Uzbekistan: the fight against corruption is the main condition of national security

Alisher Achilov,

Associate Professor of the Department of “Criminal Legal Disciplines” of the Public Security University of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Philosophy Doctor in Legal Sciences (PhD)

The concept of “corruption” is derived from the Latin word – corrumpere – to rob, and is interpreted as the abuse of state power for profit. The definition of “corruption” in Uzbekistan is given in the Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On Combating Corruption” dated January 3, 2017 No. 419.

It is not known exactly when corruption appeared, and despite the fact that it is being fought in all countries of the world, it is not possible to answer the question of how long it will last. Here, let’s try to determine the historical roots of corruption. Perhaps corruption appeared in the era of social stratification, when some people had more power and their social status could decide something. It is known that the desire to live better, inherent in human nature, makes him fall into the vice of “greed” and encourages him to get rich faster. Corruption appeared in the territory of Uzbekistan a long time ago, but at that time it was called a little differently, that is, “tamagir (greed)”. The first mention of this term dates back to the 14th century, and later it was mentioned in “Tuzuklari Temur” and other historical works.

In those times, the low legal awareness of the common people played an important role in the increase of bribery, the population was forced to feed the government and other officials, which in order to “enrich” and abuse the governors in their relations with the common people. Created the conditions, moreover, the local authorities themselves imposed various taxes and fees for various things, such as settling disputes, granting permission to use water, and many other things, which in those days people caused hatred towards the government among them. It is known from history that Amir Temur introduced the introduction of higher salaries and bonuses from the state treasury in order to make officials live on state salaries and prevent them from being greedy. However, it is known that the death penalty was applied to corrupt officials who were not satisfied with these incentives.

The problem of bribery has always been relevant, and today this issue is widely covered and causes public protest. According to social surveys, at least once in a person’s life, they have faced the abuse of their powers by officials in various government agencies. It’s sad that some people today accept these conditions as “a normal condition and a necessity for a good life”. From the daily news in the media, we can see that corruption is everywhere, in kindergartens, schools, universities, in all kinds of administrations and departments, even in law enforcement agencies.

The fact that most of the corrupt situations in the field of public administration are found in the tax system, courts, law enforcement and control bodies is considered particularly dangerous. Because these are the main institutions that prevent various illegal actions and crimes and ensure justice and security in society. This causes mistrust and pessimism in citizens towards the state and its authorized structures.

As mentioned, corruption affects almost all spheres of life, in particular, its negative impact on the economy is manifested in the following:

‒ the increase of entities engaged in illegal activities in economic relations, the deepening of the underground economy and its criminalization;

‒ interference of corrupt elements of state bodies with illegal business and organized crime, creation of conditions for “money laundering”;

‒ violation of healthy competition mechanisms of the market and decrease in their effectiveness, i.e. not an opportunity for an objective competitive entity to successfully operate, but monopolization of entrepreneurs who received benefits in the production and goods market through bribery and they predominance of interests;

‒ inefficient use of state budget funds, unfair distribution of financial programs, orders and resources;

‒ increase in prices due to the presence of corruption, increase in mistrust of economic entities in relation to state bodies and authorities;

‒ decrease in the investment attractiveness of the country and weakening of the incentives that allow investments to enter its territory;

‒ the emergence of sharp material-property inequality among the population, disruption of social balance, as a result of which the population’s income and standard of living decrease, poverty and social tension increase.

There is no country in the world that has not faced the secret economy. Corruption destroys the economic and administrative system of any country. According to calculations made during the research of world scientists, the damage caused by corruption in the world is 3 trillion dollars. However, this large number does not fully reflect the real situation and the amount of actual damage, and worst of all, it is not possible to measure the extent of moral damage caused.

In recent years, the fight against corruption has become one of the main directions of the state policy in the Republic of Uzbekistan, and its legal basis, organizational structure and implementation strategy have been defined. The law “On the fight against corruption” was adopted, which for the first time defined the clear legal basis of activity in this field. The law defines the mechanisms for the implementation of anti-corruption measures, including the system of bodies responsible for these tasks. The implementation of the law was supported by regularly updated national and departmental action plans. In general, the legislative base has been significantly improved, and a number of important laws and documents aimed at ensuring the transparency and accountability of the activities of state authorities have also been adopted.

Also, in the field of public procurement, a fundamental reform of administrative procedures, including licensing, registration and other procedures related to the provision of public services, has begun. The awareness of the population in the field of fighting against corruption is growing, and at the same time, the level of demands and expectations of the state from the society is also growing. Representatives of the non-governmental sector and the international community have observed that the work of government agencies has undoubtedly become more open to the public, and the smallest violations by employees are widely publicized in the mass media and in various groups on social networks. Also, the opportunity to receive public services electronically is a step forward in the fight against corruption.

