UNODC’s Academic Anticorruption Initiative (ACAD)

The good folks over at the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), along with Professor Nikos Passas at Northeastern University, launched an “Anti-Corruption Academic Initiative” (ACAD) about three years ago. (I was fortunate enough to be able to attend ACAD’s most recent meeting last November in Panama, as well as a conference on teaching anticorruption courses last week in Vienna.) The initiative is still a work in progress, but UNODC has created a useful webpage for ACAD as part of the TRACK system, with links to an assortment of papers on different topics (a bit haphazard, but nonetheless useful). One of the things that came out of the Panama meeting was the need for those of us who teach, or hope to teach, courses on corruption and anticorruption in university settings to exchange syllabi and other course materials; the ACAD website may eventually become a repository for such materials. I recommend checking out their website. In addition, the TRACK website also includes a “legal library” with a list of (and links to!) anticorruption laws from many different countries.  A very useful resource.

Procedural Safeguards and Corruption-Resistant Institutions

Rick has blogged previously about how disclosure programs and transparency measures alone will not solve public sector procurement corruption.  Though these measures may be better than nothing, releasing information accomplishes little unless there are mechanisms in place with the resources to review it, corroborate it, and act on red flags.

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Guest Post: Compliance, No Science

Liz David-Barrett, the Director of the Oxford Centre for the Study of Corruption and Transparency, contributes the following guest post:

More and more countries are introducing and enforcing anti-bribery laws these days, as governments implement their commitments under the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and the UN Convention Against Corruption.  By making companies liable for prosecution if they pay bribes to foreign public officials, the drafters hope to persuade companies to stop paying bribes and take measures to ensure that no bribes are paid on their behalf.  But do they work?   What do companies do when faced with a new anti-bribery law?

The United Kingdom since the introduction of the Bribery Act is a good laboratory for researching this question.  Passed in 2010, the Act came into effect only in July 2011.  But companies had ample time to prepare, given the prolonged hype as the Bill was debated in parliament. Some companies were — and still are — in denial, perhaps because they think they are not at risk, or the chances of being caught are slim. At the other end of the spectrum, some companies concluded that the Bribery Act created such serious legal risks that they opted to withdraw from certain high-risk markets entirely. But the vast majority of companies have responded to the Bribery Act by introducing or reforming their anti-bribery policies — that is, by amping up their corporate compliance programs.  So what have we learned so far from research on UK firms’ anti-bribery compliance programs? Continue reading

Updated Anticorruption Bibliography

An updated version of my anticorruption bibliography is available from my faculty webpage.  Now with over 3,000 sources!  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.

The Prosecution of Bribery: What Lawmakers Can Learn from Bavaria and Virginia

Prosecutors thinking about whether to pursue a case against the recipient or payer of a bribe will surely think twice given events of the past weeks in the German state of Bavaria and the American state of Virginia.  In Bavaria the bribery prosecution against Formula One impresario Bernie Ecclestone collapsed mid-trial after the judge expressed strong doubts the case could be proved.  In Virginia prosecutors are slogging through the third of what is expected to be a six week trial as they try to show that Robert McDonnell, the state’s former governor, was paid to shill for a local business.  To prosecutors, the two cases remind that bribery is no easy crime to prove and that losing carries risks both personal and professional.  To lawmakers, the two cases should prompt a scrub of their nation’s bribery laws to see whether the bar they have set for proving a case is too high. Continue reading

More Confused & Confusing Commentary on Corruption, Earmarks, and Campaign Finance

When a prominent platform like the New York Times Op-Ed page features a piece on corruption, I feel like I should say something about it.  (Furthering the public dialogue and all that.)  But it’s hard for me to come up with something productive to say about Thomas Edsall’s rambling editorial on “The Value of Corruption,” published last week. So far as I can make out, Edsall makes three main points:

  1. The Congressional ban on legislative earmarks, intended as a means of fighting one form of perceived “corruption,” has in fact undermined one of the key tools legislators can use to build compromise and overcome gridlock.
  2. The Supreme Court’s campaign finance decisions in cases like Citizens United and McCutcheon have given wealthy interests more power to influence elections (which some characterize as “legalized corruption”).
  3. Sometimes corruption can be “good” — the “honest graft” praised and defended by George Washington Plunkitt — particularly when it helps certain excluded groups overcome barriers established by entrenched interests.

If your first reaction to this is that these points have little to do with one another — other than the fact that they all use the word “corruption” — then we’re on the same page. But instead of just trashing the Times Op-Ed page (much fun as that is), let me see if I can try to say something substantive.  Not sure if I’ll succeed — here goes: Continue reading

E-Government and Corruption: Evidence from India

From the Open Government Initiative for data sharing in the United States to the plurilateral Open Government Partnership abroad, online government or “e-government” is an important trend in global public administration.  In addition to improving government efficiency and citizen access, studies suggest that e-government can also facilitate accountability and reduce corruption.  Of course, there is reason to be skeptical as to whether successes of e-government champions such as Estonia and South Korea can translate to developing countries, where resources are more limited and corruption is often most severe.  But a 2009 study that excluded OECD countries found that a significant increase in the services supplied online could account for as much as a 13 percentile improvement in a country’s ranking in the World Bank’s Control of Corruption index, even after controlling for changes in gross domestic product and press freedom.

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