Asset and interest disclosure by public officials has been widely used to build integrity and combat corruption. Asset and interest disclosure (AID) systems have become a universal instrument to enhance public sector transparency and accountability, promote integrity and prevent corruption. According to World Bank data, over 160 countries around the world have introduced AID systems. More and more countries also use electronic systems to collect, analyze, and publish declarations. An earlier StAR publication provides an overview of benefits and challenges of electronic filing as well as country experiences.
In StAR’s advisory work across many regions, practitioners have consistently requested support on managing and analyzing data collected through electronic submission systems in order to strengthen the processes for verifying asset declarations. Given that the introduction of electronic filing is a new development in many countries, there is great need for knowledge sharing in this area which will continue to grow as more countries shift to using electronic filing of asset declarations systems. The StAR Initiative has been working to fill this knowledge gap and will launch a new publication that aims to support the strengthening of asset and interest declaration systems for public officials. The focus of this publication is automated risk analysis of asset declarations, that is an electronic system that uses algorithms to detect risks in the submitted declarations forms according to pre-set indicators.
Automated risk or “red flag” analysis helps to filter declarations and prioritize verification by ranking declarations according to their risk level. It increases the capacity of the agency tasked with verifying assets and interests of officials by focusing the agency’s limited resources on the verification of high-risk declarations. This is of great importance for many AID systems as every year they might be collecting a very large number of declarations, in some cases millions of records.  Automating the assessment of declarations also removes discretion, minimizes manual processes, and makes the system more impartial and credible.
Implementing an automated risk analysis is a challenging exercise. Verification agencies may lack in-house IT expertise or the funds to outsource the development or system support. A new IT tool of risk assessment may require an upgrade to the agency’s hardware and hosting capacity creating further costs. Effective automated risk analysis depends on external factors, like access to external sources of information through automated data exchange which can be hindered by the lack of technical capacity or institutional bottlenecks. There are also challenges of data quality and availability. All these issues make the development of an automated risk analysis module a complex process involving various technological, financial, and institutional aspects. It requires interagency cooperation and high-level political commitment.
The upcoming StAR publication will explain the role of automated risk analysis in an asset and interest disclosure system. It will provide advice on how to organize the process of the risk analysis and what steps to take to develop the risk analysis framework. In addition, the publication will also address issues of integration with external data sources and the level of the system’s transparency, thereby addressing some of the challenges listed above.
This guide is intended for the management and staff of anti-corruption or other agencies responsible for asset and interest disclosure systems. It will also help leadership of anti-corruption agencies and lawmakers endorse and promote innovative approaches in the verification of asset and interest declarations. Practitioners in law enforcement agencies can use this guide when developing their analytical tools to detect and investigate cases of unjustified assets and false declarations. Civil society may use parts of the guide in reviewing asset and interest declaration data if made available to them and to advocate new approaches in the verification of declarations conducted by state authorities.