Interview with Executive Director of the Honduran National Anti-Corruption Council

Gabriela Castellanos, Executive Director of Consejo Nacional Anticorrupción, being interviewed at an Impactos event.

“Honduran society is tired of speeches about corruption while not one corrupt politician is paying for their actions in prison,” explained Gabriela Castellanos, the Executive Director of Consejo Nacional Anticorrupción (CNA or the Honduran National Anti-Corruption Council) in a recent interview.

Founded in 2001, the CNA long had a reputation in Honduras as a powerless organization, co-opted by the government and ineffective in achieving their mission to root out corrupt government officials and advance transparency. It wasn’t until 2014, when Ms. Castellanos took the helm, and with courage and conviction, sparked radical change within the organization that has led to significant contributions to anti-corruption efforts in Honduras.

One of her first acts as Director was to rid the CNA of staff acting against the values and mission of CNA. Although a bold first step, Ms. Castellanos realized that if the CNA truly wanted to promote transparency in Honduras, she had to begin by making her own organization more transparent.

“When I took on the challenge of running CNA, it was clear that we would be unable to meet our objectives unless we first strengthened ourselves as an institution. If we are institutionally strong, our struggle to have a more transparent and fair country will be a country-supported struggle,” explained Ms. Castellanos.

Transparent Steps at the Anti-Corruption Council

Ms. Castellanos wanted a comprehensive assessment of the organization’s strength and weaknesses and began working with Impactos, a Counterpart International sponsored initiative. Impactos builds the capacity of civil society organizations in Honduras to promote civic participation, government transparency and accountability.

For close to two years, CNA worked with Impactos to implement Counterpart’s organizational development assessment and action planning in six major areas: leadership and strategic management, program management and quality control, accounting and financial management, financial sustainability, human and material resources, and external relations.

Getting their own house in order lead to more effective efforts to engage with Honduras citizens — an essential ingredient to achieving the organization’s mission. With the help of Impactos, CNA redesigned their website with citizens in mind.

The website included the ‘Denuncia Aqui!’ portal, to give citizens the power to anonymously denounce suspected corruption amongst former and current politicians directly on their website. With this new level of anonymity, citizens began reporting cases more frequently.

Through improved internal processes and more effective ways to increase civic participation, CNA began to fully embrace their goals of rooting out corruption. They publicly announced a case against the ex-director of the Honduran Social Security Institute (IHSS). They presented a well-researched case against the former Secretary of Public Health. And later, they expanded their case against the ex-director of the IHSS — to cases against members of his staff.

From Powerless to Powerhouse

The transformation from a powerless organization to a powerhouse has not gone unnoticed. On January 17, 2017 in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Counterpart International’s Chief Operating Officer, Derek Hodkey, publicly acknowledged the organizational development certification CNA received from Counterpart. This certification is based on high standards set by Counterpart, reflecting best practices endorsed by international agencies including the United States Agency for International Development and the World Bank. CNA is the first civil society organization in Latin American to earn this certification.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Hodkey explained the importance of this achievement — to Counterpart International, Impactos, and to the CNA.

“This certification is a testament of the importance of strengthening not only the technical capabilities of local partners in the fight against corruption, but also of working hand-in-hand with them, supporting them, to ensure they become stronger and sustainable institutions, capable of carrying out their respective missions in a transparent and accountable manner.”

Mr. Hodkey went on to say that in Counterpart’s experience working with thousands of civil society organizations in more than 25 countries, the organizations that have been certified “increase their credibility as reliable and accountable institutions of public trust; and have increased opportunities to drive their mission and implement programs with direct donor support.”

Since CNA began working with Impactos, their commitment to improving internal effectiveness and external credibility has paid dividends.  As an example, Ms. Castellanos noted in a recent interview,

“CNA has a strengthened investigative unit that has been carrying out an extraordinary work in several emblematic cases, including Social Security.”

For more than fifty years, Counterpart International has used our customized approaches and implementation expertise to equip individuals, organizations and communities to become solution creators in their own communities, regions and countries.

Counterpart has applied the organizational development methodology to over 187 organizations in 19 countries as part of our commitment to improving the capacity of local organizations to more effectively implement their missions. As Mr. Hodkey explained at the ceremony honoring the hard work of CNA, this certification will “serve as a model for other countries in Latin America.”