Guest Post: Do Anticorruption Advocates Practice What They Preach?

GAB welcomes back Alan Doig, Visiting Professor at Newcastle Business School, Northumbria University, who contributes the following guest post:

About a year ago (in January 2018) I saw an advertisement from the NGO Publish What You Pay (PWYP) seeking applications for a consultant to draft a “mandatory disclosures charter” for PWYP India members and other allies working to advance natural resource governance in India. It’s not unusual to see an advertisement encouraging publicly-available standards for others, and this led me to question how good the anitcorruption advocacy industry is in practicing and publishing what it preaches for others. For governments and public bodies, after all, there are a whole host of documents, agreements, and declarations (such as the UN Convention against Corruption, the Kuala Lumpur Statement on Anti-Corruption Strategies, and the G20 High-Level Principles on Fighting Corruption to Promote Strong, Sustainable And Balanced Growth) that point to what are invariably thought to be the necessary requirements for transparency, accountability, and integrity—often in the form of lists that include items on things like financial transparency, institutional control and oversight arrangements, conflict-of-interest procedures, codes of conduct, whistleblowing arrangements, and so on.

PWYP is a UK-registered charity and thus subject to a government regulator which provides guidance on what is required, but many other advocacy bodies–as organizations–are left to their own devices. To look into what this may mean in practice, I selected five NGOs, chosen unscientifically for their engagement in different aspects of anticorruption advocacy; an international advocacy organization, a national advocacy organization, an investigative body, an educational body, and the secretariat of an NGO coalition. I looked for evidence specifically published on their websites of what may be considered a basic anticorruption prevention framework, including: board oversight, a statement of values, a code of conduct for staff, a whistleblowing policy (including external reporting), an anticorruption and fraud policy, conflict of interest procedures, a declaration of annual income by source and amount, identification of expenditure by category (including highest-paid staff), and whether or not the organization is subject to any evaluation as an organization. This is what I found: Continue reading

Guest Post: The Problem With Anticorruption Diagnostic Tools Is Not (Primarily) Too Much Standardization

José-Miguel Bello y Villarino, an official with the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and doctoral candidate at the University of Sydney, contributes today’s guest post:

There is a wide debate about how to produce and use data to assess and compare countries’ performance, particularly in domains that are, by nature, global such as human rights. In the corruption domain there are some well-known international indexes that purport to express a country’s perceived corruption level in a single number, such as the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) published annually by Transparency International (TI). Other diagnostic tools have been developed to assess individual countries’ anticorruption frameworks and policies against some global standard or benchmark. Among the latter, TI produces the National Integrity System (NIS) Country Assessments.

These assessments do not try to determine how much corruption there is in a country, but rather “how well a country tackles the problem.” NIS assessments do not aim to give each country a final “score” that can be compared to the scores of other countries. The assessments’ declared objective is to look into the effectiveness of each country’s anticorruption institutions by focusing on a standard set of “pillars” (things like democratic institutions, the judiciary , the media, and civil society). Consequently, NIS assessments are not meant to provide definitive conclusions, but rather observations within a common framework to supply a starting point for analysis, and to identify risks and possible areas for improvement. Their conclusions are designed to help stakeholders work to develop more concrete and country-specific responses.

The NIS Country Assessments, and similar tools (TI has identifies roughly 500 diagnostic tools used in the anticorruption area), have come in for a fair share of criticism. Much of this criticism centers upon their allegedly formalistic, formulaic, standardized approach to assessing anticorruption institutions. Some of those criticisms have appeared on this blog. A few months ago Richard Messick posted a commentary on a piece by Paul Heywood and Elizabeth Johnson that challenged the relevance and value of NIS reports for developing democracies (using Cambodia as an illustrative example), principally due to insufficient appreciation of cultural distinctiveness and an overemphasis on compliance-based approaches. Last month, Alan Doig’s post continued this conversation. Mr. Doig defended the value of the NIS Country Assessments as they were originally conceived, but argued that TI’s current approach to NIS assessments has become overly formalistic, which limits the utility of NIS country studies as an effective starting point for analysis or platform for progression. Though coming from a different perspective, Mr. Doig’s criticism is very similar to the core argument of Professors Heywood and Johnson. In essence, they share a skepticism that one can usefully apply broad global standards or categories to individual countries, given each country’s unique, particular, idiosyncratic circumstances.

Respectfully, I think these criticisms go too far. Taking individual country circumstances into consideration of course has value. However, standardization of assessment methodologies, the somewhat “formulaic” approach, can have benefits that may outweigh the costs. Continue reading

Guest Post: How to Fix TI’s National Integrity System Country Assessments

GAB welcomes back Alan Doig, Visiting Professor at Newcastle Business School, Northumbria University, who contributes the following guest post:

Transparency International (TI) has developed a number of tools to assess corruption in different countries. The best-known is probably the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), which purports to reduce each country’s level of (perceived) corruption to a number, to facilitate international comparisons. But TI has also developed another tool, the “National Integrity System” (NIS) assessment, which evaluates an individual country’s governance system with respect to both internal corruption risks and its capacity to fight corruption in the society more broadly; the NIS evaluations typically focus on a number of governance “pillars,” such as the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, audit agencies, anticorruption agencies, media, civil society, etc. (TI maintains a number of more recent NIS assessments on its website.)

