Honoring Anticorruption Champions

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Around the world, corruption threatens security and stability, hinders economic growth, undermines democracy and human rights, destroys trust in public institutions, facilitates transnational crime, and siphons away public and private resources.  The Biden Administration recognizes that we will only be successful in combating these issues by working in concert with committed partners, including courageous individuals who champion anticorruption efforts and countries working to fulfill their commitments to international anticorruption standards.  For that reason, I am announcing a new International Anticorruption Champions Award, recognizing individuals who have worked tirelessly, often in the face of adversity, to defend transparency, combat corruption, and ensure accountability in their own countries.

As President Biden has emphasized, our commitment to truth, transparency, and accountability is a mission that we must live at home and exemplify abroad.  I commend the dedication of these 12 brave individuals to these same ideals.  The honorees are:  Ardian Dvorani of Albania, Diana Salazar of Ecuador, Sophia Pretrick of the Federated States of Micronesia, Juan Francisco Sandoval Alfaro of Guatemala, Ibrahima Kalil Gueye of Guinea, Anjali Bhardwaj of India, Dhuha A. Mohammed of Iraq, Bolot Temirov of the Kyrgyz Republic, Mustafa Abdullah Sanalla of Libya, Victor Sotto of The Philippines, Francis Ben Kaifala of Sierra Leone, and Ruslan Ryaboshapka of Ukraine.  They inspire us and so many of their counterparts pursuing these ideals around the world. The United States enforces one of the most robust anticorruption frameworks in the world.  We were the first to criminalize foreign bribery and, in partnership with foreign counterparts, have recovered and returned more than $1 billion in stolen public assets in the past two years alone.  We use a range of tools to promote accountability for corrupt individuals, combat impunity globally, and engage in multilateral fora to fight corruption and strengthen citizen engagement.  We will defeat corruption by implementing sound reforms consistent with international anticorruption commitments; developing transparent, accountable institutions; and empowering citizens, journalists, and civil society organizations to help defeat this global threat to security and democracy.

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    In U.S GAO News
    Stakeholders GAO interviewed said that federal oversight of automated technologies—such as those that control a function or task of a plane, train, or vehicle without human intervention—requires regulatory expertise as well as engineering, data analysis, and cybersecurity skills. Stakeholders also stated that as automated systems become more common across transportation modes, overseeing them will require understanding vehicle operating systems, software code, and the vast amounts of data produced by these systems to ensure their safety. Skills Needed to Oversee the Safety of Automated Technologies, according to Stakeholders The U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) Departmental Office of Human Resources Management has identified most skills DOT needs to oversee automated technologies, but it has not fully assessed whether its workforce has these skills. Through its workforce planning efforts, DOT identified many of the skills cited by stakeholders as important for overseeing automated technologies—regulatory expertise, engineering, and data analysis. In 2016 and 2020, DOT surveyed staff in related positions and identified gaps in some of these skills, including regulatory expertise. However, DOT did not survey staff or assess skill gaps in data analysis or cybersecurity positions important to automated technology oversight. As a result, DOT lacks critical information needed to identify skill gaps and ensure key relevant staff are equipped to oversee the safety of these technologies now and in the future. DOT developed strategies to address some but not all gaps in skills needed to oversee automated technologies. For example, DOT implemented some recruiting strategies and established hiring goals as a means of closing gaps identified in the 2016 survey and plans to continue these efforts in light of the 2020 survey. However, DOT has not tracked the progress of strategies implemented to close skill gaps since the 2016 survey, nor has it implemented training strategies. Accordingly, some skill gaps related to overseeing the safety of automated technologies will likely persist in DOT's workforce. Automated technologies in planes, trains, and passenger vehicles are in use today and likely to become increasingly widespread. While these technologies hold promise, accidents involving them demonstrate potential safety challenges. DOT is responsible for overseeing the safety of all modes of transportation. This report addresses: (1) stakeholders' perspectives on the skills required to oversee automated technologies; (2) the extent to which DOT has identified and assessed the skills it needs to oversee these technologies; and (3) the extent to which DOT has developed strategies to address any gaps in skills. GAO reviewed relevant literature and DOT workforce planning documents, and interviewed DOT human capital officials, selected modal administrations, and stakeholders, including transportation associations and technology developers. GAO selected modal administrations based in part on the prevalence of automated technologies. GAO is making four recommendations, including that DOT: (1) assess skill gaps in key occupations involved in overseeing automated technologies and (2) regularly measure the progress of strategies implemented to close skill gaps. DOT concurred with three recommendations and partially concurred with one on measuring progress. GAO clarified this recommendation and believes its implementation is warranted. For more information, contact Heather Krause at (202) 512-2834 or krauseh@gao.gov.
