United States Legislators Against Corruption

FMC created USLAC (U.S. Legislators Against Corruption) in 2008.  USLAC has become the U.S. chapter of the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption.  Former Members of Congress Webb Franklin (R-MS, 1983-87) and Jim Moody (D-WI, 1983-93) are chairing the effort.

The Global Organization Against Corruption (GOPAC) is an international network of parliamentarians dedicated to good governance and combating corruption throughout the world. Founded in 2002 at a conference hosted by the Canadian House of Commons and Senate, GOPAC has over 400 members around the world, organized into regional and national chapters.

In addition to developing regional chapters, member information services, and building alliances, GOPAC has identified a number of specific agenda items on which to focus, including:

  • Creating a handbook for parliamentarians on controlling corruption;
  • Drafting a training/orientation package for parliamentarians on the budgetary and financial oversight role of parliamentarians;
  • Negotiating a code of conduct for parliamentarians;
  • Setting indicators of performance for parliamentary oversight;
  • Identifying parliamentarians with an anti-money laundering agenda; and
  • Implementing the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC).

GOPAC focuses on three pillars to build an effective organization.

1. Peer Support

Every organization needs to support its members and that is especially important for GOPAC and its regional chapters. In some parts of the world, legislators are in fear of their lives if they speak out against corruption. They need to know that they do not stand alone, that there are legislators who are prepared to speak out with them and there is strength in numbers.

2. Education

It is becoming increasingly obvious that there is a serious need for education of parliamentarians on what is their role and responsibilities as parliamentarians. Many parliamentarians are confused and do not understand the separate roles of government and parliament. These are two distinct institutions with totally different roles and responsibilities.

In a democracy, a government has the authority to govern, subject to the approval and oversight of the parliament, which in turn is accountable to the electorate through fair, open, transparent and competitive elections.

There are four fundamental responsibilities of a parliament in the exercise of oversight of government.

  • a. To debate, modify, approve or reject legislation.
  • b. To debate, modify, approve or reject authority for government to raise revenues through taxation and other means.
  • c. To debate, modify, approve or reject proposed expenditures by government.
  • d. To hold the executive branch accountable for its governance of society.

Far too often, parliamentarians see their roles as supporting the government at any cost if they are a member of the governing party or opposing the government regardless of the merits of its proposals when they are in opposition.

In a properly functioning democracy, a government is accountable to the parliament as a whole, where the members bring a diversity of opinion to the debate but are still required to exercise their considered judgment on the proposals by government and the performance of government.

3. Clear objectives, measurable results

Members of an organization develop stronger affinity to the organization when they clearly understand what is expected of them. Each Chapter of GOPAC is entitled to identify and develop its own objectives and be accountable for the results.

For example, GOPAC’s Latin American Chapter has chosen to identify the progress (or lack thereof) that their governments have made in introducing the legislation necessary to implement the Santiago Convention Against Corruption. In the Caribbean, the chapter has recognized the need to improve the effectiveness of the Public Accounts Committees which are Standing Committees of the Legislature focused on accountability.

The GOPAC secretariat is located in Ottawa, Canada.  At a meeting in September of 2008, USLAC and the Canadian GOPAC chapter formed a North America chapter, which will have 3 seats on GOPAC’s global board.