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UN Food for Oil

International organizations tip the scale towards integrity

Stephen S. Zimmermann's picture

Anti-corruption imageOver the last year, we have reached several noteworthy milestones in the global fight against corruption. In the arena of fighting corruption in international development, two important milestones stand out as having paved the way for significant progress and in setting us on a course for our continued success in reducing the impact of corruption on the poor.

It was ten years ago that the investigation into the UN’s Oil for Food corruption scandal came to an end. This was perhaps the biggest, most complex, corruption investigation to date involving an international organization. By virtue of its extraordinary status, the investigation was conducted under the leadership of an independent panel, including Paul Volcker (as Chair), Mark Pieth and Richard Goldstone, all of whom were and continue to be thought leaders for global integrity. The findings of the panel were sweeping and unflinching and, importantly, largely public.  An important consequence of the scandal and the ensuing investigation was in creating both the opportunity and a pressing mandate for international development agencies to take on corruption inside their own programs, and among their own staff.

As a result of this investigation, most UN agencies and other international financial institutions now have their own independent integrity office charged with rooting out fraud and corruption in their activities. While many are still small, under-resourced and looking for support from their leadership, individually and collectively they have the ability to make a difference. I am proud to say the World Bank Group has remained a leader in setting a high bar for integrity standards and in international development financing.  Within that framework, the 90 staff of the Integrity Vice Presidency (INT) dedicate themselves to investigating, sanctioning and ultimately preventing fraud and corruption in Bank Group-financed operations.