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  • Two Individuals Charged with Bribery Related to Iraq Contracts
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    Two individuals have been charged with bribery offenses in connection with Department of Defense contracts as part of the Fraud Section’s ongoing efforts to combat corruption and fraud in contracting on U.S. military installations overseas.
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  • Disaster Recovery: COVID-19 Pandemic Intensifies Disaster Recovery Challenges for K-12 Schools
    In U.S GAO News
    Local education officials in natural disaster-affected areas told us the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has exacerbated mental health issues and contributed to lost instructional time, staff burnout, delays in recovery projects, and financial strain in their communities. These officials explained that after the natural disaster, restoring students' mental health was a top priority. Many local education officials said that the services needed to treat trauma and other disaster-related mental health issues were not readily available in their areas, and some noted that providing mental health services has been especially difficult during the pandemic. For example, one official said that because half of her students live in poverty, they usually access mental health services through the school, and were cut off from those services during the pandemic. Some local education officials said they were also particularly worried about the effects of the pandemic on their low-income and other at-risk students, noting that these students are especially vulnerable to learning loss. The COVID-19 pandemic has also affected districts by slowing progress on some disaster recovery projects. For example, an official in a district affected by wildfire said that an effort to restore running water to damaged school buildings was delayed due the pandemic. The U.S. Department of Education (Education) supported school recovery efforts by awarding nearly $1.4 billion to assist schools in over 30 states and U.S. territories with recovery from presidentially-declared major disasters occurring between 2017 and 2019, although some local education officials reported difficulty in using these grant funds during the pandemic. Education provided this funding through the Immediate Aid to Restart School Operations (Restart) and the Project School Emergency Response to Violence grant programs, among others. Local education officials from several districts and counties said that they are using or planning to use Education disaster grants to provide mental health services to students and cover other costs associated with re-opening, such as additional transportation services, but that during the pandemic this was sometimes challenging. For example, officials in two counties said that timeframes for using Restart funds, which expire after 2 years, were too short for long-term recovery needs such as mental health services, particularly with the compounding effects of the pandemic. Education officials said that grantees may request waivers to extend the end dates of these grants and that as of October 2020, no Restart grantees who experienced a 2018 disaster had done so. With regard to oversight, Education officials said they paused on-site monitoring efforts for recent disaster grants as a result of the pandemic, but have continued to hold quarterly phone calls with Restart grantees. These grantees have noted some challenges related to the grant program but have not discussed specific technical assistance needs, according to Education officials. More than 260 presidentially-declared major disasters have occurred since 2017, affecting every state and several U.S. territories, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Many of these natural disasters have had devastating effects, including rendering K-12 school facilities unusable for lengthy periods of time. These schools are now experiencing the compounding challenge of recovering from natural disasters while managing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing practices and building closures are meant to keep staff and students safe, but may also complicate recovery efforts for disaster-affected districts. The Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act of 2019 provided funds for GAO to audit issues related to presidentially-declared major disasters that occurred in 2018. We reviewed (1) how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected schools recovering from recent natural disasters; and (2) support Education has provided to help school recover from recent natural disasters and how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected schools' use of these resources. We interviewed 29 local education officials representing over 50 school districts in California, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Florida, and Hawaii, which were selected because they were affected by a diverse set of major natural disasters in 2018 that occurred in a mix of populated and less-populated areas. In addition, through a national school superintendents association, we convened a discussion group of superintendents who have experienced natural disasters and mentor other affected districts. Finally, we reviewed federal guidance and interviewed Education officials. For more information, contact Jacqueline M. Nowicki at (617) 788-0580 or nowickij@gao.gov.
