Mon, Jan 20, 2020 - Page 6 News List

Military meets integrity standards

By Tsao Yao-chun 曹耀鈞

In October last year, Transparency International published its most recent Government Defense Integrity Index, which covers 20 countries in the Middle East, West Africa and North Africa.

One of the assessed nations received an overall grade of “D,” which indicates a high degree of defense corruption risk and the other 19 received either an “E” or an “F,” suggesting very high or critical risk levels.

The organization said that the high level of defense corruption risk in these countries threatens security and stability in their region.

Close observation over the past few years has shown that to live up to Taiwan’s own requirements on national defense integrity, high-level military officers — including the vice minister of national defense in charge of military administration and the administrative deputy ministers of national defense — must personally lead the units under assessment in joint reviews based on the criteria formulated by Transparency International.

Gradually, Taiwan is implementing the standards promoted by Transparency International, from compiling teaching materials on national defense integrity in pursuit of building a solid foundation to holding annual international conferences on national defense integrity in the hope of enhancing five main areas: political risk, financial risk, personnel risk, operations risk and procurement risk.

A few cases of misconduct still occur every year, but in terms of general national security-related governance, this small number does not pose a threat to overall military discipline.

The public and media should not take every opportunity to smear the military’s reputation, nor should the military authorities be overcautious and escalate control procedures at all levels or increase trivial paperwork for minor individual cases of misconduct. This would only increase the administrative burden of military personnel across every level. Truly working to uphold integrity is about full compliance with every rule in international standards.

In June 2018, Transparency International initiated an accountability program to promote the global Standards for Responsible Defense Governance. These guidelines stress that integrity must start with government and that monitoring should be improved through cooperation with civic organizations, beginning with technical aspects, with the items being evaluated.

This is also what the Ministry of National Defense is doing right now in its assessment of the Government Defense Integrity Index. The ministry’s efforts received high international praise in 2013 and 2015, when Taiwan ranked in the Government Defense Anti-Corruption Index’s “Band B,” which indicates a low risk of corruption.

As the year unfolds, in addition to hoping that the nation will receive high marks in this year’s index, there is also a sincere hope that other government departments and agencies will follow the Ministry of National Defense’s example and work hard to implement the system of integrity in government agencies and incrementally bring the government forward toward true accountability at levels. From the public’s perspective, this whole effort is already a success.

Tsao Yao-chun is a researcher with Transparency International Chinese Taipei and an external expert on anti-corruption index evaluations of governments at the Ministry of National Defense.

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