Fighting Corruption Wherever We Find It

A series of lectures hosted by Judge Malcolm Simmons

Corruption has a disproportionate impact on the poor and most vulnerable, increasing costs and reducing access to services, including health, education and justice.

Corruption erodes trust in government and undermines the social contract. This is cause for concern across the globe, but particularly in contexts of fragility and violence, as corruption fuels and perpetuates the inequalities and discontent that lead to fragility, violent extremism, and conflict.

Corruption impedes investment, with consequent effects on growth and jobs. Countries capable of confronting corruption use their human and financial resources more efficiently, attract more investment, and grow more rapidly.

Corruption comes in different forms. It might impact service delivery, such as when police officers ask for bribes to perform routine services. Corruption might unfairly determine the winners of government contracts, with awards favouring friends or relatives of government officials. Corruption might affect more fundamental issues including how institutions work and who controls them.

Successful anti-corruption efforts require a holistic approach including politicians and senior government officials, the private sector, citizens, communities, and civil society. The methods employed to fight corruption must be tailored to create the most significant impact.

The World Bank Group has suggested the following:

First, every effort must be made to meet corruption at the gate, putting in place institutional systems and incentives to prevent corruption from occurring in the first place. This includes mitigating and detecting potential risks, as well as addressing weaknesses in the institutions critical to this effort.

Second, prevention must be built on the shoulders of credible deterrence, relying on accountability and enforcement mechanisms sufficiently strong to send a message to potential wrongdoers of the potential cost of their misconduct. Deterrence can take many forms beyond criminal consequences, including administrative and civil penalties and the Bank has created a world class sanctions and debarment mechanism to tackle corruption in its projects.

Finally, it is critical to understand and influence the evolution of norms and standards that can change incentives, strengthen public institutions, and thus move the needle towards positive perceptions of government needed for longer-term and sustainable efforts to combat corruption.

Afghanistan is making inroads to root out corruption, improve the management of its public finance, and make its procurement system more transparent. The country’s National Procurement Authority (NPA) was instrumental in developing a transparent procurement system. The early data and information on procurement processes is accessible to everyone on the NPA website. Robust oversight and monitoring have helped the government save about $270 million.

In Brazil, a data analytics trial in the north eastern state of Ceará explored how mobile surveys and scientific techniques can be used to uncover suspicious patterns of interactions between public service providers and users. In the first experiment, patient feedback provided through mobile phones was combined with administrative data from hospital services. The second experiment investigated how survey and administrative data could be used to find anomalies in the environmental licensing process. While bribery data collected through mobile phones offered inconclusive results, administrative data were used effectively to identify corruption red flags.

In Guinea, for the first time since the country gained independence in 1958, a register enrolled all of Guinea’s employed civil servants in 2015 by implementing a biometric identification system to conduct a census of civil servants to eliminate fictitious or fraudulent positions and potentially save more than 1.7 million dollars through the discontinuation of salary payments.

The Dominican Republic formed the Participatory Anti-Corruption Initiative, a forum that gives public officials, civil society, private sector leaders, and other committed citizens a unique opportunity to tackle corruption and take on powerful interest groups in many areas, including medicine and procurement. By 2014, reforms in this area had lowered drug prices, improved medication quality and reduced public spending by 64 percent.