An expatriate Indian physics professor, when traveling back home to India, found himself harassed by endless extortion demands. As a way to fight corruption by shaming the officials who ask for bribes, the professor created a fake currency bill: the zero-rupee note.
The notes are identical to Indian banknotes, but carry the slogan, and the pledge, .
Vijay Anand, president of the non-governmental organization 5th Pillar, thought the idea could work on a larger scale. Initially, the NGO printed 25,000 zero-rupee notes and distributed them to students in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. Since 2007, the NGO has distributed more than one million bills in five languages, covering 600-plus institutions. Volunteers hand them out near places where officials often solicit bribes, such as railway stations and government hospitals.
With the support of the World Bank, the Government of Vietnam is making strides in addressing fraud and corruption risks in the management of development loans more broadly than before. Thanks to a new strategic action plan that cuts across the national, sectoral, and project levels.
The World Bank’s Governance Global Practice is working with the government of Vietnam to design and implement this new strategic action plan on how to make the management of Official Development Assistance (ODA) loans less liable to fraud and corruption. As a result, a healthy public policy debate around the risks surrounding ODA loans and how best to address them has arisen in Vietnam, as shown by the last session of its National Assembly in 2014.
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.
Turns out, this isn’t unique to Nepal. According to Drivers of Corruption, a report recently published by the World Bank,
. These charts are based on surveys of more than 13,000 firms in 135 countries, by World Bank Enterprise Surveys.
Check out these charts and tell us if you are surprised.
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.
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.
On a Friday morning in December of 2011, Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old street vendor, started his day to sell fruits and vegetables from his cart in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia. But he didn’t have a permit to sell and a policewoman asked him to hand over his cart. He refused. She slapped him.
Bouazizi then walked straight to a government building and set himself on fire. In Tunisia, “dignity is more important than bread,” said his sister. That same day, protests began, quickly spreading via mobile and internet. Soon demonstrations were everywhere in the country. About a month later, the president of Tunisia fled.
Tunisia inspired many in the Middle East to speak up and protest. We know this phenomenon as the Arab Spring. These protesters, mostly young, challenged their governments in at least 20 countries.
Throughout history, young people have used protests to hold governments accountable. Now, their roles in governments are front and center. Today’s youth are poised for greatness: not only are they the largest demographic in the world but they're also the most connected and educated generation.
What do Simeon Marcelo of the Philippines, Santosh Hegde of India, KPK of Indonesia. ACC of Bhutan and ACRC of South Korea have in common? All of them are anti-corruption super heroes (click on the hyperlinks to read their stories) and beacons of hope for all people against corruption. Corrupt officials are terrified of them and they all have served independent ombudsman/anti-corruption agency functions in their country. Over the years I have admired the courageous, professional and dedicated work of these individuals and organizations and had first hand experience of visiting and working with some of them. Based on this I can confidently say that Ombudsman can and do fight corruption successfully when they have the enabling environment and leadership (later I comment on what the success factors are in my view).
About a month ago two colleagues (Greg Kisunko and Steve Knack) posted a blog on “The many faces of corruption in the Russian Federation”. Their post, based on the elegant analysis of the 2011/2012 Russian BEEPS, underscores a point that many practitioners and researchers are now beginning to appreciate because of the availability of new, disaggregated data: corruption is not a homogenous phenomenon, but rather a term that encompasses many diverse phenomena that can have profoundly different impact on the growth and the development of a country. If we delve deeper into this disaggregated data, we observe that within the same country can coexist significantly different sub-national realities when it comes to the phenomenon we label “corruption”.
Over the past two decades, citizen-led initiatives to hold power holders to account have taken the world by storm. The promise embedded in such efforts – that more enlightened and engaged citizens demanding greater accountability around issues that they care about can have a decisive impact in improving development effectiveness, the quality of (democratic) governance and the nature of state-society relations – has led to a mushrooming of transparency and accountability initiatives (TAIs). TAIs operating at the domestic, regional and/or international levels now cover a plethora of issues ranging from corruption, access to information, and budget processes, to natural resource management, service delivery, and aid.