Tackling corruption in Peru (2010-2018)
In 2000, President Alberto Fujimori of Peru was at the centre of a corruption scandal. He and his close allies had developed a corruption network involving more than a thousand people. The damage inflicted across all levels of society had lasting effects in weakening public trust in government, especially in public institutions and the judiciary, who struggled to tackle internal corruption practices.
Post-Fujimori governments tested various unsuccessful initiatives to tackle corruption throughout the 2000s. In 2010, the government established the High-Level Anticorruption Commission (CAN), which developed the 2012-2016 National Anticorruption Plan. The Plan initiated the changes needed for a lasting anticorruption effort in the country. While international observers acknowledge the advances made by CAN, numerous corruption scandals involving the government have emerged through the years and eroded public confidence in political anticorruption efforts.
In the final year of the Alan García government in 2010, the PCM approved Supreme Decree 016-2010-PCM establishing the High-Level Anticorruption Commission [Comisión de Alto Nivel Anticorrupción] (CAN). The objective of CAN was to prevent and fight corruption in Peru by coordinating actions, combining efforts, and proposing medium- and long-term policies to the main institutions in the country. To achieve its objective, CAN was required to set the country's anticorruption strategy through the National Anticorruption Plan, where country-level guidelines were defined respecting the autonomy and independence of each public entity.
CAN held roundtable discussions and was overseen by the PCM. The discussions included representatives from the legislative, executive and judicial branches of the Peruvian government, as well as representatives of other state bodies, the business sector, and civil society organisations. Incorporating previous efforts, CAN designed the National Anticorruption Plan 2012-2016. The Plan was approved by government in December 2012. It included an implementation timeframe and measurement functions.
At the same time as CAN was created, the government required local and regional authorities to create their own anticorruption commissions. With CAN as the coordinating body, local and regional commissions would assist in the execution of the National Anticorruption Plan.
CAN built on the lessons from earlier government attempts to set up an independent body with the mandate to tackle corruption. According to Genaro Matute, the former general coordinator of CAN, he was given the mandate to “set up something in anticorruption”. Matute reflected on how earlier commissions and offices had been established with more operational functions and they all “made the mistake of investigating”. Instead, Matute set up CAN without an investigative role, focusing instead on developing long-term agreements to disincentivise corruption.
In 2011, Ollanta Humala became president, with a commitment to promote transparency and fight corruption. Humala aimed to strengthen CAN, and replaced Matute with Susana Silva, the then secretary-general of the Lima municipal council. Under Silva's leadership, the commission was expanded from 12 to 21 representatives to include a broader range of actors involved in Peru's anticorruption efforts.
President Fujimori fled to Japan in 2000 amid allegations of corruption during his 10-year presidency. Following his departure, the interim government set up a special unit of anticorruption prosecutors to investigate corruption allegations against his administration. Ranked in 7th place in Forbes's 2004 list of “The World's All-Time Most Corrupt Leaders", Fujimori had allegedly embezzled USD600 million. In 2009, Fujimori and several high-ranking public officials were convicted on several charges, including human rights violations and corruption. The former president was found to have managed a corruption network involving over a thousand people to embezzle public funds, favour friends, and gain electoral advantage by bribing the media.
However, by the time Fujimori was sentenced in 2010, the effectiveness of Peru's judicial anticorruption institutions had weakened. In addition to the budget constraints faced by the judiciary, the political will to tackle corruption had dissipated over the years, as civilian engagement decreased. Transparency International reported in 2010 that 79 percent of civilians surveyed in Peru thought that levels of corruption had increased over the previous three years.
Between 2000 and 2010, the Peruvian government attempted several initiatives to reduce corruption. In 2001, the government-appointed Presidency of the Council of Ministers (PCM) followed expert recommendations to create a new state body dedicated to tackling corruption. However, such initiatives were short-lived and frequently modified or replaced in response to new corruption scandals or changes of government. The instability of anticorruption institutions limited the chances of a lasting solution. Moreover, despite the efforts of working groups and state bodies to prepare national anticorruption plans, the 2005, 2006 and 2008 plans were never approved by the government. Although the 2008 plan was thought to be very comprehensive, its objectives were considered unrealistic by government.