In accordance with the Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On additional measures to improve the anti-corruption system in the Republic of Uzbekistan”, the Anti-Corruption Agency was established on June 29, 2020. The objectives and tasks of this Agency include the following:

– conducting a systematic analysis of the corruption situation in the country;

– identifying areas most vulnerable to corruption risks;

– implementing state and other programs aimed at eliminating the causes and conditions of corruption offenses;

– cultivating in society intolerant attitude towards all manifestations of corruption by raising the legal awareness and legal culture of citizens;

– coordinating activities of ministries and departments in the field of preventing and combating corruption;

– introducing an internal anti-corruption control system (compliance control) in government agencies and institutions, state-owned enterprises and enterprises with a state share in the authorized capital, including banks;

– introducing and maintaining effective functioning of the system of declaration of assets and income of state officials;

– developing international cooperation in the field of preventing and combating corruption;

– organizing sociological, scientific and other research on the state, trends and causes of corruption and the effectiveness of anti-corruption measures;

– ensuring openness and transparency of activities to prevent and combat corruption, etc.

It should be noted that according to the order given by the President of our country, in the near future, a national strategy for combating corruption will be developed in Uzbekistan until 2030, and foreign experience, including anti-corruption investigation practices, will be applied to the work of the Agency.

As a result of the reforms, the Republic of Uzbekistan became a country with an average level of corruption, and in 2023, Uzbekistan took 121st place among 180 countries in the corruption perception index. According to statistics, in recent years our country has risen to 42 places in the Transparency International index, achieving the highest result in the region. We have set ourselves the goal of increasing our position in this rating by another 50 places by 2030, the head of our state emphasized. Also, this year, our country rose to 30th place in the Open Data Inventory rating, and Uzbekistan took 4th place in the world in terms of the number of open data sources.

As mentioned above, in recent years, Uzbekistan has implemented a number of important anti-corruption reforms. Nevertheless, it is necessary to improve the level of openness and transparency of the activities of executive authorities, as well as mechanisms of public and parliamentary control. Institutional development and significant additional resources are needed by the authorities responsible for developing and implementing anti-corruption strategies and anti-corruption measures. The low level of social and material support of civil servants, the absence of uniform principles for the formation of the wage fund and social security, and the departure of qualified personnel create conditions for the appearance of corruption. The formation of a professional public service and the introduction of effective anti-corruption mechanisms in the state power system are more urgent than ever.

Although measures aimed at preventing corruption are being implemented in our country, there are still cases of officials committing corruption-related crimes in the practice of law enforcement. According to statistics, 3,575 officials were prosecuted in Uzbekistan in 2023, which is 14.7% more than in 2022 (3,116), the press service of the Prosecutor General’s Office reported. The number of criminal cases against sentenced officials amounted to 3412, or almost 15.1% more than in 2022 (2965). 49 of the convicts (110 in 2022) are employees of republican, 267 (264) regional and 3259 (2742) district (city) units of ministries, departments and organizations.

The fight against corruption is a difficult task for any country, and the outcome often depends on the chosen approach to the fight against it. In general, our country’s anti-corruption action program has a good foundation and legal framework, but this program will not be enough to eliminate corruption or reduce it to a minimum level.

Currently, we believe that the effective fight against corruption should be carried out in the following directions:

– to consistently continue to improve the legal system that guarantees the rule of law and the rights and freedoms of citizens, to strengthen the independence of the judicial system;

-development of normative acts for social protection of civil servants, reform of the system of remuneration for their work, including benefits for provision of medical services and housing (purchasing);

– making it mandatory to declare the property, income and large expenses of civil servants and their family members. The main purpose of this is to prevent officials from obtaining illegal income and to eliminate conflicts of interest. Today, this method is used in public service in more than 150 countries. Effective international anti-corruption standards, including the UN Convention against Corruption and a number of other legal documents, recognize that the declaration of assets by civil servants is an effective anti-corruption tool.

– increase the legal literacy of the population. Our citizens should consider it a priority to rely on the principle of honesty to put pressure on officials. After all, corruption is the first social phenomenon, and the main measure to combat it is the development and strengthening of moral foundations in society. A citizen who values himself and respects himself as a person will never become a victim of crime, on the contrary, he will effectively fight against the factors of corruption.

It is known that life itself shows that the goals of the fight against corruption cannot be achieved only by criminal and legal means. At the same time, these goals cannot be achieved by means of other branches of law. In general, if we approach the phenomenon of corruption in the broadest sense of the word, it is not just a crime or a violation, but a state of moral violation. Therefore, we think that not only state bodies, but also society and all our citizens are responsible for the fight against this evil. Corruption can be eradicated only when the state and society join forces to fight against this ugly evil.

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