New Podcast Episode, Featuring Andrii Borovyk and Gretta Fenner

A new episode of KickBack: The Global Anticorruption Podcast is now available.I know that I said in the post announcing the episode from a couple weeks back that that one would be the last post before our summer vacation, but I spoke too soon–last week I had the opportunity to speak with Andrii Borovyk, the Executive Director of Transparency International’s Ukraine chapter, and Gretta Fenner, the Managing Director of the Basel Institute on Governance, about addressing corruption risks inherent in emergency aid to Ukraine during the current conflict and the anticipated future infusion of funds to assist with post-war reconstruction. (Full disclosure: I am on the Board of Directors for Transparency International Ukraine, an unpaid position, and in that capacity I have worked with Andrii, though not directly on this issue.) After sharing their respective backgrounds in the field, Andrii and Gretta discuss how Russia’s aggression affected anticorruption advocacy work within Ukraine, and emphasize the importance for both domestic and international actors to strengthen institutions and mechanisms to prevent corruption in aid and reconstruction efforts. The conversation touches on, among other things, the challenges of pushing an anticorruption agenda in a time of national emergency, the role that aid conditionalities can play in promoting effective reform, and the importance of open, accessible, and centralized public information repositories. You can also find both this episode and an archive of prior episodes at the following locations: This really will be the last podcast episode before we go on summer break, but we will be releasing new episodes in September. The Global Anticorruption Blog is also going to go on summer hiatus during August, though I may post occasionally if something particularly important and time-sensitive comes up. As always, I’ll remind you that KickBack is a collaborative effort between GAB and the Interdisciplinary Corruption Research Network (ICRN), encourage you to subscribe, and invite you to suggest for people or topics you’d like to hear on the podcast by sending me a message.

Some Recent Commentaries on Corruption and the Coronavirus Pandemic

As I noted last week, although this blog is going to keep on going during the COVID-19 crisis (though perhaps with somewhat reduced output), it’s a bit challenging to proceed with blogging about one problem (corruption) when another problem (the COVID-19 pandemic) is so much at the forefront of everybody’s mind. And in that last post, I noted that although there’s a well-known connection between corruption and public health generally, “so far corruption doesn’t seem to be a major issue in the COVID-19 situation.”

I think perhaps I spoke too soon. We’re already starting to see a number of interesting and useful commentaries on the connections between corruption/anticorruption and the COVID-19 pandemic (several of which readers helpfully noted in comments on last week’s post). I do think we should always try to be a bit cautious about straining to find links between whatever it is we work on and the most salient problem of the day. (I can’t help but remember that in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, people suddenly discovered that whatever problem they’d been working on for the past decade was inextricably linked to the threat of global terrorism.) But in this case I’m persuaded that the links are particularly plausible and important that this is something that deserves further study.

At some point, I may post some original content on this topic to GAB, but for now let me just provide links to some of the interesting early commentaries on the possible connections between corruption and the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Natalie Rhodes, who works with the Transparency International Health Initiative, has an essay–subsequently expanded into a longer feature on Transparency International’s website–discusses some of the corruption risks during the response to an epidemic, including shortage-induced bribery risks, diversion of emergency response resources, and kickbacks in the procurement process.
  • Jodi Vittori, a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment, has a piece entitled “Corruption Vulnerabilities in the U.S. Response to Coronavirus,” which similarly emphasizes corruption risks in medical supply chains, and the greater difficulty in securing transparency and accountability during times of crisis. She lays out a series of measures that, she argues, must be integrated into all COVID-19 response legislation, and also suggests some things that ordinary citizens can do.
  • Another Carnegie Endowment fellow, Abigail Bellows, has a piece called “Coronavirus Meets Corruption: Recommendations for U.S. Leadership,” which emphasizes that the combination of systemic corruption and the COVID-19 crisis could prove especially devastating in the developing world, and suggests that the U.S. government could help ameliorate this situation by targeting more of its foreign aid at strengthening fiscal management systems, and by enacting a number of currently-pending bills that, while not specifically related to corruption in the health sector, would provide greater U.S. support to the fight against kleptocracy abroad.
  • In one of the earliest blog commentaries suggesting a corruption-coronavirus link, Gretta Fenner and Monica Guy of the Basel Institute on Governance wrote a post for the FCPA blog in late January that suggested the original coronavirus outbreak in China may have been linked to the illegal wildlife trade, and that the illegal wildlife trade is made possible by corruption–a string of connections that leads them to ask, in the title of their post, “Did corruption cause the deadly coronavirus outbreak?”

I’m sure that in the days and weeks ahead, more commentaries will appear that explore both the ways that corruption may have contributed to, or exacerbated the impact of, the coronavirus pandemic, and the corruption risks associated with the policy responses to this crisis. I probably won’t be able to keep up with all of them, but I’ll do my best to feature them on the blog when I can, and if readers are aware of other useful commentaries, please send me the information through this blog’s contact page.

Thanks everyone, and stay safe.