The public impact
CAN successfully designed and implemented the 2012-2016 National Plan to Fight Corruption and designed the next national plan. It also became the most enduring anticorruption initiative created by the PCM, stretching over four presidencies to date and securing the stability of the national anticorruption strategy.
CAN works with international organisations who report advances made in Peru's fight against corruption. However, international actors also offer recommendations to CAN for improving and continuing to strengthen the anticorruption effort. As stated in an OECD report in 2017, “while Peru has made important progress in strengthening its public integrity system, challenges remain, particularly the need to reinforce institutions and mitigate corruption risks”.
Given the lack of approved indicators to measure corruption, there is great reliance on citizen perception surveys, which do not necessarily reflect the advances made by the initiative. The work of CAN is focused on improving medium- and long-term public sector practices. This neglect of short-term outcomes is criticised by citizens who are disillusioned as a result of the Peruvian government's many corruption scandals . Overall, public perception surveys do not reflect an improvement in the corruption levels in Peru's public sector, which make reports from international observers and CAN itself particularly relevant to analyse the progress made by the initiative.
In its 2016 evaluation report of the 2012-2016 National Plan to Fight Corruption, CAN detailed 5 objectives, 15 strategies and 55 actions that had been delivered to tackle corruption. A limited sample of the areas where CAN reported having an impact in the 2016 evaluation report included:
- Strengthening the anticorruption fiscal system
- Adopting anticorruption strategies within ministries and affiliate institutions
- Creating internal control committees and monitoring systems within public bodies;
- Unifying the ethical norms within the public service
- Strengthening public hiring and procurement practices
- Promoting a legal framework to tackle corruption effectively.
As a result of CAN's National Anticorruption Plan, by September 2016 all ministries reported having approved anticorruption plans and starting the implementation stage. There were only three exceptions: the PCM, the Ministry of External Affairs, and the Ministry of Defence.
In its effort to strengthen institutions, CAN worked to improve coordination and information-sharing across anticorruption bodies. Most notably, CAN promoted the creation of a consolidated government digital platform that is being used by at least 137 public institutions. Between 2012 and 2015, CAN held 73 events, including seminars, conferences and workshops to train some 1500 partners on the use of the platform across the country.
CAN also led a regional and local anticorruption effort by establishing 25 Regional Anticorruption Commissions by September 2016. However, most of the regional commissions operate only sporadically. In its 2016 evaluation report, CAN indicated a shortage of human capital and funding, along with limited support from regional and local authorities, as the main barriers to implementing and supervising the network of Regional Anticorruption Commissions effectively.
Despite the steps taken by CAN, public perception of government corruption did not improve. In fact, in the years of CAN's activity, public perception of the government and its capabilities to tackle corruption worsened. CAN observed this downward trend and argued that the numerous political scandals and controversial judicial decisions reported by media were key elements in influencing public perception. Another factor might have been that CAN is focused on improving public sector practices and control mechanisms, which do not necessarily show immediate results but do have a long-term impact. However, analysing why public perception failed to change, despite advances made by CAN, falls outside the scope of this case study.
Written by Cristina Figaredo
Stakeholders were not significantly involved in the creation or design of CAN. Available reports suggest the design of CAN was managed by Genaro Matute, its first general coordinator, following a government order. The creation of a dedicated body to lead the anticorruption effort was recommended by the team of experts in 2001. However, there is no evidence indicating significant stakeholder involvement in the final design of CAN in 2010.
Unlike earlier bodies, CAN incorporated public service, private sector, and civil society representatives. When designing the organisation, Matute appreciated the need for a shared space integrating representatives of different groups fighting corruption in the country. Government representation was included, but as a minority within CAM's governing body. However, the original 12 participating members did not represent all the relevant stakeholders. Susana Silva addressed this problem and expanded CAN's membership from 12 to 21, integrating a broader range of actors involved in the anticorruption effort.
