Guest Post: ChatGPT in Anticorruption Research–You Cannot Make This Up!

Today’s guest post is from Dieter Zinnbauer of the Copenhagen Business School’s Sustainability Center:

Jim Anderson over at the World Bank blog and Matthew Stephenson on this blog kicked of an interesting discussion about how the new era of artificial intelligence—particularly the natural language chat-bots like OpenAI’s revolutionary ChatGPH—will affect the anticorruption field. As Matthew suggested, the ability of ChatGPT to generate plausible-sounding (if a bit bland) summaries and speeches on corruption-related topics should inspire all of us real humans to aim to do more creative and original—and less bot-like—writing and speaking on anticorruption topics. And both Jim and Matthew suggested that in this field, as in many others, ChatGPT can also be a valuable aid for researchers and advocates, performing in seconds research and drafting work that might take a human being several hours.

Yet while ChatGPT may be able to assist in some tasks, we shouldn’t get too excited about it just yet, especially when it comes to research. Some of its limits as a research tool are already well known and widely discussed. But I wanted to call attention to another problem, based on a couple of recent experiences I had trying to use ChatGPT as a research aid. Continue reading

Making Corruption a National Security Issue: How Will it Change Enforcement Dynamics?

Today’s Guest post is by Nedim Hogic. Nedim advises clients in the private and public sector on environmental, social, and governance issues. Author of many articles on corruption, international law, and the rule of law and development, he is currently writing a book on judicial anti-corruption campaigns.

Since becoming an important policy goal in the 1990s, global anticorruption efforts have gone through three phases. In the first, anti-corruption policies were considered important for economic development, driven by the belief that successful anticorruption programs would make global borrowing and spending and financial aid more efficient. In the second, spanning the first two decades of this century, it was central to the protection of the rule of law and democracy.

The current phase, and particularly that part denominated “kleptocracy,” is animated by the threat it poses to global security. The Biden Administration’s national security strategy, which followed its memorandum calling the fight against corruption a core U.S. security interest, is not the first American or indeed international document to suggest corruption is a national security threat. But it is the first to state the premise clearly and straightforwardly, thus marking a sharp change in thinking about transnational corruption. Indeed, in my view the change is significant enough to be labelled a paradigm shift.

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Moldova’s Fight Against Corruption: Reset Needed

Today’s Guest Post is submitted by Dumitrita Bologan on behalf of Moldova’s Independent Anti-Corruption Advisory Committee (CCIA). The CCIA is a corruption watchdog agency with members drawn equally from Moldovan civil society and the international community. Established by presidential decree in 2021, it recommends measures to bolster Moldova’s fight against corruption and periodically reports on their implementation. The post below is drawn from its latest report, “Disrupting Dysfunctionality”: Resetting Republic of Moldova’s Anti-Corruption Institutions. While specific to Moldova, the issues it raises about coordination between law enforcement agencies and the need for judicial reform will be familiar to those working in other countries and the insights about how to address the problems of value to many.

The Republic of Moldova has been struggling with corruption for years, it being acknowledged as a main obstacle to development. The relevant stakeholders have implemented a wide range of measures to prevent and fight corruption, but they have neither been accompanied by coherent policies nor strict adherence by all parties. As a result, they have often been ineffective, insufficient, and poorly executed.

As Disrupting Dysfunctionality shows, the weakest point has been the reform of justice institutions. Reforms initiated in 2011 produced modest results despite considerable investments and support from development partners, and these efforts suffered significant setbacks during the years 2016 – 2019 when elites captured state institutions. While some advances have been realized since, the impact has yet to be felt.

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Guest Post: Corruption in Water Resources Management? Not Our Job Say Water-Sector Professionals

Today’s Guest Post is by Juliette Martinez-Rossignol, a graduate student of Political Economy of Development at Sciences Po, Paris, and at the London School of Economics; Laura Jean Palmer-Moloney, a hydro-geographer and consultant with Visual Teaching Technologies specializing in wetlands ecology and hydrology; and Mark Pyman a leader in corruption prevention efforts and co-founder of CurbingCorruption.

It is hard to imagine an area where corruption has a greater impact than in the management and distribution of the world’s supply of water. Examples abound. Locally, as in the misuse of water in a municipality; regionally, as in unregulated diversions in watersheds; and globally, as in corrupt mismanagement of marine protected areas or the diversion of funds intended to combat climate change.

