FIFA’s Faustian Bargain: Corruption for the Cup?

In a Road to Damascus twist, on Tuesday FIFA President Sepp Blatter asked the Swiss government to launch a criminal investigation into corruption related to Qatar being chosen to host the 2022 World Cup. This unprecedented move comes on the heels of a week of backlash to the FIFA Ethics Committee’s final conclusion on the Qatar question: “The potentially problematic facts and circumstances identified by the report concerning the Qatar 2022 bid were, all in all, not suited to compromise the integrity of the 2018/2022 bidding process as a whole.”  These “potentially problematic facts” include a swath of bribes (“improper payments”) paid by Mohamed bin Hamman, a chief supporter of the Qatari bid and former Asian Football Confederation president, which the report concludes were not directly related to securing the Cup, as well as payments by Qatari officials themselves, which made a “negative impression” but did not technically fall afoul of FIFA rules. The Committee’s decision was quickly and repeatedly slammed as a farce, and was followed by strong calls for the investigative report upon which it was based to be made public. Blatter adamantly refused to release the report, which made it all the more surprising when he seemed to go a step further by calling for the Swiss Office of the Attorney General to investigate. Should a criminal investigation proceed, not only would the government’s findings be made public, but corrupt FIFA officials would find themselves facing something entirely new: the pinch of handcuffs rather than a pinch to their finances.

While FIFA lodging the criminal complaint should be applauded, singing halleluiahs over Blatter’s conversion to the church of anticorruption would be a bit premature. In fact, this may be his most strategic move yet.

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More on CPI Changes Over Time (or Not)

OK, in my post from a few weeks back, I asserted that year-to-year changes in a country’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) score are not meaningful, even after the thoughtful and welcome changes that Transparency International made to its methodology in 2012. My concern was — and remains — that the underlying data sources that TI uses to create the index are themselves not likely to be comparable across years, which means that the CPI inherits the problem. But for purposes of this post, I’m going to completely disregard my own warning in that earlier post, and take a look at whether there have been fact been any notable changes in individual countries’ perceived corruption between 2012 and 2013.  Based on a very quick scan of the data, the answer appears to be (mostly) no.

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Better Training for Anticorruption Investigators: Another Dull, Boring, Humdrum, Modest, Unimaginative Proposal to Combat Corruption?

U.S. Federal Judge Mark Wolf’s proposal to create an international court for corruption crimes was recently the subject of a briefing organized by a commission of the U.S. House of Representatives.  The briefing was the latest example of the attention Judge Wolf’s recommendation for fighting corruption has garnered, attention that has included an appearance on public television where he extolled the merits of his proposal and an interview in a serious policy journal where he expanded on his idea for the court.

Given Matthew’s devastating critique of the court proposal, the attention the judge’s idea continues to attract is surprising to say the least.  What it no doubt reflects is the publicity value of an idea that, at least on its face, appears to be an innovative, imaginative, and “outside the box” way to fight corruption.  Given this media bias, it would do no good to point to further flaws in the judge’s idea (indeed one might write that it would be blogging a dead horse to do so).  What I intend here instead is to protest the media bias for headline grabbing ideas to combat corruption by advancing one that is dull, boring, humdrum, modest, and unimaginative.  The proposal is thus diametrically different in PR value from the judge’s.  It also differs in two substantive ways: it is 1) realistic and 2) will help reduce corruption if followed.

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Anticorruption Bibliography – November 2014 Update

An updated version of my anticorruption bibliography is available from my faculty webpage.  A direct link to the pdf is here.  As always, I welcome suggestions for other sources that are not yet included, including any papers GAB readers have written.

Can a Private Right of Action Solve State Capture in the Philippines?: A Skeptical View

Last month, as a part of the LIDS Global initiative (discussed here), a research team at the University of the Philippines (U.P.) put forth an ambitious legal proposal to combat corruption in the Philippines. The centerpiece of the proposal is a private right of action that would allow individual citizens to bring civil claims against public officials for violations of the Philippines’ Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. The proposal is designed to overcome the problem of “state capture”–the shaping of laws, rules, and regulations through illegal and non-transparent payments to public officials. Because state capture is so severe in the Philippines—reaching even high-ranking officials within the country’s own anticorruption agencies—citizens cannot “rely solely on the political will of government officials to prosecute their peers in the government.” The private cause of action is intended to address (or at least circumvent) this problem by enabling private citizens injured by corruption to go directly to court, without having to rely on public enforcers.

While I agree that state capture presents a huge problem for anticorruption efforts, I’m skeptical that the proposed private right of action will be effective–at least in the Philippines. The roots of my skepticism are threefold: Continue reading

Upcoming UK Parliamentary Hearing on the ICAI Criticisms of DFID — Opportunity to Comment

Last week, I discussed the brewing controversy over the most recent report from the UK’s Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI), which sharply criticized the UK Department for International Development (DFID) approach to anticorruption in its aid programs. In addition to noting some of the critical commentary the report has already received, I added some criticisms of my own. It turns out that the report itself, and possibly also the critical commentary, has prompted the UK House of Commons’ International Development Committee to schedule a hearing on December 10. In connection with that hearing, the Committee has invited any interested party to submit written statements or evidence on the issues raised by the ICAI report; the online form for submitting comments is here, and the deadline for written submissions is November 28 (two weeks from today).

Although obviously of greatest interest to those in the UK or in countries that receive substantial DFID aid, the controversy and questions surrounding the ICAI report raise larger questions about the approach to anticorruption in development assistance, as well as questions about methodology and measurement. I hope that many GAB readers with interest in these matters will read the ICAI report and submit comments to the Parliamentary Committee. There is an opportunity here to raise some of these crucial issues in a much more public and prominent forum than is typical.

Guest Post: Hosting Proceeds Down Under — Australia and the G20 Anticorruption Agenda

Professor Jason Sharman of Griffith University, Australia, contributes the following guest post:

On November 15th–two days from now–the latest G20 leaders’ summit kicks off in my home town of Brisbane, Australia, with anticorruption once again on the agenda. Though the G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group has made some important progress, many of the member states have been letting down the side. Specifically, Australia tends to receive less critical scrutiny than it should when it comes to international action against corruption, particularly in terms of hosting stolen assets from other countries in the region. And the G20 leaders’ summit is as good a time as any for the international community to press Australia for its many failures to deal with its status as a regional haven for money laundering in the Asia-Pacific. Continue reading