Rooting out corruption and instilling government accountability relies on an engaged and empowered citizenry—particularly at the local level. For more than two years, IRI has supported Cuenca, the capital city of Ecuador’s Azuay province, in its efforts to strengthen municipal transparency. From training officials on the implementation of access to information laws to hosting best practices exchanges, IRI is helping Ecuador’s municipalities develop the capacity for participatory and accountable government.

Ecuador is no stranger to corruption. After a decade of diminished rule of law, civil society and political opposition under former President Rafael Correa, corruption at both the national and local level became endemic. Since then, the national government has taken steps to curb corruption by improving communication with local governments, promoting decentralization and enforcing its Transparency Law (LOTAIP), which contains mandates for municipal governments to prevent corruption. Although it was passed in 2004, the law has been scarcely enforced, and until very recently, municipalities did not receive the technical support or funds to implement their responsibilities.

Cuenca has played a leading role in improving municipal efforts to comply with Transparency Law requirements. The municipality has faced corruption problems such as tax evasion by public officials, bribery and fraud in public procurement processes. In light of the recent municipal administrations’ struggles with corruption and their willingness to address them, IRI selected Cuenca as one of the five cities in which to spearhead its municipal transparency work in Ecuador.

Starting in 2017, IRI led the implementation of its Vulnerabilities to Corruption Approach (VCA) in Cuenca. Through the VCA, IRI worked with municipal governments to identify anti-corruption priorities, support institutional transparency initiatives and improve the capacity of local authorities to carry out these initiatives.

In September 2018, IRI hosted a best practices exchange in Quito for municipal officials from across the country with the Citizen and Development Foundation (FCD, or Fundación Ciudadanía y Desarrollo), a local civil society organization. Then-Director of Cuenca’s municipal Transparency Unit Esteban Segarra shared Cuenca’s experiences implementing their local Open Government Ordinance initiatives.

In September 2019, IRI again brought officials from Cuenca to speak at its national Local Transparent Governments Conference, hosted in collaboration with FCD, the Ministry of Government, the Secretariat for Anti-Corruption, the Office of the Ombudsman and the Association of Ecuadorian Municipalities. During the event, Jorge Moscoso, now-head of the Transparency and Control for the Corruption Unit of Cuenca, shared best practices with over 150 national and local government officials and signed a Commitment for Integrity and Transparency along with over 40 local elected authorities.

IRI is supporting Cuenca’s continued transparency efforts by conducting multi-stakeholder transparency, participation and citizen security roundtables. These activities provide a space for elected authorities, CSO representatives, private companies and the media to identify local problems and solutions through a process of civic co-responsibility. Cuenca plans to continue this initiative through a permanent dialogue roundtable with stakeholders.

According to Jorge Moscoso, the next goals for Cuenca’s transparency efforts are to codify the rural participatory budget processes through a local ordinance (or law), generate open data that is understandable to all, build stronger relationships with youth and achieve International Organization for Standardization (ISO) anti-bribery management standards such as 37001 anti-bribery systems.

IRI is continuing to support Cuenca and other municipalities as they seek to improve transparency and good governance for the people of Ecuador. By facilitating roundtables between citizens and government, IRI ensures local policies reflect citizen interests rather than those of a corrupt few. By hosting best practice exchanges, IRI helps municipal and national experts share successes on improving anticorruption, so officials can use lessons learned to improve good governance in their communities rather than allow corruption to go unchecked. And, by providing technical assistance, IRI gives municipal officials the skills they need to implement LOATIP mandates in their municipalities, increasing compliance with anti-corruption standards and minimizing the opportunity for corruption to thrive once again.

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