Most of what passes for commentary or learned analysis about corruption in the press, on social media, or elsewhere does little more than say (again and again and again) that corruption is a pressing problem and that it should be addressed. However valuable such calls to action might have been in the early years of the anticorruption movement, as Matthew suggested some time ago (almost two years ago to be exact), the principle of diminishing returns has long since set in. I have serious doubts that another newspaper op-ed, “thought piece,” or (even) blog post will prompt one more policymaker or citizen to take up the anticorruption cause. If they have not by now, they simply aren’t going to.
Rather than wasting energy and time and sending more innocent trees to their death in the hopes of enlisting the remaining holdouts to the cause, here are three projects activists can tackle that will make a difference in the fight to curb corruption.
1) Track the fate of payers and takers in the same cross-border bribery cases. Although no longer a rare event, it is still newsworthy when, following the conviction or guilty plea of a company or individual for bribing a public official in another country, the bribe-taker is prosecuted. For every payer there is a taker, and so for every case where a bribe-payer is called to account, there should be one calling the taker to account. The excuses for why there is not ran the gamut from impunity to political pressure to a lack of capacity to some combination thereof. Ending or at least sharply curtailing transnational bribery requires cracking down on the “demand side” as well as the “supply side,” and spotlighting those governments that aren’t prosecuting their officials for bribe taking will put pressure on them to start cracking down. Instead of one more screed about how bad corruption is, why not use the time to start a “Wiki” where the fates of payers and takers in transnational cases are recorded? Instead of writing another call to action, why not put time in updating the site?
2) Tweet the private air travel of corrupt officials. Last week Richard Cassin reported on a Twitter account that tracks planes registered to or used by despots when they fly into and out of Geneva, Switzerland. As Cassin explained, not every dictator is traveling to Geneva to launder the proceeds of corruption or participate in other corruption-related acts. Some surely are though, and creating a permanent record of their travel to a destination where they might not only shines a light on what they could be up to but creates an evidence trail for prosecutors and investigators. Flight data on other airports is online as is data on what kleptocrats and kleptocratic governments own what planes. Let’s get tweeting.
3) Update the IMF’s Public Investment Management Index. Infrastructure development is considered critical for economic growth, particularly in low income countries, yet as any number of reports show (here and here for examples), the construction industry is laced with corruption; indeed Transparency International’s Bribe Payers Index regularly rates it the most corrupt of the industries surveyed. Reducing corruption in infrastructure development is therefore a must for developing nations, and one of the best ways they can do so is by benchmarking their procedures for overseeing infrastructure spending against those of other nations. An IMF-created index allows governments to do so, but it has not been updated since 2011. Anticorruption advocates could update the figures, if not for all countries then for a handful, say those in a particular region.
All three of these projects are time-consuming to be sure, but unlike time devoted to writing one more piece on the evils of corruption, the time spent on each of these will advance the anticorruption cause.