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Mexico's Fight Against Corruption

Wherever it occurs, corruption kills, wastes money, and weakens democracy. Corruption is far too common in the public sector according to the 2016 International Corruption Perceptions Index. Out of 176 nations surveyed, more than two-thirds ranked a mere 43 out of 100 with zero representing extreme corruption.

Mexico scored 30, next to Russia at 29. Not the kind of company one would like to keep. To its credit, however, Mexico established a National Anti-Corruption System (SNA) in 2016 to serve as a force multiplier between government agencies and civil society in strengthening collaboration to fight corruption.

The earthquake that struck Mexico City September 19, 2017, offers a sobering example of corruption’s lethal impact. Out of the 228 deaths, 108 perished in buildings with faulty construction—places where documents like permits and certifications had been falsified, subpar materials had been used, and inspections had been hastily signed off attesting to structural soundness. Colonia Portales, in an upscale neighborhood in Mexico City, was a state of the art building touted as disaster resistant.  It collapsed during the quake, only nine months after it opened, killing two.

Corruption costs are equivalent to 9 percent of Mexico’s gross domestic product—$93.6 billion or $165 Pesos a day for every Mexican. Corruption also weakens trust in democratic systems. Citizen dissatisfaction with democracy grew during the last year. According to the 2017 Latinbarometro survey, support for democracy in the region is down to 53 percent, with Mexico at 38 percent—a ten percentage point decline from last year. Satisfaction with democracy has decreased from 34 percent in 2016 to 30 today. In polling, corruption ranks among the top problems facing the nation.

In efforts to forge links between transparency, accountability and the fight against corruption in Mexico, the International Republican Institute (IRI) helps Mexican civil society organizations strengthen their capacity to tackle corruption by advocating more effective laws, supporting citizen oversight mechanisms, and helping to generate confidence in genuine efforts to eliminate corruption in government. Through multisector alliances—academe, public/private sector, civil society—use of technology and civic outreach, IRI empowers citizens to become agents of change and work toward reducing corruption.

IRI supports innovative approaches, such as the Incorruptible platform, allowing citizens to participate in pinpointing corruption occurrences. The application serves as a collector and repository of data, highlighting efforts to address and map corruption where it is most prevalent. Fostering a culture of co-responsibility with citizens, the tool helps ordinary people report, denounce, and understand the root causes of corruption. IRI partners such as the Anti-Corruption Alliance of Coahuila and the Anti-Corruption Coalition of Nuevo León launched the application in their states, with the Citizen Observatory of Querétaro to follow suit in early 2018.

The Anti-Corruption Coalition of Nuevo León is a pioneer. It is a member of the Technical Accompaniment Group (TAG) working with the State Legislature to designate members of the State Anti-Corruption Commission. The TAG also serves as a citizen watchdog to ensure implementation of the State Anticorruption System. The TAG supports citizen participation in the public discussions on transparency to obtain support for more effective deterrence efforts.  In Coahuila and Queretaro, state legislature sessions are now livestreamed with citizen’s proposing, demanding, and seeking transparency in government. Through effective outreach campaigns, such as the use of infographics, social media, theater and mock trials, IRI and its partners generate spaces for institutional strengthening.

The Transparency and Access to Information Commission of the State of Nuevo León became the first state-level institution to adopt IRI’s open government digital platform, Open Cities (Ciudades Abiertas). The Commission publishes data on local government transparency initiatives. The City of Pedro Garza Garcia, The National Institute for Transparency and Access to Information, and the Ministry of the Interior’s Violence Prevention and Citizen Participation Sub-Secretariat have also adopted the IRI’s Open Cities portal. Through collaboration efforts, IRI’s anti-corruption and open government initiatives are becoming self-sustaining, accessible, replicable.

IRI will continue to work with multi-sector alliances to strengthen their ability to monitor implementation of national anti-corruption legislation, advocate for laws that reduce the probability of corruption, restore citizen confidence in government institutions, and rekindle their faith in democracy. Corruption is not just an abstract concept. It is real, with real-life consequences. Corruption kills, squanders and weakens people’s faith in their leaders and system of government. More than ever, we must be #UnitedAgainstCorruption for development, peace and security.