Along with other leaders from the World Bank Group, I am traveling back from a trip to Silicon Valley where we explored the links between technology and government, or GovTech, and their impact on developing countries and curbing corruption.
In October, hundreds of representatives of civil society organizations, public and private sector representatives, journalists and international organizations gathered in Copenhagen for the 18th International Anti-Corruption Conference. This annual conference is viewed by many as a leading forum in the field of anti-corruption.
I get stirred up by all types of governance data, so in honor of the International Day for Universal Access to Information, I though I’d highlight a few efforts to measure access to information. Information on access to information, if you will.
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.
The irony was hard to miss.
Last month, leaders from the public and private sectors, civil society, international organizations, academia, and the media met at the International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) in Copenhagen.