Kazakhstan making steady progress against corruption

In 1998, Kazakhstan became the first former Soviet country to adopt an anti-corruption law. The law delineated an array of methods to fight corruption. For instance, every government institution was made responsible for combating corruption.

One specific anti-corruption measure is a universal obligation to file tax declarations. Previously, only public servants and their spouses had to file them. Efforts were also taken to reduce illegal cash flows. Payments for most public services are being transferred to electronic formats, especially for payments for licenses and permits. This helps a lot. 

The Kazakh government views the perception of large-scale corruption as a threat to its national security and a drag on its economy. To crack down on corruption, the government has reduced the number of federally licensed activities from 861 to 343 – reducing the number of possibilities that exist for official corruption. It has also established a transparent procedure for inspections of private entrepreneurs by state agencies.

Kazakhstan’s focus is yielding remarkable results. Over the last two years, more than 40 officials at the national level and more than 250 officials at regional and city levels were charged with criminal offenses.

Criminal cases were also filed against a minister of environmental protection and a minister of healthcare, a chairman of the statistics agency, vice ministers of the ministry for emergency situations and the ministry of defense, the chairmen of at least three major corporations – all of which resulted in convictions.

Recently, six justices of the Supreme Court of Kazakhstan were discharged because of corruption. Criminal cases were filed against them.

Kazakhstan ratified the U.N. Convention against Corruption in 2008 and has confirmed its willingness to follow international standards in the field of preventing and combating corruption. It also hosted a three-day international anti-corruption conference titled “Uniting Efforts in Returning Assets and Countering International Corruption” in March.

More than 150 delegates from 60 countries, as well as representatives of major international organizations, participated. The basic idea of the conference was to strengthen international cooperation in the fight against corruption. The event focused on countering international corruption and included discussions about how to investigate and prevent corruption-related crimes. 

This was the third such conference held in Kazakhstan. And it won’t be the last.

In his inauguration speech on April 8, 2011, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev highlighted “an uncompromising fight against corruption” as his top priority for his next term. There will be more “rigid actions in place against corruption through criminal prosecution and eliminating loopholes in the laws,” he said. 

Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Massimov tasked the Ministry of Communications and Information with “promoting the freedom of speech” as part of the anti-corruption campaign. In March, Massimov opened Facebook and Twitter accounts to boost his personal accessibility to the public in addition to his blog on the government’s website. He called the anti-corruption efforts “very important.” 

And Kairat Kozhamzharov, the head of Kazakhstan’s state agency for combating economic crimes and corruption (also known as the Financial Police), said the country has built an effective strategy for combating corruption.

“For solving this problem, we will use new technologies, Internet resources, mobile communications, various types of social research, seminars and training with the media and public institutions,” Kozhamzharov said. “Developing the Internet is the highest priority, including blogs, involving all members of the Government and heads of state agencies so citizens can have an opportunity to directly inform us and react to cases of corruption.”

Maybe one day, when people think about former Soviet states, corruption won’t come to mind. If so, Kazakhstan will have led the way.

The author is Kazakhstan’s ambassador to the United States.