Guest Post: Spend Anticorruption Resources on Professional Training, Not Postgraduate Education

Alan Doig, Professor at Newcastle Business School, Northumbria University, contributes the following guest post:

Resources for anticorruption are scare; how should they be spent? In particular, how should the international community (national aid agencies, international institutions, and private donors and foundations) allocate resources for education and training programs for anticorruption professionals?

Although “education” and “training” are often lumped together as one category, in fact they are quite different. Education is about the acquisition of knowledge, with the accompanying change in awareness and understanding, through the provision and assimilation of information. Training involves the acquisition of the applied knowledge and technical skills required to improve individual and organizational performance in the workplace, invariably in relation to specific roles or functions. In terms of impact, education would look for longer-term benefits and impact while training can be judged more immediately by what the person does once trained.

The question of how to spend the even more limited funds that are not tied to the big spenders (the multilateral and bilateral donors) brings this issue into sharp focus, and raises the question of whether too much too much is allocated to postgraduate anticorruption education, at the expense of practical anticorruption training.

In terms of the current demands of the wider anticorruption agenda, education is a luxury item in a world of limited resources. Not only does education require a significant infrastructure (as any university knows) but the effect may not be realized for many years; in any case any impact is mediated through the subsequent career choices of the students. And if we’re talking not about mass education (say, at the primary or secondary school level), but rather about (elite) professional education, with one or two students from any one country or organization participating, then education is unlikely to achieve significant dividends (and may achieve none, if the students opt for other careers or are not appointed to positions where they have specific anticorruption roles and responsibilities). Education is also resource-intensive and, as professions such as accountancy, medicine, and law recognize, must be followed by an extensive period of practitioner training to realize the benefits. Moreover, unless there is professional oversight of both education and training, there is also no certainty that the knowledge imparted has practitioner and policy relevance. Open application processes, as with all universities, also produce a huge mix in terms of age, backgrounds, previous experience, and current employment. Consequently the impact is not only dissipated but, given the conceptual and academic approaches that many of these programs take, most of the programs’ graduates know a lot more about the “why” of corruption than the much more relevant “how” of anticorruption.

Training, on the other hand, has more immediate impact, providing knowledge transfer and commonality and uniformity of approaches (exemplified by initiatives like the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Africa Anti-Corruption Centre in Botswana, a regional training initiative for anticorruption agencies). Training programs also allow for targeting specific skills (as with the Stolen Assets Recovery Initiative (StAR) training programs in Southeast Asia and elsewhere) or specific agencies or institutions (such as Integrity Action’s work on its fix-rate approach to provide civil society groups with a working tool to hold street officials to account, or INTOSAI‘s work on drafting and disseminating global audit standards) or specific inter-agency initiatives (as the UNODC tried to do with AsiaJust in Southeast Asia in bringing prosecutors and judges together to support inter-jurisdictional relations). While much is lost through either the wrong training (or, particularly, the wrong trainers), training develops capacity and puts operational tools in the hands of current practitioners.

This dichotomy between training and education–and the unfortunate shift in emphasis from the former to the latter–is exemplified by the funding and focus of the International Anti-Corruption Academy (IACA). The IACA has been part-funded by a substantial grant from the Siemens Integrity Initiative (the global $100 million fund that Siemens agreed to establish to settle the various charges brought against it for its egregious worldwide bribery schemes). The founding group who set up the IACA were clear about its role as a training institution – specifically a trainer of practitioners whose enhanced knowledge and expertise would have a trickle-down effect back home. The Executive Director of UNODC, Antonio Maria Costa, highlighted the proposed practical benefits of the Academy, particularly the training of experts working in anticorruption agencies and financial intelligence units. INTERPOL Secretary-General Ronald K. Noble added that the Academy was intended to “play a central role in enabling police and prosecutors worldwide to investigate and prosecute corruption.” This original vision has been lost as the founding group fell out or fell away, leaving some Austrian public servants to reconfigure the IACA as an educational, rather than a training, institution. Apart from a handful of short training courses and a popular summer school, the biggest current activity of the Academy is a Master’s Degree (MA) in Anti-Corruption Studies – supported with Siemens’ and Austrian taxpayers’ money. Now Siemens has given the Academy an even larger chunk of money for a professorship on “Collective Action,” compliance and private sector anticorruption, academic and other staff, and another MA program concentrating on those topics.

Some might welcome this development. A few months ago, Professor Andrew Spalding, who teaches at the IACA’s MA program, wrote a blog post in which he reported the responses he got when he asked his students in that program what they would do if they had $10 million to spend on anticorruption activities in their home countries. He reports that “the most common idea” was “the need to educate”:

Change public opinion, generate public will. Create a critical mass of citizens who more consciously recognize their right to a government free of systemic corruption.

Create “mini-IACAs” around the world that provided advanced training and certification in the causes and effects of corruption and the best solutions. Go to the business and law schools and provide a solid foundation in the importance of effective compliance and prosecution. Create training centers for working professionals in the private and public sectors. Go into the elementary schools and teach kids about the virtues of honesty and accountability, in government and in life. Provide seed money to startup companies that could build social media platforms to enable communication among citizens.

