The investigation, indictment, and arrest of several FIFA officials sends a simple and powerful message: No matter how untouchable an entity seems to be, in today’s world no organization, company, or government is immune from public scrutiny and law enforcement when it comes to allegations of fraud and corruption. Tolerating corruption as a “cost of doing business” is quickly going out of fashion.
The World Bank works hard to tilt the equation in favor of clean business in its fight against poverty. We investigate and hold perpetrators accountable when we receive allegations of wrongdoing in projects. Since we began this work, we have sanctioned more than 700 firms and individuals for misconduct in our projects. Most of these sanctions involve some form of debarment, rendering persons and firms ineligible to bid on future Bank-financed contracts. We recently released an updated review of our experience in investigating and adjudicating fraud and corruption cases, and it shows that it’s possible to tackle corruption in a way that is efficient, effective and fair.
Tensions were high at the international Board meeting of Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in Berne, Switzerland. EITI Board members, 20 in all, including civil society representatives, investors, managers of multinational corporations, and implementing and supporting country officials, debated stridently for two days on issues like how EITI implementing countries are judged on whether they have met the requirements of the “Standard” set by the EITI. As my first EITI Board meeting, I was surprised to find such divergent views on operational issues when we clearly all agree on the end goal: increasing transparency in the extractive industries to decrease the space for corruption and enhance the development impact of revenues from the sector.
In 2013, EITI raised the bar of transparency with the introduction of a new Standard that requires more detailed reporting on extractive company and state owned enterprise payments, government receipts and a broader range of contextual information on the sector in EITI implementing countries. The first batch of reports produced under the Standard arrived between late 2014 and early 2015. Many EITI countries have so far struggled to meet the enhanced requirements of the Standard and concerns have been raised about how they will be assessed when they undergo the validation process (the quality assurance process that leads to the judgement of compliance with the EITI Standard).
In 1996, when Jim Wolfensohn was the president of the World Bank Group, he declared that the "cancer of corruption" must be fought very much as we fight poverty, hunger, and disease. Despite emerging research that showed that weak public institutions and distorted economic policies incubate corrupt practices, many felt that corruption wasn't an economic but a political issue. It was better left to governments, not to development experts.
Under the weight of great expectations and the glare of television cameras, delegates gathered last week for the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa.
Global leaders, civil society and private sector representatives exchanged ideas on financing the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals. The conversation represented a paradigm shift in how we think about development. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon spoke of a world, “in which both the global population and resource constraints are growing,” and consequently one in which, “development finance needs a reboot.”
Over the last 20 years, economic growth has helped to lift almost a billion people out of extreme poverty. But 1 billion people are still extremely poor. 1.1 billion live without electricity and 2.5 billion people without access to sanitation. For them, growth has not been inclusive enough.
In addition, growth has come at the expense of the environment. While environmental degradation affects everyone, the poor are more vulnerable to violent weather, floods, and a changing climate.
Development experts, policymakers, and institutions like the World Bank have learned a major lesson: If we want to succeed in ending poverty, growth needs to be inclusive and sustainable.
Turkey has radically transformed its land title registration system, and decreased the turnaround time for recording property transactions to just two hours.
I remember my first visit to the agency in 2007. The agency is heavily staffed (15,000), has more than 100 branches and its main headquarters had once almost fallen apart. In my first visit, the head of the agency gave me a nice surprise: he showed me a land book that dated back to the 18th century, and included a record of my great-great-grandfather’s land title in Palestine.
The head of the agency had great plans to transform the agency by improving land records, introducing computerization and integrating the system into the overall e-government program, and setting a time limit of one day to register land transactions. Based on that an ambitious reform agenda, we worked together over a few months’ ‘time to prepare the cadastre modernization project. The Bank partly financed this reform through a $100 million loan, while the Turkish government funded the rest of the program. The project started in 2007, and I moved on to other positions later that year.
This time I had a second surprise. The institution is completely transformed. The main office has been completely and beautifully renovated. It now resembles any other government office in the US or Europe. The agency presented its achievements. It was amazing to see what had been accomplished in 8 years. The government is about to complete the renovation of the cadastre and the computerization of all land records, including historical records from Ottoman times. Service delivery has improved dramatically, with property transactions now being registered within 2 hours. They also integrated cadastre registration into the overall e-government program, which allows any Turkish citizen to access the record of their land/property online. Above all, customer satisfaction has reached 97% — something unheard of for land agencies, often known to be among the most corrupt agencies in many countries.
A new phase of openness began five years ago on July 1, 2010, when the World Bank launched its Policy on Access to Information, which provides access to any information in the Bank’s possession that is not on a list of exceptions. The policy has served as a catalyst and has created an ecosystem of transparency initiatives to make World Bank information and data available to the public. In the years since 2010, the Bank has applied the principles underpinning Access to Information to accompanying initiatives such as Open Data, the Open Knowledge Repository, Open Finances, and Open Contracting, among others. The spectrum of transparency and innovation even extends beyond these initiatives to include the World Bank’s vision on Open Government.
Open approaches are paramount to development. But while access to information and technology are important to the development process, they are only part of the equation in finding solutions. A crucial part of the process lies with global citizens who can – and do – utilize the information and data to engage with and better their communities.
“50% of Arab world citizens are dissatisfied with public services in their area,” according to a World Bank survey — which prompted not one, but two sessions at the World Bank Group-International Monetary Fund Spring Meetings. So it was no coincidence that the meme #BreaktheCycle emerged in another Middle East and North Africa (MENA) panel, “Creating Jobs and Improving Services: A New Social Contract in the Arab World,” which also revisited the theme of the social contract in both oil-importing and exporting countries.