Stakeholders supported the initiative despite their apparent lack of engagement in the design process. Peru's key stakeholders, who were drawn from legislative, executive and judicial entities, other state bodies, the business sector, and civil society, seem to have supported the initiative by taking part in CAN. However, the OECD found that CAN does not integrate all the key actors and recommends incorporating representatives from the corruption prevention space, which at the moment seems to be underrepresented.
Since the creation of CAN in 2010, Peru has seen four different governments with shifting political commitment to CAN and the anticorruption effort. However, political powers have for the most part maintained a solid commitment to CAN's work, providing stable funding and implementing anticorruption recommendations in almost all ministries.
As regards the allocation of resources and support for CAN's mandate, the García and Humala governments appeared committed to maintaining a consistent annual budget for CAN of USD 400,000. Although García's administration created CAN, Humala's contribution was especially relevant to reinforcing CAN's work. Despite initially halving CAN's budget for 2012, with funding returning to normal the following year, Humala created a favourable environment in the Ministry of Justice for bringing in anticorruption reforms and joining an international multilateral agreement to fight corruption, the Open Government Partnership (OPG).
However, even under the sympathetic Humala government, political commitment to CAN was not entirely stable. In late 2012, Humala departed from his transparency campaign by issuing a decree classifying all national-security information as state secret. The government also refused to approve another Open Government Partnership Action Plan from 2013 until mid-2015. Silva, the general coordinator of CAN, considered that such actions “gave the impression to civil society that the government would not walk the talk”. Silva resigned in January 2015 over weakened support from the president and his ministers in anticorruption initiatives. No meetings were held for several months until the situation began to improve in mid-2015.
At a ministerial level, towards the end of Humala's presidency most ministries were following CAN recommendations. As of September 2016, the majority had effectively designed anticorruption plans of their own and were taking the first steps towards implementation. The adoption of such initiatives suggests strong political commitment from the majority of public bodies. However, political commitment was weakened by three bodies failing to adopt anticorruption plans, most notably the creator of CAN, the PCM.
Humala's successor as president in 2016, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski retained CAN but failed to support the fight against corruption. In 2018, Kuczynski resigned after evidence emerged involving him in a corruption scandal, suggesting only a slight political commitment to CAN's objectives.
Martin Vizcarra, Kuczynski's vice president, assumed the presidency in March 2018 and reinvigorated political support for CAN. In April 2018, only a month after assuming the presidency, Vizcarra implemented a number of reforms requested by CAN in its 2016 evaluation report. Vizcarra's reforms led to the creation of the Office of Public Integrity [Secretaría de Integridad Pública] to replace the General Coordinator's Office. The new body took over the management of CAN under the umbrella of the PCM. The two chief differences include the formal integration of the Office of Public Integrity in the formal structure of the PCM, and a reinforcement of the new body's authority.
When CAN was created, there was limited public confidence in the government's response to corruption. Moreover, during the years CAN has been active, corruption perception surveys in Peru indicate a decline in public confidence in the country's political and judicial capabilities for tackling corruption. For example, Proética, the Peruvian chapter of Transparency International, reported a fall in confidence in Transparency International's 2017 National Survey on Corruption Perception: 62 percent of respondents indicated that the chief problem faced by the state was corruption of public servants, up from 55 percent in 2010. The judiciary and Congress were consistently ranked as the most corrupt institutions in the country.
Statements from prominent public figures also highlight public concerns about the government's ability to tackle corruption. Walter Albán, ombudsman of Peru in the early 2000s before later becoming minister of the interior, stated in 2015 that corruption in Peru is a “spreading cancer”. Speaking in 2011, Inés Arias, the former coordinator of the civil society group Grupo de Trabajo Contra la Corrupción (GTCC), viewed the creation of CAN a year earlier as the continuation of a string of empty government gestures about fighting corruption, which are usually made in the wake of a corruption scandal. However, Arias also considered CAN a much-needed institution which did not yet have the power required to tackle corruption.