Some of these ideas—those focusing on skills training, media, and perhaps mass education at the elementary level—might be valuable. But I cannot see the added-value to the wider anticorruption agenda of more mini-IACAs or, frankly, the focus of the current one if its primary raison d’etre continues to be postgraduate education.

Now, postgraduate education does have a place as an anticorruption tool, particularly in shaping and focusing the leadership and management skills of senior practitioners. The optimal amount of resourced devoted to postgraduate anticorruption education is not zero. But there are already a number of public policy masters programs around the world that fulfill that function, What we need–and where an institution like the IACA could have made a bigger impact– is a global hub for practitioner investigative, investigation management, and prosecutorial training (which would also serve as a center of networking, knowledge transfer, best practice and training of practitioners with a common purpose and common interest in professionalizing what they do and how they do it).

An MA does not stop corruption; professional capacity does. Maybe it’s time to rethink the role and purpose not only of specific institutions like the IACA, but more broadly about the uses to which scarce resources should be put to the wider benefit of the anticorruption agenda.

[Full disclosure: I was appointed MA Coordinator at the IACA in January 2014; I resigned in October 2014.]

8 thoughts on “Guest Post: Spend Anticorruption Resources on Professional Training, Not Postgraduate Education

  1. The FCPA Institute combines education with practical training.

    Leading law firms and companies across a variety of industry sectors have chosen the FCPA Institute to elevate the FCPA knowledge and practical skills of their employees. The next stop for the FCPA Institute is in Miami on January 14-15, 2016.

    The FCPA Institute is different from other FCPA conferences as information is presented in an integrated and cohesive manner by an expert instructor with FCPA practice and teaching experience. Moreover, the FCPA Institute promotes active learning by participants through issue-spotting video exercises, skills exercises, small-group discussions, and the sharing of real-world practices and experiences.To best facilitate the unique learning experience that the FCPA Institute represents, attendance at each FCPA Institute is capped at 30 participants.

  2. Dear Allen – Interesting post. Three comments.
    The first comment is that here are already a number of regional anti-corruption academies that provide training (rather than education) to anti-corruption officials, notably the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Academy (MACA), catering mainly to Asian anti-corruption officials, the NACIWA Anti-Corruption Academy established in Abuja, Nigeria, to support anti-corruption authorities in West Africa and the Regional Anti-Corruption Academy for Central America and the Caribbean, in Panama. These Regional Anti-Corruption Academies already fulfill a need for continuous training of anti-corruption officials in different regions. Being regional in coverage, they provide two advantages: (1) economies of scale (especially for smaller countries, justifying the establishment of training academies may be difficult, but if you pull resources together to establish one regional academy, it may be more sustainable in the long run), (2) knowledge sharing among participants originating from different countries, yet similar socio-economic and political contexts.
    The second comment is that the competition for resources between these “training initiatives” and other “education initiatives” may not be as fierce as imagined. These initiatives essentially dip in different pots and if they compete for resources, it is within their own structures. For example, the EFCC Academy in Nigeria that hosts the NACIWA Academy will draw from the EFCC budget to support the Academy, while universities in Nigeria that would like to develop anti-corruption education curricula will have to compete for funding within their university structures. In other words, while all resources may to some extent come from national budgets, the real competition is in-house and not between different homes.
    The third comment is that the two approaches (education & training) shouldn’t be considered as exclusive. Even if resources are scarce, there ought to be sufficient resources for both education and training on anti-corruption. At the moment, it appears as if more and more resources are being made available for both training and education. One interesting idea that is currently being floated in West Africa is to ensure that all anti-corruption authorities budget a specific amount or percentage of their annual budget to support their regional anti-corruption academy. That would make it quite sustainable. At the same time, some universities have started developing master programmes on organised crime and corruption (eg. in Gabon). Under the ACAD initiative, supported by UNODC, numerous universities are considering to establish anti-corruption education curricula in their law, economics, political science, or sociology faculties. These universities can draw on their own public and private resources to establish these programmes. Both the education and training approaches can yield anti-corruption dividends. We need both short and long terms approaches. Of course, the question as concerns the role of the International Anti-Corruption Academy, in the maze of these training and education initiatives, remains pertinent, as well as the question concerning the extent to which governments should support national, regional and global initiatives. Where should governments prioritize their funding? I would argue, at all levels, albeit in different proportions.
    All the best, Samuel*
    *These are personal remarks and do not reflect the views of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, nor the United Nations in general.

  3. I am not an expert in this field. However, as a Governance professional and a current student at Harvard Kennedy School, interested in anti-corruption, I have felt an acute dearth of quality courses focusing on anti-corruption even in the best policy schools. Most anti-corruption certification programs I attended as a professional lasted 2-3 days and failed to impart any skill that stayed with me. Education and awareness on anti-corruption through training is important but so is long-term professional education. I do agree that an MA on anti-corruption would not be the answer if it focuses on theory of corruption and state. However, what we can probably focus our resources on are 3-6 month long professional courses not only standalone ones but also integrated with prominent public policy schools. I believe that the anti-corruption community can benefit a lot from students who had exposure to and skills for combating corruption as much as from experienced professionals in this area.