We asked a cross-section of those who have devoted their professional careers to managing the world’s water supply what they were doing to combat corruption in the sector.  Interviewees included engineers in water utilities in the U.S., Mexico, and elsewhere, environmental lawyers, geographers, geologists, ocean economy investors, ecosystem scientists, natural resources managers, plus water anti-corruption practitioners and journalists to.

What we found is enormously troublesome.

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Brazilian Anticorruption Experts Weigh in on the Presidential Election

The upcoming presidential election in Brazil, which pits right-wing incumbent Jair Bolsonaro against former President Lula–leader of the left-wing Workers’ Party (PT)–puts voters who care primarily about government integrity in a tough spot. Some of the leading figures in Brazil’s so-called “Car Wash” anticorruption operation have publicly embraced President Bolsonaro, pointing (explicitly or implicitly) to the corruption scandals under Lula and the PT. Others, including Victoria on this blog, have argued that between the two, Bolsonaro would be worse for the fight against corruption than would Lula.

Recently, a group of 59 Brazilian scholars who research and teach on anticorruption and related topics weighed in on this issue with an open letter, originally published in Portuguese. This is an important contribution to the discussion, of interest not only to Brazilians but to the international community that cares about this issue. With the permission of the letter’s organizers, their English translation of the letter is below, with the list of signatories: Continue reading

Guest Post: Is UNCAC Article 35 a “Dead Letter” in the United States?

Today’s Guest Post is by Craig R. Arndt, an international lawyer living in Bangkok. In the course of a long career, he advised multinational clients on a range of corruption-related matters and has represented those injured by corruption in actions to recover damages.

The drafters of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption recognized that corruption was a transnational disease. And that accordingly, no country could fight it on its own. Hence, in its very first article the Convention makes it clear that states ratifying it are obliged to “promote, facilitate, and support international cooperation and technical assistance in the prevention of and fight against corruption.”  

Article 35 of the Convention sets forth one of the ways states are required to work together to curb cooperation. It provides that each party must “ensure that entities or persons who have suffered damage as a result of an act of corruption have the right to initiate legal proceedings against those responsible . . . to obtain compensation.”

Rick has documented the sorry state of civil recoveries by bribery victims in transnational cases (here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here). That state is now even sorrier thanks to two recent decisions by American federal courts of appeal. In the words of one commentator, the two “gut” article 35.

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Guest Post: Will the Biden Administration Help South Africa Escape Capture?

Today’s Guest Post is by Nicole Fritz, a South African public interest lawyer and executive director the Helen Suzman Foundation, a non-partisan think-tank dedicated to promoting liberal, democratic values and human rights in post-apartheid South Africa.

President Biden’s meeting Friday with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa offers a prime opportunity to show the Administration is serious about its new global anticorruption policy. Issued last December, the Administration promises a raft of new initiatives to not only crackdown on corruption at home but to help democratic, reform-minded regimes root out corruption that they cannot do on their own. President Ramaphosa’s government qualifies on all counts. Where it could best use assistance is in unraveling an American company’s role in the efforts of Ramaphosa’s predecessor, Jacob Zuma, to rob the country blind. 

During his nine-year rule, Zuma sought to “capture the state,” to remake South Africa’s fledgling young democratic government into a machine to enrich himself, his family, and his friends. No sooner did he take office in 2009 then he began stacking key government-owned enterprises with cronies and accomplices and purging the public service of professional, independently-minded civil servants.  He was finally forced from office after widespread public protest and coordinated efforts of civil society, those few remaining independent state agencies, and reformers within his own party.

In one of his last desperate bids to quell discontent and remain in office, Zuma established the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, Corruption and Fraud in the Public Sector. That Commission has defined the Ramaphosa presidency and the Commission’s several-thousand-page report, completed in June, reveals in astonishing detail just how far Zuma and accomplices extended their reach into the inner-workings of the government in pursuit of personal riches.

An especially damning chapter (here) recounts the role of the Boston management consulting firm Bain & Company in the state capture scheme.

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Guest Post: Oversight of Beneficial Owners Can Strengthen Integrity in the Transition to Renewable Energy

Today’s guest post is from Alanna Markle, a Policy and Research Associate at Open Ownership, and Erica Westenberg, the Governance Programs Director at the Natural Resource Governance Institute.

