Under the Biden Administration, the State Department is committed to preventing and combating corruption globally. Corruption’s impact on the quality of governance, security, and economic stability is well understood. It erodes the trust and confidence of citizens in their public institutions and puts an anchor around the neck of developing economies.
Corruption is an international problem that requires an international solution. According to a 2018 United Nations study, $1 trillion is paid in bribes every year, while an estimated $2.6 trillion are stolen annually through corruption. This is an amount equivalent to more than five percent of the global gross domestic product (GDP). In developing countries, funds lost to corruption are estimated at 10 times the amount of official development assistance.
The United States will continue to lead the effort to combat the scourge of corruption. We were the first country to criminalize foreign bribery, and, in partnership with foreign counterparts, have recovered and returned over $1 billion in stolen public assets in the past two years. We also use a range of tools to promote accountability for corrupt individuals globally. In 2020 alone, we publicly designated and denied entry into the United States to over 41 corrupt foreign officials and immediate family members and sanctioned 14 individuals and entities in connection with corruption under the Global Magnitsky Sanctions program. We are asking other countries to use similar tools to isolate kleptocrats and corrupt officials.
The United States, along with many other nations, ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption in 2006. Since then, the State Department has strengthened these international norms, developed best practices, built and strengthened government institutions, supported global efforts to strengthen fiscal transparency, sanctioned corrupt officials, and supported journalists and non-government actors that promote transparency and hold leaders accountable. We are proud of this record, but we recognize much more needs to be done. We cannot win the fight against corruption alone.
To demonstrate our continued commitment to this issue, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken launched the International Anticorruption Champions Award to recognize individuals who have demonstrated leadership, courage, and impact in preventing, exposing, and combating corruption. This award advances our support of anticorruption leaders and innovators. We hope you will join us in celebrating these champions of anticorruption, and in recognizing all those who fight for accountability, transparency, the rule of law, and press freedom.
- Ardian Dvorani, Judge and Member of the Justice Appointments Council, is a key proponent of reforming Albania’s judicial system. Judge Dvorani developed mechanisms to reduce political and criminal influence in the justice system, steps that contributed to the EU’s decision in March to open negotiations for Albania’s accession. Judge Dvorani was also an essential member of the group of experts who developed the vision and legal provisions for Albania’s justice reform, helping to combat corruption and protect Albania’s nascent judicial institutions after sweeping constitutional changes to Albania’s justice sector in 2016. His insight led to constitutional protections for Albania’s new anticorruption body, the Special Structure Against Organized Crime and Corruption.
- Diana Salazar, Ecuador’s Attorney General, prosecuted some of the Andean region’s highest-profile corruption cases, demonstrably improved the anticorruption atmosphere in Ecuador, and served as a hero to judges, lawyers, and prosecutors throughout South America. Salazar’s courageous actions in tackling these cases have made immense contributions to transparency and the rule of law in Ecuador.
- Sophia Pretrick, Investigative Advisor for the Compliance Investigation Division of the Pohnpei State Auditor of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), almost single-handedly raised the profile of anticorruption activities in the FSM through her unique blend of government intervention and grassroots advocacy. In 2009, Pretrick developed and launched the Fraud Awareness Program, a public awareness and education program with outreach to government officials, employees, schools, women and girls, NGOs, and the general public. The program includes activities to promote the values and benefits of the Public Auditor’s Offices and their role in anti-fraud and anticorruption work. In March 2019, Pretrick and the Office of the Pohnpei State Public Auditor teamed up with Youth-4-Change, an NGO that addresses concerns such as health, teen pregnancy, and anticorruption activities. The resulting pop song has been played on local radio for over 18 months and reached thousands of youth with its message about the role each person plays in fighting corruption.
- Juan Francisco Sandoval Alfaro, Chief of the Special Prosecutors Office Against Corruption and Impunity in Guatemala, has succeeded in battling persistent and systemic corruption in Guatemala. He was instrumental in the investigation and conviction of former President Alfonso Portillo and two ministers on charges relating to money laundering and the embezzlement of $15 million. Mr. Sandoval has been subject to threats and attempts to tarnish his reputation as a result of his work.
- Ibrahima Kalil Gueye of Guinea is the Chair and cofounder of the Organization for Positive Change, an NGO focusing on good governance, peace, and education. He combats corruption by ensuring transparency – educating the public on official fees for government services and national and citizen budget allocations. As Coordinator of the National Marathon of Governance, he traveled 5,500 kilometers over mostly dirt roads in 43 days to share information with almost 2,300 fellow citizens about their rights and legal options. Mr. Kalil is also a winner of the 2020 Mandela Washington Fellowship Leadership Impact Award, a United Nations Young Peacebuilder in West Africa, and a European Commission One Young World Ambassador Scholar.
