Today we begin blog coverage of the 2011 World Bank-IMF Spring Meetings, set for April 15-17. Though we’re two weeks out, activities around the meetings’ key themes—food insecurity and food price volatility, conflict, anti-corruption and open development—are already ramping up.
Among the events and announcements we’ll report on here:
Our villages are bread baskets – the primary region where most of the world's food is grown. Ironically, they are also home to many of the 1 billion who live in chronic hunger.
In a World Water Day ceremony, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and World Bank President Robert Zoellick signed an agreement to leverage World Bank and U.S. government agency expertise and technology to promote greater water security in an increasingly water-insecure world.
This has been a very busy time for the global anti-corruption community as they geared up to the discussions of actions and priorities at the first meeting of the International Corruption Hunters Alliance (ICHA). For the the 234 Corruption Hunters who participated in the meeting last week, the experience was very rewarding. Many of them had never met before; a challenge that this World Bank-supported Alliance will help them overcome. But it is not the only challenge that these Corruption Hunters face. Your blog comments and their experiences reveal many more. The good news, this meeting acknowledged all and defined the priorities for action. So now is the time to thank you for sending your comments. I would also like to invite you to learn more about what went on during the ICHA meeting.
Recently, many in the community concerned about international corruption have begun to discuss the need to hold individuals responsible criminally for their actions. While people have long discussed the failure to hold high-profile bribe recipients responsible, now the discussion has mutated to the bribe payer side. Lower-level targets are certainly more easily prosecuted than the rich and powerful. After all, corruption, like most crimes, is committed by people, not by companies, machines or cultures. Some countries, most notable the U.S., have brought an increasing number of cases against individuals directly involved in paying or authorizing bribes.
We have received a few comments to the blog we posted last week and we want to take this opportunity to thank our contributors. The examples provided and issues raised highlight both the on-going efforts that are happening at the country level and the need to learn from these efforts. The on-going discussion also raises some additional questions:
It is a fact that many of the countries which suffer the most from corruption are the countries which have the fewest resources to combat the problem. Poor countries may be faced with a dilemma of using resources to prosecute the corruption which degrades the quality and quantity of public goods that reach their citizens, or using resources to provide those basic goods, such as food aid and roads.
At the same time, larger bribes are not infrequently paid by outsiders, such as foreign corporations. Casual observation shows that funds must be coming from outside some of the poorest countries. In short, the bribe money is flowing from the developed world into the developing world.
I would like to follow up on Paul’s interesting comments on information sharing and the need in particular for timeliness. He raises a number of issues on when to share information and this is where I would like to come in. My background relies on information sharing across disciplines, be they units in the Bank or wider afield to other agencies such as Multi Lateral Development Banks (MDB) with their own integrity/investigations function or to law enforcement. And herein lies the difference between information managed by law enforcement when compared to that of the development community. In our search for timeliness – often a crucial issue for law enforcement it is not so for the development community, and in some ways this is essential as it allows us to first evaluate the reliability of the source of the information and then question the validity of the information. One may ask why we should do this, and the simple answer is – we must be able to satisfy ourselves that we have undertaken our own due diligence and are confident that the information we are providing will add value to the enforcement entity with whom we share the information. For instance we may find that after questioning the source of the data we ascertain that the information is not known directly to the source it is in fact a regurgitation of information relayed to him/her by someone else – and therefore while our source may be good the validity of our information could be questioned.
Courts must expeditiously, but fairly, adjudicate corruption cases, and the penalties imposed on those convicted must be sufficient to dissuade others from similar acts. To ensure that anti-corruption laws are indeed being effectively enforced, governments need to monitor the enforcement process.
Doing so can provide performance measures to inform and guide policy design and implementation. These performance measures also serve as indicators of corruption. In the short run, policy makers may not be able to do much to change these indicators, but measures, focused on performance, can provide a country something more concrete to act upon, helping policy-makers to prioritize.
For example, if the number of completed corruption investigations in a particular country is low because of difficulty in obtaining evidence, it can identify changes in policy and procedures which expand or strengthen investigators powers and tools such as providing it with subpeona powers or access to financial records.