Despite the decline in public confidence, international organisations see some progress in Peru's anticorruption efforts. Two bodies - the UN Convention Against Corruption and the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption - have recognised Peru's overall improvement and good practice in such areas as hiring, witness protection, and cooperation with international justice. Their reports also include recommendations that CAN has incorporated into Peru's anticorruption agenda. According to CAN, the erosion of public confidence, despite reports of progress from monitoring bodies, was influenced by media reports of a series of political scandals and controversial judicial processes.
Clarity of objectives
CAN's objectives were clearly set out in the legislation in that it aimed to prevent and fight corruption in Peru by coordinating actions, combining efforts, and proposing medium- and long-term policies across the main institutions in the country. Law 29976, approved by Congress in 2013, required CAN to:
- Propose short-, medium- and long-term policies to the Executive Power for preventing and fighting against corruption across sectors and government bodies
- Propose the National Anticorruption Plan to the Executive Power
- Encourage and promote a culture of values in Peruvian society
- Coordinate with responsible entities in their fulfilment of transparency, citizen participation, knowledge of the acts of public officials, acts of the administration, and budget management
- Promote the cooperation of entities responsible for the investigation and punishment of acts of corruption
- Coordinate with Regional Anticorruption Commissions for the execution of the policy and National Anticorruption Plan at a regional level
- Present to Congress the annual report on the fulfilment of the National Anticorruption Plan. 
Strength of evidence
The idea of establishing an anticorruption body was proposed by experts in the early 2000s. At least two working groups were set up by the government between 2000 and 2010 to propose a strategy to fight corruption, the first in 2001 and the second in 2006. Most notably, the findings from the first group established the grounds for future work on the topic. In its final report, the first group recommended establishing a dedicated body to spearhead the anticorruption effort.
Although not preceded by pilots, CAN's design was based on evidence from up to five failed attempts by the PCM to create an anticorruption body. Following these failed attempts in 2009 and 2010, the PCM tested several formulas to design an institution responsible for the design and implementation of a national plan against corruption. Another lesson from previous attempts was to set up CAN without an investigative mandate, but instead to focus on developing long-term agreements to disincentivise corruption. Earlier government anticorruption initiatives were legally problematic because bodies were given responsibilities that were at variance with the constitution. Bodies had also been granted investigating responsibilities without having proper means of managing investigations, something that CAN wished to avoid.
Legal concerns were taken into account when CAN was created under Law 29976. It was established without an investigative mandate in order to prevent clashes with the constitution. Moreover, legal reforms have accompanied the growth of CAN, improving the institution's ability to meet its objectives. For example, Humala's government increased the membership (see Management below), and the Vizcarra governments adapted and strengthened CAN following recommendations made in the organistion's 2016 evaluation report.
In terms of financial resources, CAN's funding was relatively stable. In 2010, the García government gave the newly-created organisation an annual budget of PEN 1.2 billion. After taking office, the Humala administration drastically reduced CAN's budget for 2012 to under PEN500,000. However, in 2013 the budget returned to the level of the García government, where it roughly remained through to 2016.
When initially set up in 2010, CAN counted three permanent staff members. Numbers increased over the years to 12 by 2016, including the post of general coordinator. However, CAN considered that its organisational structure was constraining its independence, and it reported in 2016 that its main limitation was the organic, operational and budget dependence on the PCM. Moreover, CAN pointed out that its structure was not properly defined within the PCM's own organisation, and that a better structure would allow a more effective delivery. A number of CAN's concerns were addressed by Vizcarra when creating a new body to take over the General Coordinator's Office.
In CAN's 2016 evaluation report, it identified other feasibility issue in relation to its objectives. For example, it indicated a shortage of human capital and funding - combined with limited support from regional and local authorities - as the main obstacles to implementing and supervising the regional network of Anticorruption Commissions effectively.
