How to make progress in the fight against corruption

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People have been either fighting corruption or have been victims of it for decades. So, should we accept it as a feature of life and carry on or try to fight it where we can? While developing our global report, which was released last week, we tried to delve deeper into how countries are making progress in addressing corruption. The case studies identified show how reform-minded governments and civil society organizations have contributed to reducing corruption in their specific contexts or laid important foundations that can be built on by others.

Virtually every continent, from Asia to Africa, Europe and the Americas, faces perpetrators who bypass or exploit weaknesses in existing laws and regulations to execute schemes, which have been increasing in scale and sophistication. Corruption undermines the credibility of the public sector, erodes trust in governments and their ability to steer a country to achieve high economic growth and shared prosperity.  It often weakens the impact of public service delivery, adversely affecting all citizens especially the poor. 

The report comes at a time when the world has changed dramatically due to COVID-19. The spotlight is once again on the capacity and integrity of the public sector -- not just in managing the health crisis but also in dealing with the economic and social impacts of the pandemic.  

Emergency responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in huge expenditures by governments, circumventing the standard operating procedures and approval processes. This may create new vulnerabilities and leakages that may only come to light after the initial containment phase has passed. It is at this juncture that the World Bank has undertaken a fresh assessment of the challenges and opportunities faced by governments in tackling corruption in key functions and sectors . We examine the lessons learned from applying selected policy instruments that were designed to mitigate corruption risks, as well as the role and challenges faced by institutions that are intended to promote integrity and accountability.   

Drawing lessons from a compendium of case studies from around the world, the report demonstrates that all is not lost and that it is possible to reduce corruption risks even in the most challenging environments. The complex nature of corruption means that technical solutions and added compliance measures will usually be insufficient. A good understanding of the historical origins, social norms, and political culture is often critical to design impactful policies and institutional structures that can support their implementation.

At the same time, one must acknowledge the potential challenges from the forces that benefit from the status quo. There will be resistance owing to the strong inter-play between power, politics, and money.  The scope for reformers to make changes will therefore be constrained by the limits of their political influence. It could be a long and frustrating journey with two steps forward and one step backward.

The report presents approaches and policy responses in various country contexts.  It reinforces that there is no single formula or magic bullet to address corruption. For example, open government reforms can be effective in promoting an ethos of transparency, inclusiveness, and collaboration and in shifting norms over time by making conditions less conducive to corrupt activity. However, their impact depends on the existence of other enabling factors, such as political will, a free and independent media, a robust civil society, and effective accountability and sanctioning mechanisms. 

Case studies featured in the report highlight that multiple factors contribute to the impact of anti-corruption efforts, including political leadership, institutional capacity, incentives, technology, transparency and collaboration. Enhanced collaboration with stakeholders within and outside of government is a critical success factor in overall government effectiveness. Such collaboration involves both the public and private sector, civil society, media, research organizations, think-tanks and citizens. Strengthening the fight against corruption is a collective responsibility! 

Editor’s Note: This blog is part of a series that helps unpack our new  global report, Enhancing Government Effectiveness and Transparency: The Fight Against Corruption.

Authors

Rajni Bajpai

Lead Public Sector Specialist

Bernard Myers

Senior Public Sector Management Specialist

Join the Conversation

Romain Guéléo NDOUBA
October 22, 2020

The World is struggling against corruption. It's a better thing because the corruption is the big factor which encourages poverty in the world.

Dr. Zuhair Alkayed
October 22, 2020

Well written article, however I would like to draw your attention that , nowadays corruption is well protected in the developing countries where the political leaderships in many countries protect corrupt persons or institution due to the fact that they work for them and the revenues of corruption goes to the political leaders whereas the criminal of corruption take a slide share. Hence, transparency and accountability are something only on papers and laws an procures are usually ignored in certain cases and followed in others . The report came from a world Bank group regarding the transferring of billions of $ to a safe areas around the world is an example. Thus , how the world bank can handle such situation instead of just talking about enhancing transparency. Not only this but also in such corrupted political systems many sources of revenues never been mentioned or get to the budget revenues.

Dr. Zuhair Alkayed
October 22, 2020

Well written article, however I would like to draw your attention that , nowadays corruption is well protected in the developing countries where the political leaderships in many countries protect corrupt persons or institution due to the fact that they work for them and the revenues of corruption goes to the political leaders whereas the criminal of corruption take a slide share. Hence, transparency and accountability are something only on papers and laws an procures are usually ignored in certain cases and followed in others . The report came from a world Bank group regarding the transferring of billions of $ to a safe areas around the world is an example. Thus , how the world bank can handle such situation instead of just talking about enhancing transparency. Not only this but also in such corrupted political systems many sources of revenues never been mentioned or get to the budget revenues.

David Harold Chester
October 22, 2020

As long as the idea of getting something for nothing persists, greedy and corrupt people will believe in it and practice getting rich. So we have two possible means to eliminate corruption, either education against it or making it a punishable crime. You might think that the encouragement of a sense of ethical behavior might work, but when even I see an opportunity to make a million, I am loathe to avoid it. A government that has an accounting system that covers the use of every penny needs the support of a semi-military force against the tax-payers to cover those that don't, and this costs almost as much as the sums being lost.

TIBI Maulid
October 22, 2020

Funding African Project has become any Agenda for decade and maintain diplomacy of many countries.. We have been working to improve African life hood of African people for several year under umbellar of JOB CREATION we end up in non reputation work among group of managing MARKETS of the products... Like establishing Shopping Mall Agency, Gold Agency, Tanzanite Agency in Tanzania + Error terms it seams has become a killing ideology/parameter now... How can we change this behaviors MAYBE is time for President to advice our countries because is time to have many kids to come to live in African countries for acceptance of many projects and security of reducing TWEETS OF segregation on AGE, SEX, TRIBAL, REGION, RELIGION, PART + ERROR TERM OTHERWISE NO WORK IS NILL LIKE PREDATOR MOVIE BECAUSE THERE IS NO REALITY (DREAM TO MEET REALITY NEVER EXIST IN REAL WORLD)

Kumar Sivaramakrishnan
October 22, 2020

Heartiest congratulations. Very well written blog on "Enhancing Government Effectiveness and Transparency: The Fight Against Corruption".

MONICA APARICIO
October 22, 2020

I am very much interesting in developing strong measures that work in the developing countries. It is another pandemia .

Vincent Omondi Odhiambo
November 12, 2020

The article is very very useful and can serve as one of the tools used in elimination of corruption in our society

Dr How
January 08, 2021

The country is facing high crime /murder rates. It also leads to corruption(they go together)! It is mandatory to eliminate drug dealers. Get tough in punishment. International intervention is needed.

Asiya Auwal Galadima
March 10, 2021

Are we ready to fight against corruption

Husai jallow
March 19, 2021

Okay agree

Michael
May 26, 2021

How can we fight corruption in family court

Yoram Gavish
December 01, 2021

Who can help me to fight against corruption in Israel?

Mustapaha
January 06, 2022

Weakness of govemant against corruption