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At its Twenty Second Meeting, held September 9 – 13, the Committee of Experts of the Follow-up Mechanism for the Implementation of the Inter-American Convention against Corruption (MESICIC) adopted the Panama report on the implementation of this treaty in the framework of the Fourth Round of Review of the Mechanism. This is the fourth such report that has been issued by the MESICIC in relation to Panama’s implementation of this Convention.
In this Fourth Round of the Mechanism, the review focused on the structure, operation and results of the top four Panamanian bodies responsible for preventing, detecting, punishing and eradicating corruption: the Public Prosecution Service (PGN), the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic (CGR); the Court of Accounts, and the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ). The progress made by Panama in relation to the recommendations of the First Round of the MESICIC were also reviewed.
The review was carried out taking into account Panama’s Response to the Questionnaire, information gathered by the Technical Secretariat, and, as a new and important source of information, the on-site visit conducted from April 17 to 19, 2013, by the members of the review subgroup for Panama, comprising Bolivia and Trinidad and Tobago, with the support of the Technical Secretariat. During that visit, the information furnished by Panama was clarified and expanded and the opinions of civil society organizations, the private sector, professional associations, academics, and researchers on issues of relevance to the review were heard.
Some of the recommendations formulated to Panama for its consideration in connection with the aforementioned bodies are aimed toward objectives, such as the following:
With regard to the PGN, the objective is to consider the possibility of re-empowering it to file complaints with the Supreme Court of Justice regarding offences allegedly committed by principal or substitute members of parliament; and to consider amending Law 59 of December 29, 1999, with a view to eliminating the need for preliminary evidence in cases of illicit enrichment and achieving better coordination of the work of the Public Prosecution Service and that of the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic (CGR) in investigating these crimes. The PGN should be allowed to remit complaints to the CGR and appeal decisions taken to archive an investigation.
In connection with the analysis of the CGR, the objective is to consider adopting legislative or other appropriate measures to formally establish an internal audit system in public sector entities centered on the CGR as the core organ or technical governing body, thereby regulating the functional and/or administrative dependency of the internal audit units in those entities on the CGR, meaning that those units will be subject to the guidelines and provisions issued by the CGR; and to consider establishing a multidisciplinary forensic audit team specializing in more complex financial or other audits, in coordination with the Public Prosecution Service (Procuraduría General de la Nación).
As for the Court of Accounts, the goal is to consider taking legislative and other steps to expedite audit proceedings and prevent their effects from being illusory, by seeking, as appropriate, to enter into cooperation agreements with institutions whose information is required for the Court of Accounts to adopt precautionary measures, and to establish appropriate administrative sanctions against public or private entities that put off delivering information requested by the Court of Accounts in connection with those proceedings; and to draw up a complete statistical record of amounts paid to the Treasury in each of the past five years as a result of compliance with the Court of Accounts’ resolutions. That record should contain not just information regarding payment agreements, but also the amounts actually recovered through the coercive collection efforts of the National Revenue Authority, in order to be able to identify challenges and recommend corrective measures.
As regards the CSJ, the objective is to conduct a study on the number of complaints of corruption cases allegedly involving members of the National Assembly actually received and processed by the Supreme Court of Justice in order to identify the impact of the entry into force of Law 55 of 2012, and, if necessary, to consider extending the deadline for concluding the investigation; and to consider adopting measures aimed at establishing a functionally autonomous disciplinary body in the Judiciary, capable of conducting preventive, concurrent, and ex-post oversight of magistrates, judges and other officers in the Judiciary.
With regard to follow-up on the recommendations formulated to Panama in the First Round, three important advances were noted: 1) the Repeal of Executive Decree 124 of May 21, 2002, deemed to annul the principles upheld in the Transparency Law (Law 6 of January 22, 2002); 2) the implementation of a Sworn Declaration System, which verifies whether the public servants required to present their sworn statement of income, assets and liabilities are in compliance with their duty, under the penalty of having their salaries withheld; and 3) the adoption of Law 33 of April 25, 2013, which establishes the National Authority on Transparency and Access to Information, as the functionally and administratively autonomous policy-making body in the area of the right to petition and access public information.
At the same time, some of the recommendations formulated to Panama in the First Round that remain pending or were reformulated, address issues such as:
- Consider adopting rules that specifically regulate conflict of interest situations for senior positions in Panama’s public administration, as well as for members of the National Assembly and their alternates.
- Furthermore, regulate the prevention and resolution of said conflicts of interest, by establishing rules on incompatibilities, the corresponding sanctions, and appropriate mechanisms for imposing them;
- Consider amending Law No. 59 of December 29, 1999 to empower the Office of the Comptroller-General of the Republic to effectively verify the contents of the sworn statement of income, assets, and liabilities and to enable them to be used to detect and avoid conflicts of interests, as well as to detect and verify significant and unjustified changes in the wealth of the officials required to file declarations, taking into account the verification procedures and other relevant aspects established in the “Model Law on the Declaration of Interests, Income, Assets and Liabilities of Persons Performing Public Functions.”;
- Ensure that all institutions subject to Law 6 of 2002 have a unit or at least an information officer and that they also have the resources and training needed to perform the functions established in Article 8 of Law 33 of 2013.
In addition to the above, the report outlines the best practice on which Panama provided information, which refers, succinctly, to the Use of the “IberRed”, a tool established by Central Authorities and national contacts with a goal to optimize civil and criminal judicial assistance instruments and strengthen ties of cooperation among our countries. Additionally, the PGN and the Ministry of the Interior (Ministerio de Gobierno) of Panama also form part of the OAS Hemispheric Information Exchange Network for Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters and Extradition (“Criminal Matters Network”).
During this Twenty Second Meeting, similar reports were adopted for Chile, Colombia, Guatemala and Uruguay. The Panama report adopted by the Committee, as well as the aforementioned countries, are available at: http://www.oas.org/juridico/english/mesicic4_rep.htm
141 - Sept. 2013
The Mechanism For Follow-up on the
Implementation of the Inter-American
Convention against Corruption, known as MESICIC for its Spanish acronym, is a tool to
support the development of the Inter-American
Convention against Corruption through
cooperation between States Parties.
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