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A global movement against corruption: It is happening now!

Leonard McCarthy's picture

Also available in: Español | Français | العربية

Third Annual International Corruption Hunter AllianceTaking note of headline news in recent weeks, one cannot escape the reality that efforts to fighting corruption are succeeding. A decade ago, success was a privilege to societies who -by virtue of democratic gains- could claim rights to holding public officials accountable. Today, it is not easy to get away with corruption. Not even if you are a major multinational, a senior government official, or an institution with millions of followers across the world.

Within our network- the World Bank International Corruption Hunters Alliance- we feel optimistic about all that is happening to support our mission; that of ensuring every development dollar is spent with integrity. We go to work every day and the focus is how do we prevent bad things from happening. To achieve that at the World Bank Group, we are continually advancing our investigative techniques, our preventive advice, monitoring the compliance standards of debarred entities and engaging with partners across multilateral development banks, national enforcement agencies and CSOs to strengthen this young global movement against corruption. It is critical that this momentum continues to sustain change at a global scale.

Undoubtedly we face a few challenges along the way; some more complex than others, none that cannot be overcome. Last fiscal year, the World Bank prevented approximately $138 million across 20 contracts from being awarded to companies that had attempted to engage in misconduct. This is progress that could not have been achieved without years of investigative experience invested in gathering evidence, recognizing patterns of misconduct, and documenting lessons learnt.

Today, we are able to support project teams to make smarter risk-based interventions. Whether at  project design, supervision and/or evaluation; our diverse team of investigators and forensic/preventive specialists offer a solid interpretation of red flags, unusual/awkward behavior by contractors, in addition to an effective response to allegations of misconduct impacting World Bank-financed projects.

Broken Windows: Mending the Cracks

Leonard McCarthy's picture

When the World Bank investigates and sanctions a major corporation for corruption related to one of its project, the deterrent impact is readily apparent. However, not every case the World Bank investigates is a major corruption case. In the past year, the World Bank Integrity Vice Presidency (INT) received many complaints related to fraud, and it is important to demonstrate responsiveness to complainants who report credible allegations as well as fix the weaknesses identified. Sanctioning cases of fraud also sends a strong message about abiding by high integrity standards in World Bank-financed projects. 

Left unchecked, fraud erodes development effectiveness. It often coincides with poor project implementation, which can result in collapsing infrastructure or the distribution of counterfeit drugs. It causes costly delays and can lead to direct financial losses for countries which cannot afford it. Fraud also fosters a negative enabling environment, creating opportunities for more serious and systemic misconduct to occur.

What are the Sources of Corruption?

Augusto Lopez-Claros's picture

In a previous blog we discussed the factors that have pushed issues of corruption to the centre of policy debates about sound economic management. A related question deals with the sources of corruption: where does it come from, what are the factors that have nourished it and turned it into such a powerful impediment to sustainable economic development? Economists seem to agree that an important source of corruption stems from the distributional attributes of the state. For better or for worse, the role of the state in the economy has expanded in a major way over the past century. In 1913 the 13 largest economies in the world, accounting for the bulk of global economic output, had an average expenditure ratio in relation to GDP of around 12%. This ratio had risen to 43% by 1990, with many countries’ ratios well in excess of 50%.  This rise was associated with the proliferation of benefits under state control and also in the various ways in which the state imposes costs on society. While a larger state need not necessarily be associated with higher levels of corruption—the Nordic countries illustrate this—it is the case that the larger the number of interactions between officials and private citizens, the larger the number of opportunities in which the latter may wish to illegally pay for benefits to which they are not entitled, or avoid responsibilities or costs for which they bear an obligation.

Vietnam: Who are the corruption game changers?

Huong Thi Lan Tran's picture
Two members of the Black and White club join an arm-wrestling competition with the slogan 'Arm-wrestling to blow away corruption' at a youth event in Hanoi in November 2012 to promote fair education environment.

I often hear that corruption is everywhere and nothing can be done about it. I used to believe it. I still hear people saying the work on anticorruption is a waste of time. I disregard these cynical statements now.  Who made me change my attitude? The youth.

I started being inspired several years ago when a group of young women from the Vietnamese NGO Live and Learn (L&L) developed the idea of ‘a sustainable and transparent society in the hands of youth’. As clear as the idea tells, these young women wanted to engage more with youth, educate them about sustainable and transparent development and how young people can become catalysts for change and for a less corruption-prone country. The idea was among winning initiatives of the Vietnam Innovation Day (VID) 2009 More Transparency and Accountability, Less Corruption, which was co-organized by the World Bank and the Government Inspectorate.[1]

As part of the project idea, L&L would help connect and create a network of student and youth groups (Green Generation network, volunteer clubs, youth organizations, Be Change Agents, etc.) in Hanoi. These groups would be more informed of development issues such as sustainable development, corruption, and their responsibilities, and eventually would act together to build a corruption-free society. The journey was not without difficulties. During the first six months of the project, L&L was not able to get into many universities to talk with students about transparency nor integrity, let alone corruption. Even if universities were open to the idea, not many students showed interest. Some events attracted only 8 young people.

Fixing Fraud in Public-Private Projects

Leonard McCarthy's picture

Available in 中文

What’s a cash-tight government to do when it wants to modernize a hospital, build a railway, or expand the power grid to reach underserved areas? It might explore outside, private sources of financing—that’s where public-private partnerships (PPPs) come in.   The acronym has a promising ring to it, yet going back to the 1970s, its impact has been mixed.  At their best, PPPs can provide rapid injections of cash from private financiers, delivery of quality services, and overall cost-effectiveness the public sector can’t achieve on its own.

But at their worst, PPPs can also drive up costs, under-deliver services, harm the public interest, and introduce new opportunities for fraud, collusion, and corruption.  Our experience at the World Bank Integrity Vice Presidency is that because PPPs most often are geared toward providing essential public services in infrastructure, health and education, the integrity risks inherent in these sectors also transfer to PPPs.

On April 17, the Integrity Vice Presidency convened a public discussion on corruption in PPPs (pdf) bringing together finance, energy, and fairness-monitoring perspectives.  Looking at the landscape, in the last eight years, 134 developing countries have implemented PPPs in infrastructure, and in the last decade the World Bank has approved some $23 billion lending and risk guarantee operations in support of PPPs.

Nurturing a Culture of Integrity?

Maya Brahmam's picture

At the World Bank Spring Meetings last week, there was a very interesting discussion, moderated by Femi Oke, on the topic of “Investment, Infrastructure, and Integrity,” On the panel were a few worthies from the private sector, Karan Bhatia, of General Electric, Peter Solmssen of Siemens AG, and Julio Rojas of Standard Chartered Bank, along with Rashad Kaldany and Janmitra Devan of the World Bank. They were joined by the Minister of Finance of Indonesia, Agus Martowardojo, and the Secretary of Finance of the Philippines, Cesar Purisima.

The issue is a prickly one: How to promote clean business in large infrastructure projects? It is unavoidable for the World Bank, the private sector and governments to be involved in infrastructure, so it is essential that the reputation of the infrastructure sector be tied to integrity. At the same time, the response to corruption has to be pragmatic. The challenge is to figure out the balance and respond appropriately and make “risk-based” decisions, versus “rules-based” decisions. The panelists alluded to the role of knowledge and the open dissemination of knowledge on private-sector business dealings and in government contracting and procurement to spur accountability and governance in this arena. There was agreement that the World Bank’s open agenda would be helpful in pushing this forward.

The panel was asked to share their individual “principles” to achieve integrity.