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.
In a sector that is scarce and expensive to begin with, corruption can mean the difference between life and death.
I recently attended the World Bank Group’s second annual Youth Summit, developed in partnership with the Office of the United Nations Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth. The event, hosted thanks to the leadership and initiative of young World Bank Group employees, focused on increasing youth engagement to end corruption and promote open and responsive governments. In the wake of the Ebola crisis, and amidst some very eager, idealist, and passionate conversations, I couldn’t help but think about the price of corruption in health.
Many have argued that decades of corruption and distrust of government left African nations prey to Ebola. Whether in Africa or any other continent, it should come as no surprise that complex, variable, and dangerously fragmented health systems can breed dishonest practices. The mysterious dance between regulators, insurers, health care providers, suppliers, and consumers obscures transparency and accountability-based imperatives. As the recent allegations about Ebola-stricken families paying bribes for falsified death certificates illustrate, when it comes to health, local corruption can have serious consequences internationally.
Last week, Transparency International published its 2013 Corruption Barometer, which reports the findings of a survey of 114,000 people in 107 countries on their interactions with corruption, the institutions and sectors they see as most corrupt, and their perceptions on whether they have a role in combating corruption. The report captures a number of trends, including the view that corruption is worsening across many sectors; it also calls for governments to strengthen their accountability platforms and enhance standards for procurement and public financial management.
This year’s survey found that 27% of people report having paid a bribe in the past year, nearly the same percentage as in the 2010/2011 report (26%). This indicates that more than a quarter of people surveyed have been touched by bribery.
There was a follow-up question: If the respondent did pay a bribe, what was the reason? The answer given most often, with 40% of responses, was “to speed things up.” This high rate of bribes for speed of service, to me, suggests a troubling complicity: The person paying the bribe may feel entitled to more rapid service at the expense of others.
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.