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  • Stalking Victimization, 2016
    In Justice News
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    This report details the demographic characteristics of stalking victims and describes the nature of stalking victimization, including the number of offenders, the victim-offender relationship, and the frequency and duration of the stalking.
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  • OECD Working Group on Bribery Issues Report Commending United States for Maintaining Leading Role in the Fight Against Transnational Corruption
    In Crime News
    The Working Group on Bribery of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD Working Group) issued its Phase 4 Report of the United States today, announced the U.S. Departments of Justice, Commerce, State, and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
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  • Global Disruption of Three Terror Finance Cyber-Enabled Campaigns
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department today announced the dismantling of three terrorist financing cyber-enabled campaigns, involving the al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing, al-Qaeda, and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). This coordinated operation is detailed in three forfeiture complaints and a criminal complaint unsealed today in the District of Columbia. These actions represent the government’s largest-ever seizure of cryptocurrency in the terrorism context.
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  • Justice Department Announces Civil Investigation into Chemical Restraint Use at Two Nevada Juvenile Facilities
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department announced today that it has opened an investigation into the use of pepper spray at two juvenile correctional facilities run by the Nevada Juvenile Justice Services Agency: the Nevada Youth Training Center and the Summit View Youth Center.  The investigation will examine whether staff at the two facilities use pepper spray in a manner that violates youth’s rights under the Constitution.
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    In U.S Courts
    Through a combination of advance planning, expanded use of technology, and the dedication of thousands of employees, the federal Judiciary’s response to the pandemic has enabled courts to continue to operate, while ensuring the health and safety of the public and court personnel, U.S. Senior District Judge David G. Campbell told Congress on Thursday.
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  • Florida and Tennessee Pain Clinic Owner Extradited from Italy to the United States to Face RICO Charges
    In Crime News
    A dual U.S.-Italian national was extradited from Italy to the United States on Nov. 20. The U.S. Marshals Service effectuated the transportation of the defendant from Lamezia Terme, Calabria to Knoxville, Tennessee.
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  • Jersey/Swiss Financial Services Firm Admits to Conspiring with U.S. Taxpayers to Hide Assets and Income in Offshore Accounts
    In Crime News
    Strachans SA in Liquidation pleaded guilty yesterday to conspiring with U.S. taxpayers and others to hide income and assets in offshore entities and bank accounts from the IRS, and was sentenced in accordance with the guilty plea, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, U.S. Attorney Nicola T. Hanna, and Chief James Lee of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI).
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  • Eastern Kentucky Doctor Sentenced to Prison for Unlawfully Distributing Controlled Substances
    In Crime News
    A Kentucky doctor and his former office manager were sentenced to 60 and 32 months respectively in prison Wednesday for their roles in unlawfully distributing controlled substances during a time when the defendants did not have a legitimate medical practice.
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  • Justice Department Resolves Antitrust Case Against Leading Central Pennsylvania Health Care Providers
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice announced today that it has reached a settlement with Geisinger Health (Geisinger) and Evangelical Community Hospital (Evangelical) that will resolve the department’s ongoing civil antitrust litigation challenging Geisinger’s partial acquisition of Evangelical. Among other terms, the settlement requires Geisinger to cap its ownership interest in Evangelical at a 7.5% passive interest and eliminates additional entanglements between the two competing hospitals.