The transition to cleaner, renewable energy sources is crucial to the health of the planet. Yet the renewables sector is likely to face political, social, and governance challenges—including risks of corruption and conflict of interest—similar to those that have been observed in extractive industries and other sectors. One of the tools that anticorruption advocates have emphasized as crucial across sectors—transparency regarding the true beneficial owners of private companies—may be highly important in addressing corruption and conflict of interest risks in the sustainable energy transition for several reasons: Continue reading

Guest Post: Do Governments Have a Clue About the Money Laundering Risks They Face? UPDATE

UPDATE: the World Bank hosts a discussion on the report that is the subject of this post May 30, 12:00 noon EDT. Link to register here.

Today’s guest post summarizes an April World Bank study of money laundering risk assessments. The first step in preventing money laundering is identifying where it occurs and how likely it is to occur. In short, the risks of money laundering. The Bank study evaluated risk assessments eight governments had conducted in accordance with the methodology prescribed by the Financial Action Task Force. For reasons that will become plain, the post’s author has chosen to remain anonymous.

The title from a new World Bank report on money laundering risks could scarcely be blander: National Assessments of Money Laundering Risks: Learning from Eight Advanced Countries’ NRAs.  The content is anything but. Authored by Joras Ferwerda of Utrecht University and Peter Reuter of the University of Maryland, the report concludes that not a one of the eight money laundering risk assessments examined, all done as the report’s title advertises by “advanced” countries, is worth a damn. Not a one merits a passing grade from the two professors, both highly regarded money laundering experts. What’s worse, despite close to a decade of experience doing such assessments, the two find that no government seems to have learned a thing from the mistakes of others.

This raises a fundamental question about the existing AML regime. How can it be effective if national authorities lack an understanding of the money laundering risks their countries face?

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Guest Post: The Government Defence Integrity Index — Assessing Corruption in Defence

Stephanie Trapnell, Senior Advisor on Defence and Security at Transparency International, and Matthew Steadman, Research Officer at Transparency International UK’s Defence and Security Programme, authored today’s post on the UK Programme’s Government Defence Integrity Index. The Index evaluates corruption risks across defence financing, operations, personnel, political, and procurement for 87 countries using data on 77 defence-related areas. (As the index was produced by TI Defence & Security, a program housed within the TI-UK chapter, the British spelling is followed throughout.)

Corruption in the defence sector poses grave risks for security in both national and international contexts. Transparency International’s flagship report for the Government Defence Integrity Index (GDI) shows 86% of global arms exports between 2016-2020 (worth US$1439.6 billion) originated from countries at a moderate to very high risk of corruption in their defence sectors. The top five exporters – the United States (overall score of 55/100), Russia (36/100), France (50/100), Germany (70/100) and China (28/100) – accounted for 76% of the global total. Meanwhile, 49% of global arms imports are arriving in counties facing a high to critical risk of defence corruption.

Although President Biden’s new anticorruption strategy outlines a “whole-of-government approach” to countering corruption, it stresses the importance of addressing corruption specifically in defence and security. Indeed, the strategy is a critical and welcome acknowledgment, by a global power and major provider of security assistance, that corruption plays a considerable role in destabilising democracy. In Strategic Objective 5.5, emphasis is placed on assessment of corruption risk, causes of corruption, and political will for reform. Specifically for the security sector, there is a call for greater transparency in military budgets, whistle-blower protections, and oversight.

Not only does corruption have a devastating impact on both the defence apparatus itself and on wider peace and security, it can undermine otherwise robust democracies, by serving as a type of statecraft for defence officials and military elites. Corruption undermines the efficiency of security forces, damages popular trust in state institutions, and feeds a sense of disillusionment, which threatens the social contract and the rule of law, and can empower non-state and extremist armed groups.

Given the distinct nature of governance in the defence sector, and the evolving understanding of how corruption operates, the question then turns to what can be done to counter or prevent corruption in a traditionally secretive yet critical sector like defence. The answer is not to measure corruption itself, which is inherently covert and difficult to capture, but instead to measure institutional resilience to it. The Government Defence Integrity Index (GDI) is the only tool that captures comprehensive information on the quality of institutional controls on corruption in the defence sector.

The GDI recognises that:

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