Taking 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.
This fiscal year, our investigations led to the debarment of 71 entities. Our response to fraud and corruption risks covered 61 projects and 93 contracts worth about $523 million. This integrated approach is the outcome of a closer engagement with frontline project leaders, courageous citizens who can no longer tolerate corruption as a norm, private entities that are excluded from development bidding and those who suffered consequences of poor judgement, as well as national entities seeking a higher standard for their anticorruption efforts.
When it comes to challenges, I would like to highlight a persistent few that call for stronger coordination at the global level. Illicit financial flows, tax evasion, managing State-Owned Enterprises with integrity, financial intermediaries, the role of agents in development and corruption in fragile states represent a high priority list that can benefit from stronger advocacy, collective action and a larger investment in forensic and data mining tools to support transboundary efforts and overcome jurisdiction barriers.
Our increasing cooperation at the World Bank Integrity Vice Presidency (INT) under negotiated resolution agreements has provided real-time insights critical to addressing some of these challenges. Certainly not alone. Our operating context offers the unique exposure to a broad range of good practice and likewise risks and misconduct across regions. And as a development institution, there is no doubt that corruption is a major challenge to our goal of ending poverty. Our President, Dr. Jim Yong Kim expressed it best when he said: “When money is lost through illicit financial flows, it often finds its way across borders to fund major crime, including drug and human trafficking. Our goals are tied to efforts to fight corruption and it’s a challenge that demands our constant vigilance.”
So what next? For INT, we will continue vindicating on our mission to prevent, deter and investigate fraud and corruption impacting World Bank-financed projects. Our goal for the new fiscal year is to strengthen our engagement with global leaders on fraud and corruption challenges that directly impact development efforts beyond our projects. My vision is to contribute to a growing global movement against corruption. This is possible because of a powerful and growing international base of CSOs, young leaders, a more responsible private sector and committed thought leaders.
When I took on the position to manage the World Bank Group’s Integrity Vice President in 2008, I explained to my son that our work is to make his world a better place. Seven years later, I believe we are closer to a better world than we were before.
My optimism remains.
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Photograph by Grant Ellis / World Bank