- Anjali Bhardwaj has served as an active member of the Right to Information Movement in India for over two decades. She is also the founder of Satark Nagrik Sangathan (SNS), a citizens’ group with a mandate to promote transparency and accountability in government and encourage active participation of citizens. Under her leadership, SNS created legislative report cards that tracked the performance of representatives across a series of categories, defining roles and responsibilities in their capacity as public servants. Additionally, Bhardwaj is a convener of the National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information, which successfully advocated for the creation of an anticorruption ombudsman and the Whistle Blowers’ Protection Act, offering protection to those who expose corruption and abuse of power.
- Dhuha A. Mohammed, Director General for Electronic Payments at the Central Bank of Iraq, has prevented payroll fraud by working to make Iraq’s payroll system more transparent. Starting in 2017, she designed and led a Central Bank of Iraq initiative to establish a country-wide credit card infrastructure that facilitates e-payments. These digitized payments establish for the first time an auditable trail, enabling the Government of Iraq to carry out the difficult but critical ongoing mission of purging ghost workers from its payrolls. In a country where exposing corruption can risk death threats and violence, Ms. Mohammed remains committed to principles of integrity and has weathered repeated attacks on her character.
- Bolot Temirov, investigative journalist and editor-in-chief of Factcheck.kg, is one of the most effective and influential anticorruption advocates in the Kyrgyz Republic. For more than a decade, his investigative reporting has helped to expose corruption in the public and private sectors. As chief editor of Factcheck.kg, he directed the publication of a series of reports on individuals involved in a large-scale international money laundering and smuggling operation. As a result of his work, political leaders were forced to acknowledge the extent of endemic corruption to an unprecedented degree.
- Mustafa Abdullah Sanalla, Chairman of Libya’s National Oil Corporation, played an integral role in protecting Libya’s natural resources, the country’s economic lifeline, from predatory internal and external actors during waves of conflict. While leading the National Oil Corporation, he has dedicated himself to ensuring that Libya’s oil continues to generate revenue for the benefit of all Libyans.
- Victor Sotto, Mayor of Pasig, The Philippines, is a standard-bearer for a new generation of Philippine politicians who prioritize anticorruption and transparency initiatives in their election campaigns and in office. In 2019, Sotto, then a 29-year-old city councilor, defeated an incumbent mayor whose family had ruled the city for 27 years. Sotto’s prior work on the city council resulted in freedom of information legislation that allowed city residents to request documents without having to provide a justification – the first such law in the Metro Manila area. Sotto has sought to solidify his reputation as a fresh voice with a new, more transparent approach to governance. He pledged to avoid any kickbacks in the awarding of city contracts, established a 24/7 public information and complaints hotline, formally involved civil society organizations in the city’s budgeting and policy making, and mandated that the value of all city government contracts be reduced by at least 10 percent – a measure intended to reduce bribery in the contract awarding process.
- Francis Ben Kaifala has demonstrated strong leadership as the Commissioner of Sierra Leone’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), which has implemented a comprehensive anti-corruption strategy resulting in investigations, prosecutions, and convictions of public officials from both the current Sierra Leone People’s Party administration and the previous All People’s Congress-led government. The ACC has also seized a significant amount of stolen assets (including money, property, and vehicles) and returned them to the government for legitimate public purposes. Under Kaifala‘s leadership, in 2019 the ACC spearheaded a successful effort to amend and strengthen Sierra Leone’s anticorruption law. Coinciding with Kaifala’s tenure, Sierra Leone has steadily improved in global corruption indices, including those of Transparency International (up 10 places in 2019 from its 2018 ranking) and the Afrobarometer, a measure of public confidence in anticorruption efforts, up 26 percent from 2018.
- Ruslan Ryaboshapka pioneered the restructuring of the prosecutorial service in Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s office, embarking upon an innovative process to recertify Ukraine’s thousands of public prosecutors and dismiss those deemed corrupt or ineffectual. The initiative has continued under his successor, despite constant attacks by vested interests. Ryaboshapka’s vetting procedures are considered by the international community to have been a critical first step in establishing the independence of the Ukrainian Office of the Prosecutor General. In previous government positions, he instituted legal frameworks that established Ukraine’s anticorruption infrastructure, leaving a powerful and enduring legacy that has strengthened Ukraine’s ongoing fight against corruption.
The State Department continues to stand by citizens around the world calling for transparent, accountable governments. We proudly recognize these international champions of anticorruption and all those who have taken a stand against corruption.
Read the Secretary’s statement announcing the champions here.
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About the Author: James A. Walsh currently serves as the Acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.