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International organizations tip the scale towards integrity

Stephen 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. 

Corruption in fragile states: A panel discussion on the intersections of development, conflict and exploitation

Roxanne Bauer's picture

Just say NO to corruptionCorruption is a global threat to development and democratic rule. It diverts public resources to private interests, leaving fewer resources to build schools, hospitals, roads and other public facilities. When development money is diverted to private bank accounts, major infrastructure projects and badly needed human services come to a halt. Corruption also hinders democratic governance by destroying the rule of law, the integrity of institutions, and public trust in leaders. Sadly, the vulnerable suffer first and worst when corruption takes hold.

In fragile environments, however, the effects of corruption can be far more expensive. Corruption fuels extremism and undermines international efforts to build peace and security.

This was the theme of a panel discussion, entitled “Corruption in Fragile States: The Development Challenge,” which brought together Leonard McCarthy, the World Bank’s Vice President of Integrity; Jan Walliser, the World Bank Vice President of Equitable Growth, Finance and Institutions; Shanta Devarajan, World Bank Chief Economist of Middle East & North Africa; R. David Harden, USAID Mission Director for West Bank and Gaza; Daniel Kaufmann, President of Natural Resource Governance Institute; and Melissa Thomas, Political Scientist and author of “Govern Like Us.”

#9 from 2015: A global movement against corruption: It is happening now!

Leonard McCarthy's picture
Our Top Ten blog posts by readership in 2015. This post was originally posted on October 26, 2015.


Also available in: Español | Français | العربية

Third Annual International Corruption Hunter AllianceTaking 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.

A global movement against corruption: It is happening now!

Leonard McCarthy's picture

Also available in: Español | Français | العربية

Third Annual International Corruption Hunter AllianceTaking 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.

An International Alliance against Corruption: Mindful of its Actions but Determined to Act

Dina Elnaggar's picture

When they first met in 2010, they hardly knew each other.  This week, members of the World Bank’s International Corruption Hunters Alliance convened their second meeting and for many of them, the fight against corruption is no longer solo. 
 
Once again, the World Bank welcomes more than 200 corruption fighters driving an agenda that is focused on international cooperation, technological tools and new approaches that can be incorporated in their anti-corruption mission.  Since their meeting in 2010, a lot has happened.  Corruption did not end but many of their collective actions had a profound impact in spreading a higher standard of accountability in public procurement and creating a broader range of enforcement powers.  Cooperation between the World Bank Integrity Vice Presidency and a number of national prosecution and investigative bodies has resulted in action against corrupt companies and officials.  Examples are many.  The point is, working as an Alliance is about sharing information and conducting parallel investigations, that is turning transnational crimes from a challenge to a success story.

Balancing individual and corporate accountability for corruption

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.

Monitoring for results: an accessory or ingredient on reform agendas?!

Francesca Recanatini's picture

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:

If money is the root of evil, are developed countries doing enough about the problem of bribes paid in the developing world?

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.  


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