When CAN was created in 2010, it included 12 representatives from the executive and legislative branches, local government, and a number of independent institutions. The following year, Susana Silva was appointed general coordinator, and expanded the number of representatives to 21 to incorporate a broader range of actors involved in the fight against corruption. Under Silva's leadership, CAN had the following members in 2011:
- Executive branch: the prime minister and the minister of justice
- Legislative branch: the president of Congress
- Autonomous institutions: the president of the judiciary, the president of the Constitutional Court, the president of the National Council of Magistrates, the public prosecutor, the ombudsman, the comptroller general, the executive secretary of the National Agreement Forum, and the public contracts supervisor
- Local government: a representative of both the Association of Regional Government and the Association of Municipalities (AMPE)
- Civil society (five seats), including unions, religious organisations, and press and activist groups
- The private sector (three seats).
The roles of the president and the general coordinator with regard to CAN were clearly defined in legislation, allocating distinct responsibilities and functions. The president is elected by CAN members every two years; the general coordinator is appointed by the PCM to implement the agreements achieved by CAN members.
In April 2018, Vizcarra implemented CAN's recommendations and created the Office of Public Integrity [Secretaría de Integridad Pública] to take over the work of the General Coordinator's Office. The PCM reappointed Silva to continue her work as head of the new body. The retention of Silva in such a key managerial role for the anticorruption effort suggests she is seen as doing a good job.
CAN leverages information from a variety of sources to inform its decision-making. In the 2016 evaluation report, CAN incorporated statistical data from government sources as well as recommendations and findings from a variety of sources, ranging from civil society to international organisations. Recommendations received are acknowledged by CAN and referred to as the pending agenda for Peru. One such recommendation is to improve the availability of consolidated statistical data for fiscal investigations and judicial processes.
There was a lack of systematic monitoring and evaluation mechanisms for follow-up and planning, and this prevented regular reporting and analysis within CAN, leading to inconsistent measurement of the initiative and its progress.
Law 29976 required the general coordinator to produce annual reports on the progress of the National Anticorruption Plan, although no annual reports could be identified. However, the 2012-2016 National Anticorruption Plan provided a framework to measure CAN's progress, and CAN published a comprehensive evaluation report in 2016, which covered the implementation period of the Plan.
The evaluation of the 2012-2016 National Plan reported on the progress made regarding its 5 specific objectives, 15 strategies, and 55 actions to tackle corruption. The report incorporates historical information and annual statistical data from the public bodies involved in each specific action. Historical information offers an understanding of how different areas of the plan progressed over time.
CAN's members appear to have cooperated effectively up to 2016. In the meetings held between 2010 and 2016, members successfully signed over 120 agreements. No data is readily available for subsequent years.
Silva's work as general coordinator and her efforts to keep the government engaged demonstrated her alignment as a key actor involved in the initiative. When Humala offered her the job in 2011, she was hesitant about taking on the role, considering that “It [CAN] was a very weak organisation and had no presence on the political agenda.” However, Silva was persuaded by the incoming administration's reputation for honesty and took the job to support their work in the fight against corruption. Over the years, the Humala government's engagement with the anticorruption effort weakened, leading Silva to resign from her post in 2015 until the situation began to improve a few months later.
Although public confidence in political efforts to tackle corruption was weak, the objective of the initiative strongly aligned with general public concerns. In its 2010 Corruption Perception Survey, Proética found that citizens perceived corruption to be the chief problem in Peru. However, reformers were worried about the drop in public interest after the surge in engagement following the Fujimori scandal. According to Walter Albán, former head of Proética, “a big problem is that we need civil society to react and to become interested again”.
There is evidence of alignment between CAN and the ministries designing and implementing anticorruption plans between 2012 and 2016. At the same time, CAN had relatively weak alignment with local and regional authorities, who offered only limited support for the implementation of the regional anticorruption network. 
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Photo credit: Jess Kraft/EyeEm
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