the IAAC a merely political tool, but rather to strengthen the institutions.
If the IAAC is a political tool, do we need it?
If this current effort is just directed at strengthening one’s position vis-a-vis other political opponents (e.g. Battulga & Khurelsukh versus M Enkhbold) or to control this key institution for their own political/economic gains (e.g., elections, major economic projects), we should begin to question the very existence of the IAAC, which is, indeed, an additional financial burden on tax-payers.
We have seen political competition around appointments of the IAAC leadership before. No past IAAC directors fully served their six-year tenure, which extends beyond the four-year electoral cycles (parliamentary and presidential elections). In December 2007, the first director, B Dangaasuren (judge), was mysteriously found dead in Australia after serving just one year. The second director, Ch Sangaragchaa (police), was nominated by President Enkhbayar and approved by an equally divided parliament in 2007. From 2009 on, he was pressured by members of the Public Council newly appointed to this body of civilian oversight by President Elbegdorj, and then sentenced for misusing his investigative authority in 2011. The second director lasted almost four years. The third director, N Ganbold (police), was nominated by President Elbegdorj and approved by parliament in November 2011, but requested an early release from his duty just prior to the 2016 parliamentary election. Then, the current director, Kh Enkhjargal (police) was nominated by President Elbegdorj in May 2016 and the MPP-dominated parliament approved his appointment in July. Now he is under pressure from the new president. Because the appointment process of the IAAC director and deputy director becomes heavily dependent on the power dynamics of political competitions (instead of the professional merits), they seem to care more about safe-play or navigation on the shaky political landscape than going after major corruption cases.
Apparently, for any political leader, it is important to have control, if not, influence over law enforcement and judicial institutions. First, with the control of the IAAC, you could eliminate your opponents. At least, you could marginalize your opponents by not resolving the case completely, rather using for blackmailing purposes. Second, the IAAC could provide protection from any investigations simply by not pursuing it, delaying it, or even destroying evidences. Therefore, if top-politicians consider the IAAC as an political instrument to advance and protect their parochial interests, it is not fair for tax-payers to fund this costly, ineffective endeavour of fighting against the corruption.
If IAAC is a tool of justice, we need to strengthen it
Instead of sacking leaders of the IAAC, who are already constrained by political pressures, the country’s top politicians should strengthen the institutions fighting against corruption.
It would take at least 15-20 years for any effort to become fully institutionalized – meaning rules, regulation, and procedures to become norms, organizations to be established and become operational, and activities to gain legitimacy and support from the society. In order words, the war (or battle) against corruption is not a job only for the IAAC.
Politicians, especially those involved in law-making and decision-making processes, should make all necessary changes in the legal framework to enable judiciary and law-enforcement organizations to investigate and prosecute corruption cases. This has been repeatedly and publicly requested by IAAC Directors. For instance, several directors explained any high-profile cases were dropped by the decision of the Chief Prosecutor’s Office (even at the district level). Both Ganbold and Enkhjargal asked for a change in the law to pursue off-shore accounts. These requests were simply ignored. Therefore, politicians need to make decisions and stick to their decisions for anti-corruption efforts to succeed. For their own and public interests, politicians could not judge or demand whether one or two cases are investigated and prosecuted.
It is also important to provide the necessary resources (human and material) for all organizations involved in the anti-corruption efforts. The development of professionals (e.g., training, expertise, experience), setting the legal framework for drawing a clear line between organizations, and streamlining inter-agency procedures would require more time and patience. For instance, it would take at least 15 years for any new detectives to gain expertise and experience to lead the anti-corruption agency. Since all organizations, especially those – judiciary, police, intelligence, tax, are usually in constant turf war over resources (e.g., professionals, budgets), it would require at least 10 years to figure out their co-existence and collaboration. Any policy needs to have a lifetime. Finally, anti-corruption efforts would need time to gain legitimacy and support from the society.
From time to time, it has been quite surprising to hear influential politicians ask and talk about the importance of the IAAC investing into more efforts into the enlightment and education of anti-corruption. Each new president wants to replace the leaders of the anti-corruption agency and it is becoming the pattern since 2007. But, we would argue that politicians need to strengthen and support the institutions – by asking what main obstacles for the overall efforts against corruption and importantly, by presenting themselves as a role model of not-interferring in the investigation process. Since mostly literate and educated public knows what corruption is; therefore, politicians should not demand the IAAC to be an educational organization rather than an investigative agency.