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  • Macroprudential Oversight: Principles for Evaluating Policies to Assess and Mitigate Risks to Financial System Stability
    In U.S GAO News
    GAO is providing a framework for evaluating macroprudential policy—that is, activities designed to assess and mitigate risks to financial system stability. The framework presents six general components of macroprudential policy and 18 principles (see table), as well as related standards, for establishing the foundation of such policy and putting it into operation. Government actors—such as the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) and its member agencies—are responsible for meeting or contributing to framework principles as they relate to the actors' individual areas of macroprudential responsibility or authority. GAO refers to government actors with collective macroprudential policy responsibilities as the macroprudential entity. GAO Framework for Evaluating Macroprudential Policy Component Principles The macroprudential entity should: Mandate and scope Have a clear mandate Have a scope of responsibilities that extends across the financial system Establish measurable and specific intermediate objectives reflecting the full scope of its responsibilities Governance Have a governance structure promoting willingness to mitigate risks to financial stability in a timely manner Have authorities promoting ability to act consistent with mandate and scope Have transparency requirements promoting the effectiveness, legitimacy, and predictability of macroprudential policy Risk assessment Establish a risk-assessment program corresponding to the scope of the financial system and the entity’s intermediate objectives Identify and analyze potential sources of systemic risk Develop criteria to evaluate significance of risk Establish policies and procedures to conduct systematic risk assessments Risk mitigation Develop a range of macroprudential tools consistent with mandate and scope of responsibilities Develop policies and procedures for conducting risk-mitigation activities Evaluation Evaluate effectiveness of its efforts Document and communicate evaluation findings and promptly remediate issues Data and information Use quality data Develop useful information for decision-making Document information appropriately Establish policies and procedures for sharing data and information Source: GAO. | GAO 21 230SP The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act established FSOC to identify and respond to threats to financial stability in the United States. Other countries have created similar entities, and a growing body of research has developed around these macroprudential structures and approaches. This report presents a principles-based framework to serve as criteria for assessing the financial stability efforts of FSOC and its member agencies. It is intended as a resource for GAO and other auditors, FSOC and its member agencies, and Congress. It also may be useful to others, both domestically and internationally. In developing this framework, GAO reviewed literature on macroprudential policy, prior GAO reports, relevant laws and regulations, and international risk-management guidelines. GAO also interviewed or held discussion groups with representatives of FSOC and its member agencies; international financial stability entities, supreme audit institutions, and international organizations; public interest and industry groups; former regulators and civil servants; and academic and regulatory experts. For more information, contact Michael E. Clements at (202) 512-8678 or ClementsM@gao.gov.
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  • Florida Escort Pleads Guilty to Underreporting Income
    In Crime News
    A Fort Lauderdale, Florida, escort pleaded guilty today to filing a false corporate tax return, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Ariana Fajardo Orshan.
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  • Acting AG and Five Country Statement on the Temporary Derogation to the ePrivacy Directive to Combat Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse
    In Crime News
    Acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen joined the Home Affairs, Interior, and Security Ministers of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom in issuing the following statement:
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  • New Jury Instructions Strengthen Social Media Cautions
    In U.S Courts
    A federal Judiciary committee has issued a new set of model jury instructions that federal judges may use to deter jurors from using social media to research or communicate about cases.
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  • Federal Contractor Agrees to Pay $18.98 Million for Alleged False Claims Act Caused by Overcharges and Unqualified Labor
    In Crime News
    Cognosante LLC has agreed to pay the United States $18,987,789 to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by using unqualified labor and overcharging the United States for services provided to government agencies under two General Services Administration (GSA) contracts, the Justice Department announced today.  Cognosante, which is headquartered in Falls Church, Virginia, provides health care and IT services and solutions to federal agencies.   
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  • Virginia Attorneys Sentenced for Attempting to Extort a Multinational Chemicals Company
    In Crime News
    Two Virginia attorneys were sentenced today on federal extortion charges for their roles in a scheme to extort a multinational chemicals company by threatening to inflict substantial financial and reputational harm on the company if their demands for a $200 million payment disguised as a purported “consulting agreement” were not met.
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  • The United States Sanctions Venezuelan Officials Involved in Unjust Sentencing of the Citgo 6
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