  4. I´ve spent 15 years of observing the donor-funded training circus in the developing world in a variety of fields (though never specifically in anti-corruption) and strongly disagree with the thrust of this post.

    As Nayana points out, the vast majority of these training junkets have little impact even on the bright and willing. And in many cases, the people being trained are untrainable in the first place, or are just in it for the travel opportunities and 5-star hotel. (One great step forward would be to require all participants to pre-qualify for such trainings by requiring considerable research / homework before anyone gets admitted to such an event to demonstrate ability and commitment. That would weed out most of the clowns.)

    See also this funny blog post:

    In contrast, if you give a smart and hard-working young person access to a good postgraduate education in any social science, you create a highly fungible asset who will spend decades crafting and implementing solutions, in the process training colleagues and subordinates on the job. Most importantly, a good postgrad education gives people a research mentality and research skills.

    Q: Why are there so many trainings?
    A: Because most people don´t use Google to find solutions and train themselves.

    Some trainings may have value too, but a postgrad education is the global gold standard in terms of producing people capable of independently finding solutions to complex problems, including outside their immediate field of study, including 20 years from now.

  5. As a student and practitioner on the IACA Masters program I am not convinced of the arguments put forward by Mathew. I can think of no other training I have undergone that has so thoroughly prepared me to tackle the issue of corruption in my own organisation. The multi-disciplinary approach has allowed me to tackle a range of issues from a different perspective with outstanding results. With this program being at the post-graduate level it has also improved my access to senior leaders and experts in the field. Indeed the ability to reach out to academics for advice on real world activities has been invaluable for real life cases. I think IACA needs some improvements in certain areas but given it has only been in existence for a few years its achievements at this point have been outstanding.

    As for mini-IACA, I see no valid reason for this not to occur. I live in Australia and find the travel a challenge. If IACA Vienna is the only way to go the message will not get out. Mini-IACAs across the globe integrated with the UN sponsored (Not just Siemens funded) IACA will see a network of anti-corruption experts working to a culturally diverse by internationally recognised agenda. This can only occur with practitioners with a deep theoretical understanding not just a summer academy or week long specialised course.

    I see challenges for IACA for a number of years as it shakes itself out. However, the long term impact of the post-graduate program cannot be under-estimated.

    • Thanks for the comment. One quick clarification: This guest post is from Professor Doig, not from me. For what it’s worth, I actually share some of the skeptical reaction expressed by you and several other commentators. That said, my aim on GAB is to promote vigorous debate about important issues related to anticorruption — including by publishing posts that take positions different from my own — so I’m grateful to Professor Doig for provoking this helpful conversation with his thoughtful post, and to you for your cogent response.

      • Mathew, my apologise for the error.

        I like the debate, as it has highlighted what I think may be a weakness in the anti-corruption argument. There is no right or wrong answer but a real need to integrate our various responses. Every aspect works, but it is to what degree can it work and when should it be used. Training is fine but I have highly trained staff who are stove-piped into trained responses and they miss the bigger picture and threats that are out there. Integrating their capabilities into the multi-disciplinary approach requires higher education.

        To use a less academic comment, one of senior directors stated to me: “Until now we have had our heads stuck up our arses.”

  6. Dear Allen,
    having worked in a training environment (a police college) and now as an academic teaching both undergraduate and post-graduate course in anti-corruption, I can appreciate your distinction and the call for post-grad resources to be re-directed to training. I would, however, argue strongly at maintaining or increasing undergraduate teaching on corruption and anti-corruption. Undergraduates, after all, are the leaders of tomorrow and waiting until they are in a management position and then applying post-graduate teaching (or training) is a bit late. Give them the knowledge early and let it filter throughout their careers. Capturing student interest at this level is, however, problematic and an issue I raised recently at the UNODC ACAD meeting in Moscow.

    Short of making undergraduate anti-corruption course compulsory, educators need to design and deliver attractive, multi-disciplinary courses to spread understanding of corruption as broadly as possible. At the Australian National University are achieving this in two ways. First, we run an intensive summer course through the School of Sociology. The short course format open to students across the University ensures relatively high enrollments for a non-compulsory course (70 students last year and heading to the same again this year). Students appreciate the opportunity to complete a course quickly while we deliver a course that covers theory, causes and controls of corruption. The open disciplinary approach allows students to interact and see corruption from other perspectives. It also ensures that not only future lawyers, but future accountants, environmentalists, doctors, engineers, managers etc etc go forward with an understanding of the causes and controls of corruption.

    Second, we have developed a semester-long course for delivery in 2017 on “Corruption in Sport”. While the anti-corruption message and methodology will be similar, the sport theme is the sugar coating to attract students in. We could run a course on “Corruption in Government Procurement”, however, I cannot foresee a rush of enrollments from undergraduates yet to fully experience life in the workforce.

    Both courses incorporate a co-taught post-graduate component, where post-grad students are expected to deliver more. This further improves course by giving undergraduates the opportunity to discuss real-world issues with their post-graduate colleagues.

    In short, we all need to cast the anti-corruption education and training net as widely as possible.

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