Recently, the NIS evaluations have been subjected to withering critiques. For example, last year on this blog Rick Messick summarized a critical article by Professors Paul Heywood and Elizabeth Johnson, which argued, on basis of the NIS for Cambodia, that the NIS reviews relied on a “narrowly conceived institutional approach,” displayed “insufficient appreciation of cultural distinctiveness,” failed to properly conceptualize the notion of “integrity,” and over-emphasized “compliance-based approaches to combating corruption at the expense of the positive promotion of integrity.” Alas, this critique largely misses the mark, and in fact goes a long way (as does Mr. Messick’s blog post) to perpetuating myths and incorrect assumptions about the NIS approach. It’s true that something has gone badly awry with TI’s NIS assessments—on that point, I agree with Heywood, Johnson, and Messick. But though these authors tell us what is wrong with the NIS, they never bother to ask themselves why; more importantly, they make the mistake of confusing errors in execution (on the basis of a single country!) with inherent problems with the concept itself. Continue reading

Guest Post: The Finnish Paradox–Anticorruption Success Without Anticorruption Policy

GAB is pleased to welcome back Alan Doig, Visiting Professor at Newcastle Business School, Northumbria University, who contributes the following guest post:

In its January 2017 Inclusive Growth and Development report, the World Economic Forum listed five countries as the best of the advanced economies in addressing corruption: New Zealand, Singapore, Sweden, Norway, and–heading the list–Finland. Finland, along with its fellow Scandinavian countries, is often held out as a model of clean and effective government, toward which other countries should aspire. Yet 50 years ago, Finland’s reputation was quite different. As Niklas Jensen-Eriksen has documented, for example, senior British policymakers in the 1950s and 1960s viewed corruption in the upper strata of Finnish politics as an issue, and warned that it might not be possible for British companies to do business there without paying bribes. What changed over the course of that half-century? The Finnish Ministry of Justice’s delightfully-smug official report, as well as a limited number of other similar publications, suggest a number of micro- and macro-level changes, some planned for and some accidents of social and political evolution, that are assumed (although there’s no real proof) to have denied the opportunity and incentive for corruption.

These include long-term and stable legal and administrative environments that also engaged members of society at all levels, the absence of strata of bureaucracy and devolved public (and public-focused) spending that promoted local engagement, transparent decisionmaking and the right of citizen redress, universal education, adequate official salaries, state funding of political parties, access to all public records (including tax records), access to funds (legal aid) to challenge state decisions. Yet among these changes Finland never did much of anything specifically about corruption (and indeed the country still attracts disapproving comments from GRECO and the OECD for not doing more even now).

This, then, is the Finnish Paradox: a country that didn’t decide to “fight corruption” over the last 50 years is now held up as an exemplar of effective anticorruption control. It is a model to which other countries should aspire (and that donors should have in mind as a target) when designing anticorruption strategies and interventions.

This Finnish paradox highlights two possible lessons that challenge much of the thinking behind current approaches championed by the “anticorruption industry” (including many donors, activists, and other reformers): Continue reading

Guest Post: Structuring Effective Corporate Pay-Back To Help Fight Corruption

GAB is pleased to welcome back Alan Doig, Visiting Professor at Newcastle Business School, Northumbria University, who contributes the following guest post:

In recent years, there has been a swelling call for a substantial portion of the fines, disgorged profits, and other payments recovered from corporations in foreign bribery cases to be used to fund anticorruption initiatives, particularly those designed to fight corruption in the “victim” countries. If this recommendation were taken seriously, the potential funding resources could be substantial. While the recoveries from corporate settlements are miniscule (and ad hoc) contributions to national treasuries, they often dwarf what even big donor agencies spend. For example, the UNDP’s 2014-2017 GAIN (Global Anti-Corruption Initiative) had a total budget of $16 million, an amount much less than the fine and disgorgement from the first Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) between the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and ICBC Standard Bank in December 2015. Just think how such funds could provide badly-needed resources for anticorruption work, particularly for areas or organizations seeking new sources of funding, or for innovative work, in what is a very competitive environment. Thus while Integrity Action has managed to win competitive funding from soruces as diverse as Google’s Global Impact Challenge and the UK Comic Relief charity, the chair of the Board of Governors of the International Anti-Corruption Academy (IACA) recently bemoaned the fact that IACA’s “last two general budgets never received 90% of the funding that was unanimously agreed upon” by member states, without which there would be no opportunity for the implementation of its ambitious programs.

While corporate settlements would provide a regular and substantial resource beyond the usual multilateral and bilateral donors (and the occasional big private foundation), there are, of course, a number of practical, legal, and political problems with getting countries to agree to divert substantial portions of such settlement funds to support anticorruption efforts. But even assuming these obstacles are overcome, another set of problems remains: Assuming that a given country (say, the US or UK) has decided that a substantial portion of a corporate penalty for bribery should be redirected to fund anticorruption efforts, how should the arrangement be structured? Which entities should be responsible for any settlement funds? Who will make the key decisions? What will be funded, by whom, and for how long? Our limited experience to date illustrates several options that have been attempted so far: Continue reading

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. Continue reading