Financial Disclosure

March 30, 2015

Disclosure of high-level public officials’ interests is a powerful mechanism because it is a transparency tool that promotes public officials’ accountability, ensures government decision-making is not compromised by conflicts of interest, and aims to increase trust in public institutions. It may also provide information and evidence for the detection, investigation and prosecution of corruption. This is why financial disclosure is increasingly gaining attention as a tool to improve governance and fight corruption.

Financial and business interest disclosure refers to the system whereby one or more categories of public officials in a given country are required by law to disclose information about their assets and/or business activities. There are two types of disclosure: financial and business interest (collectively referred to as “financial disclosure”).

Regarding the first type, disclosing the value of assets and liabilities, along with the amount of a public official’s income, makes it possible to detect unexplained wealth variations and illicit enrichment. Business interest disclosure focuses on activities, commitments and business connections that may compromise public officials’ impartiality in their policy decisions. To facilitate detection of potential conflicts of interest, information on the sources of such interests (as well as sources of assets and liabilities) is required.

While disclosure systems are not a recent governance development, the adoption of such provisions has truly gained momentum in the past two decades. These systems are found to be widespread across different countries and regions, and their prevalence is growing as their fight against corruption and promotion of transparency also increases.

Financial disclosure fits within the context of the World Bank Group Governance and Anti-Corruption Strategy and specifically supports public sector integrity by promoting the integrity of public officials through standards for income and asset disclosure and to counter conflict of interest. The work carried out involves technical assistancepublications and knowledge sharing events.

International Perspectives

Financial disclosure is recognized by several international standards as an important tool for preventing corruption as seen below.

International Conventions referring to Financial Disclosure

  1. United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) (pdf)
  2. Inter-American Convention against Corruption
  3. African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (pdf)
  4. OAS Model Law on Declaration of Interests, Income, Assets and Liabilities of Persons Performing Public Functions (pdf)
  5. OAS Draft Legislative Guideline: Basic Elements on the Registration of Income, Assets, and Liabilities (doc)

International Principles on Financial Disclosure

  1. APEC Principles for Financial/Asset Disclosure by Public Officials: Fundamentals for an Effective Tool to Prevent, Detect, and Prosecute Conflicts of Interest, Illicit Enrichment, and Other Forms of Corruption (doc)
  2. G20 High-Level Principles on asset disclosures by public officials (pdf)

International Directives and Bodies related to Financial Disclosure

  1. European Union (EU): EU and Combating Financial Crime
  2. Financial Action Task Force (FATF) (see the FATF Recommendations)