Institutions, Not Heroes: Lessons from Nigeria’s EFCC

Nigeria has a corruption problem. Whether described as misuse of public office for private gain, trading in influence, money laundering, or the theft of public funds, this problem is rife, and we know it. There is also a list of scandals that is as long as it is depressing: that fuel subsidy fraud, those egregiously inflated prices for the purchase of vehicles, the disappearing treasury, and a bewildering pardon for an infamous corrupt convict.

Between 2003 and 2007, it looked as if Nigeria had found a solution to the corruption problem, and that solution had a name: Mallam Nuhu Ribadu. As Chair of the Economic and Financial Commission (EFCC), Mallam Ribadu led successful prosecutions of financial crimes, bringing thousands of indictments, over 270 convictions and double that number in arrests. Described by the UN Office of Drugs and Crime as “a crime-buster made of the hardest steel alloy every manufactured”, Ribadu’s work was filled with fearless firsts. Under his leadership, the EFCC conducted investigations leading to the indictment and conviction of the Inspector General of Police (Ribadu was a policeman). The EFCC indicted five governors and secured two convictions – feats previously thought impossible. The EFCC also arrested and prosecuted hundreds of confidence scammers, and served as an effective deterrent to financial crimes. It was also largely due to the EFCC’s efforts that Nigeria was removed from Financial Action Task Force’s list of non-cooperative jurisdictions. Ribadu put a face to the previously mythical dependable and trustworthy law enforcement.

Yet for all his well-deserved praise, Ribadu’s tenure at the EFCC, and what happened afterwards, illustrates the limits of strong individuals in weak institutions. While anticorruption heroes are great, institutions matter more.

Continue reading

Guest Post: Monitoring as a Democratic Imperative

Professor Paul Lagunes of the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs contributes the following guest post:

The fact the bureaucrats who populate the ranks of the public administration do not run for office poses a significant challenge to electoral democracy—a challenge that is accentuated by citizens’ inability to properly monitor their own government. Citizens, after all, dedicate a majority of their time to private affairs and are often confused, if not repelled, by the complexities of public administration. Given this principal-agent problem, what can be done to improve monitoring, fight corruption, and hold governments accountable?

I recently had the opportunity to evaluate the efficacy of anticorruption monitoring in Mexico. This research indicates that independent audits over sensitive governmental processes can boost the levels of discipline, stringency, and honesty among civil servants. Indeed, even when communities find it difficult to overhaul their governing institutions and renew and professionalize their bureaucracies, they can rely on independent experts to raise bureaucrats’ level of accountability. But the improved monitoring associated with independent audits is only when accompanied by robust oversight and accountability. Continue reading

April 23 – 25 Conference: Global Cities — Joining Forces Against Corruption

As previously noted on this blog, the Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity will be hosting an exciting conference at Columbia Law School next week, Global Cities: Joining Forces Against CorruptionFeaturing Mexico City Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera Espinosa, and Athens Mayor Georgios Kaminis the April 23-25 conference will bring together high-level integrity officials from 14 cities across six continents to discuss the challenges of fighting corruption and to share successful strategies and best practices. Other speakers  include a senior member of the Ukrainian parliament, the commissioner of the New York City Department of Investigation, and the Comptroller General of Peru. Followers of this blog may be interested to know that this writer will speak on a panel Saturday morning, called “Bridging Political Boundaries: Partnering with National and State Government.”
The conference is free and open to the public and eligible for CLE credit for New York lawyers. A copy of the agenda, and a registration link, are available here. I hope to see some of you there!

Individual FCPA Liability: A Risky Proposition for FCPA Enforcement Proponents?

Both supporters and skeptics of aggressive enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act have criticized the fact that the act is enforced much more often against corporations than against individuals. Some critics of FCPA enforcement often assert that it is unfair for the government to insist on corporations acknowledging criminal liability when the government is unwilling or unable to prosecute the individuals who committed the actual crimes. At the same time, supporters of aggressive FCPA enforcement argue that the failure to hold individuals personally liable, and to impose criminal penalties (including prison time) on those culpable actors undermines the FCPA’s deterrent effect. And they have a point: many doubt that fines and other monetary sanctions on corporations—at least at the levels that can be imposed under the FCPA—are sufficient to deter bribery, and there is evidence to support this claim.

