Social media and anti-corruption efforts may sound like strange bedfellows, but as communication technology continues to evolve and as mobile devices are increasingly dominant platforms for accessing information, social media is ever more connected to attempts to thwart corruption.
Shehla Masood was a 38-year-old businesswoman living in the central Indian city of Bhopal. She was shot and killed near her home on Aug. 16, 2011, after availing herself of India’s Right to Information Act in order to expose local corruption.
Masood was one of several whistleblowers killed or attacked in India before the passing of the country’s whistleblower protection bill. Her story demonstrates the considerable threat of retaliation for whistleblowing.
When faced with corruption, only few of us take the courage to speak up. Reporting questionable business practices or abuses of power without protection is simply too risky for many. However, whistleblowing plays a critical role in fighting corruption.
So, how do we encourage those who witness corruptive practices to come forward? And, how do we provide adequate protection for whistleblowers? On International Anti-Corruption Day (December 9), members of the International Corruption Hunters Alliance gathered at the World Bank to discuss these questions.
The task force is a part of the royal conservation organization, United for Wildlife, and "will call on companies to implement a 'zero tolerance' policy towards the trade," the Prince said. He went on to say, "Criminals are able to exploit weak and corrupt standards, so we must raise those standards, collectively."
The prince also linked wildlife poaching to terrorism and organized crime: “Criminal gangs turn vast profits from the illegal killing or capture of wildlife; armed groups and terrorists swap poached ivory for guns; and middle-men oil the wheels of the trade in return for reward.”
The speech was delivered one day before International Anti-Corruption Day, which is observed annually on December 9. This year’s theme, “Break the Corruption Chain”, urges people to avoid taking part in everyday acts of corruption that undermine education, health, justice, democracy and sustainable development in communities around the world.
At times, I ask my friends in Nepal, why they would not launch a business, especially when they have funds. A common obstacle for everyone is that they say you have to bribe government officials to even open a business.
Whenever aid and development money is involved, one question consistently emerges: How do you make sure it does not fall on the wrong hands, and be victims of fraud and corruption? This is a question that the World Bank country team in Vietnam and elsewhere has been grappling with. How do we ensure that financing for World Bank projects actually goes to its intended purposes and supports the ultimate goals of eliminating extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity?
World Bank country staff in Vietnam realized that previous responses to fraud and corruption have focused too narrowly on individual projects. What are the factors that cause and perpetuate fraud and corruption in the first place? They needed to sufficiently address the root causes of the problem, and not just the symptoms. Despite greater awareness and more open debate about corruption in Vietnamese society, there's no evidence that allegations of fraud and corruption have decreased in the last several years.
To nip the canker in the bud, the Vietnam country team is developing a Strategic Action Plan to Address Fraud and Corruption Risks. The plan identifies broad areas of fraud and corruption concerns, categorizes them, and proposes measures and activities for mitigation. Teams across different World Bank units called “Global Practices” have come together to mainstream and implement the plan into core operations.
In our earlier blogs on corruption we have looked at the causes and consequences of corruption within the process of economic development. In our last blog, Six Strategies to Fight Corruption, we addressed the question of what can be done about it, and discussed the role of economic policies in developing the right sorts of incentives and institutions to reduce its incidence. This blog will provide some thoughts on the moral dimensions of corruption.
China has a long tradition of burying the dead and building tombs to honor them. This ancient practice, however, has recently been butting heads with modernity as the Chinese government now needs to conserve limited land for farming and development to support its people. In an effort to use land more effectively, the government launched a campaign to encourage cremation instead of burial, and authorities demanded that a minimum number of corpses be cremated each year, based on the total population of the previous year.
The campaign, however, led to unexpected results. At the start of November, two officials in China’s Guangdong province were arrested for allegedly buying corpses in order to meet the strict cremation quotas. Police from Beiliu City in Guangxi Province began investigating the theft of bodies in the region during the summer and apprehended a grave robber named Zhong in July. Zhong admitted to stealing more than 20 bodies from the graveyards of local villages in Guangxi at night. He then transported the bodies to Guangdong province to the east, where he sold them to two local officials. These two officials, He and Dong, were formally in charge of funeral management reform in the province and were arrested for purchasing the corpses with the intent of delivering them to a funeral parlor for cremation on the official registry.
Compare this to public school teachers in the United States who cheated on standardized test scores by illegally viewing tests ahead of the test date and changing their students’ answers to meet high yearly targets for student progression.
Public procurement is not among the most popular topics in development circles. However, consider just these three ways in which procurement is probably one of the most indispensable elements that make up a truly capable state:
First, without effective procurement, hospitals wait for drugs, teachers for textbooks, and cities for roads. Whenever a news item surfaces about drugs shortages in hospitals, schools without textbooks or failing road networks, the reader may be looking at a procurement problem. Without efficient procurement, money gets wasted on a very large scale. Many developing countries channel significant proportions of their budgets through the procurement system – even marginal savings can add up very fast. Third, public procurement is a part of the government that citizens see every day. Lack of transparency and corruption in procurement directly affects citizens, and the losses to corruption are estimated in the billions of dollars every year. Corruption in procurement is a big problem that affects rich countries as well.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Accountability, Transparency, Participation, and Inclusion: A New Development Consensus?
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Four key principles—accountability, transparency, participation, and inclusion—have in recent years become nearly universal features of the policy statements and programs of international development organizations. Yet this apparently widespread new consensus is deceptive: behind the ringing declarations lie fundamental fissures over the value and application of these concepts. Understanding and addressing these divisions is crucial to ensuring that the four principles become fully embedded in international development work.
Ebola communication: What we've learned so far
This week, a World Health Organization infectious diseases expert reported the death rate due to Ebola in West Africa has now climbed to 70 percent, higher than previous estimates. And by December, new cases could hit 10,000 a week. For front-line medical workers, the projections couldn’t be grimmer. They are overwhelmed and their numbers are dwindling — Médecins Sans Frontières has already lost nine staff members to the epidemic — but reinforcements remain sparse. For organizations involved in communication and awareness-raising campaigns, meanwhile, this situation means they need to be more aggressive and robust, and their messaging fool-proof. We know many of them are on the ground, conducting door-to-door campaigns and spot radio announcements, putting up posters and distributing pamphlets to inform communities about the disease. Some have even resorted to using megaphones to reach people who choose to remain indoors, conduct skits in schools and communities via youth drama troupes. A few aid groups are even considering perceived viral forms of communication like music and video messaging led by former football player and now UNICEF ambassador David Beckham. But are these campaigns actually working? Will the new plans be effective?
When Ukrainians took the streets in the winter of 2013/14, protests – sparked by the then Government’s decision to suspend the signing of the association agreement with the EU – reflected widespread discontent over deep-seated corruption. From its independence over two decades ago, Ukraine has struggled with corruption and state capture. So-called oligarchs dominate large sectors of the Ukrainian economy, extracting rents and controlling the state through direct representation in the Parliament. This allowed oligarchs to tap into rich sources of corruption, including energy subsidies, discretionary public procurement, privatization of state assets and wide spread tax fraud and evasion. These governance failures created an economy largely built around redistribution of rents. Arguably, this accounts for much Ukraine’s dismal economic performance despite an abundance of natural resources, qualified human capital and a strategic location in the center of Europe.