The World Bank’s “zero tolerance” policy on corruption makes clear how thieves and embezzlers will be dealt with, if they are discovered. But what about before corruption actually occurs—how should the Bank go about preventing fraud and corruption in the first place?
The divide between prevention and enforcement shapes the World Bank’s fight against corruption in ways both subtle and profound. Enforcement is easier to conceptualize; it is tangible. Someone commits fraud or corruption, by siphoning Bank funds away from their intended purpose. When the Office of Suspension and Debarment slams a company with a sanction, we can quantify the effect.
Prevention, on the other hand, is a slippery idea. It evades definition. Quantifying how much fraud a policy prevents relies on counterfactuals, making it far more difficult to pin down. This means, for better or for worse, innovations and efforts towards the prevention perspective may lag behind enforcement.