The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is going to develop a corruption risk assessment guide for public-sector organisations. The representative of the State Audit Office of Hungary (SAO) took part in the meeting of the International Expert Group (IEG) held in Vienna on 28-29 June 2018, discussing the draft Guide. The experience shared by the representative of the SAO raised the attention of foreign experts, which is a valuable lesson for the SAO.
The international recognition and reputation of the State Audit Office's integrity survey is becoming increasingly widespread. This is why I have been invited as a representative of the SAO to the UNODC IEG discussing the UNODC’s Corruption Risk Assessment Guide. During the presentation of the experiences of the SAO, there was an informative feedback on what was raising the attention of the other participants. I share two most important ones.
The first is to emphasize that the risk of corruption is an objective, natural inheritance of public property and public money. The provision of public goods always involves the risk that somebody tries to allocate the community's resources along private interests. Consequently, the corruption risk is not something moral wrong, but on the contrary, it is derived from the fact that the organization has been entrusted with the management of public resources. Why is it important to emphasize this? Because other approaches consider the lack of controls to be a major corruption risk. From then on, the corruption risk becomes a subjective phenomenon depending on the organization’s effort, an embarrassing thing that makes it difficult to face it. Therefore, the approach that considers the risk to be objective is more appropriate, since it makes clear that the main task of management is not to eliminate the risk but to minimize the likelihood of a risk.
The draft of the Guide has focused on problem-centered corruption risk analysis, mentioning that if an organization detects a problem (such as decreasing revenue from fines or increasing complains), it is advisable to conduct a risk analysis. Without questioning this, I highlighted the experience of SAO’s surveys that often the good events had resulted in a rise of corruption risks. If an organization gets extra resources and additional powers, then the risk of corruption will automatically increase. Consequently, in such situations it is also justified to implement a risk assessment to ascertain whether the organization’s controls are capable of handling increased risks.