Of course, individual FCPA liability is hardly novel; a number of past FCPA cases have included criminal convictions of individual company employees. But many have called for dramatically ramping up focus on individuals, and there are some signs that the U.S. Department of Justice may be heeding those calls. For someone like me, who tends to think that FCPA enforcement needs to be even more robust, this would seem like welcome news. And for the most part it is… but I do have a nagging worry, which may be entirely groundless, but that I want to try to flesh out in this post. The worry goes something like this: Continue reading

Making Anticorruption Education Work: The To Do List

In a previous post, I discussed how in Indonesia, entrenched cultural norms make corruption hard to eradicate, and I argued that because of this anticorruption reformers should promote educational curricula–at the elementary, junior high school, and high school levels–as a long-term mechanism to change the corruption culture. While my earlier post focused on Indonesia, many other countries–such as the Philippines, India, China, and others–are also beset by an entrenched culture of corruption. These countries, therefore, should also adopt anticorruption education initiatives to help change this culture.

But what goes into the design of effective anticorruption education programs? What factors must be considered? How can we ensure that anticorruption education is genuinely effective? While the issues are complex and many are country-specific, I want to highlight six important components of a successful anticorruption education program. Continue reading

Greece’s Golden Opportunity: Economic Crisis and Corruption

Greece’s struggles with corruption are longstanding. Greece has perennially been viewed as one of, if not the, most corrupt countries in the European Union (EU). (In 2014, for example, Greece was tied, along with Italy and Romania, for last among EU countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index). Recently, however, coverage of Greece’s ongoing battle with corruption has increased dramatically due to two interrelated factors: (1) the election of the Syriza party, which has never before held political power and ran in part on an anticorruption platform; and (2) ongoing negotiations with other members of the EU to receive additional, vitally important bailout funds as Greece continues to struggle to rebound from an economic crisis that first began in 2010 (in which some have suggested that Greece’s receipt of any additional loans should be conditioned on its ability to make “credible progress in boosting [its] tax take and fighting corruption”).

Transparency International and others are (admittedly somewhat reservedly) hopeful that the election of the Syriza party will signal a renewed focus on combating corruption by the Greek government, calling its campaign platform “music to our ears as long as [its] commitments remain strong and unwavering” and noting that the “new government seems more committed to addressing corruption than past ones.” And there have been some promising early indications of the new government’s willingness to combat corruption.  For example, its new anticorruption chief recently announced he will be investigating 80,000 of the wealthiest individuals in Greece who are believed to have funds in foreign bank accounts for tax evasion. Nonetheless, there have been some rumblings of discontent from both anticorruption activists and the broader international community. Other members of the EU have accused the government of “wasting important time” in instituting anticorruption measures and commentators have noted that too little has been done to make good on campaign promises of “tackl[ing] the corrupt oligarchical business elites that dominate the economy.”

It is likely premature to judge the Syriza govenrment’s commitment or ability to combat corruption.  Yet as Greece continues to grapple with an economic crisis that has left the country reeling – and dependent upon significant loans from the International Monetary Fund and the EU – it seems an appropriate time to draw attention to the fact that this crisis has presented both the Syriza government and broader anticorruption community with a rare opportunity to make significant strides in addressing corruption in Greece, an opportunity that prior administrations have failed to appropriately capitalize on.

Continue reading

Guest Post: The Aims and Accomplishments of the OECD Report on Corruption at the Sector Level

Tina Søreide, Senior Researcher at the Christian Michelsen Institute and post-doctoral fellow at the University of Bergen Faculty of Law, contributes the following guest post:

Yesterday Rick posted a critique of the OECD’s recent Report, “Consequences of Corruption at the Sector Level and Implications for Economic Growth and Development.” He did not find much value in that report (and as anyone who read his post knows, that’s an understatement). I was heavily involved in the research and preparation of this report, and although criticism is always welcome, I think that many of his criticisms are unfair, and are based on a misapprehension of the report’s purposes. This rebuttal is an attempt to clarify the aims of the report and explain why, notwithstanding Rick’s criticisms, the report makes substantial progress toward achieving those aims. Continue reading