Saudi Arabia’s Anticorruption Purge: A Sham to Consolidate Power and Lure Investors

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS, for short), has been cleaning house. In the last month, he has arrested 11 princes, four ministers, and dozens of ex-ministers, all of whom are being held in five star hotels across Riyadh. He has also detained more than 200 others for questioning. Scores of commentators and media personalities have praised MBS’s anticorruption purge (see here and here), while others have condemned it (see here and here), which goes to show just how difficult it is to understand what the recent anticorruption purge means in the context of a country like Saudi Arabia. On the one hand, in Saudi Arabia, any measure to address corruption seems to be cause for optimism. Taken against the backdrop of the many social reforms advanced by MBS, ranging from permitting women to drive, diversifying the economy, and moderating the religious establishment’s brand of Islam, the anticorruption measures appear to be part of a genuine effort to reform Saudi Arabian society. Yet this optimistic assessment naively conflates a progressive social agenda that taps into our hopes for Saudi Arabia’s future (and the Middle East’s writ large) with what Saudi Arabia’s anticorruption purge really is: an attempt to consolidate MBS’s power and reassure foreign investors. Continue reading

Guest Post: Timor-Leste Needs a New National Anticorruption Strategy

Jonas Guterres, who previously served as an Advisor to the Anti-Corruption Commission of Timor-Leste, contributes today’s guest post:

Corruption in Timor-Leste is a chronic disease that can infiltrate almost all aspects of human life and all sectors of society. A number of mechanisms have been put in place within the nation’s legal framework since its restoration of independence, culminating in the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Commission (the Comissão Anti-Corrupção, or CAC) in 2010. However, the prevalence of corruption remains high. There are a number of factors which explain why the anticorruption efforts to date remain far from ideal. Continue reading

Guest Post: A Critical Evaluation of National Anticorruption Strategies

Mark Pyman, Senior Fellow at the London Institute for Statecraft, contributes the following guest post:

Many countries now have official “national anticorruption strategies” or similar plans; indeed some have had them for ten years. So surely there are insights to be had from reviewing the substantive content of a decent sample of them? Unfortunately, most of the existing analysis of national anticorruption strategies focuses not on substance, but only on process (things like stakeholder engagement, the drafting process, the need for realism, cost-benefit analysis, monitoring and evaluation, reporting, etc.) In fact, everything except substance. This is a shame.

In order to remedy this gap, I recently collaborated with the Norton Rose Fulbright law firm on a study of the substantive provisions of national anticorruption strategies in 41 countries that rank between 21 and 130 on Transparency International’s 2015 Corruption Perception Index (CPI). (We chose that range because we wanted to look at countries that have a significant corruption problem, but not those that are in the grip of deep, systemic corruption issues.) The report, published earlier this week, is available here. Our objective in conducting this review was to extract lessons that can help country leaders make better strategies in the future

So, what did we find? Continue reading

UN Guide for National Anticorruption Strategies

The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime recently published National Anti-Corruption Strategies: A Practical Guide for Development and Implementation, designed to assist countries considering the drafting (or revision) of a “National Anticorruption Strategy” document as part of an effort to comply with their obligations under the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC). (Although the Guide will be formally presented/unveiled at the upcoming UNCAC Conference of States Parties meeting in St. Petersburg, the online version is already available.)

Full disclosure: Both Rick and I were heavily involved in the drafting of this Guide (indeed, at the early stages of the process Rick used this blog to solicit — quite successfully — input on the project). For that reason, I’ll refrain from praising (or criticizing) this Guide. I will merely note that it exists, and that it may be of interest to some of our readers, particularly those who are currently either considering or actively working on the development of this sort of national anticorruption strategy document. I’ll also invite readers to share their criticisms of the Guide, in the hopes that frank, unsparing criticism will be helpful both to those working on these issues at the front lines, and to those of us who work on preparing guidance documents like this in the future.

Reducing Court Delays: A Critical Element in the Fight Against Corruption

One consistent finding from the research on anticorruption policy is that those tempted to commit an act of corruption can be deterred from doing so if they are afraid they will be caught and punished.  That is the good news.  Deterrence works. But as I noted in an earlier post, deterrence requires a court system that can resolve cases within a reasonable time.  If those contemplating whether to take or pay a bribe or participate in some other form of corruption know that, if caught, they can delay the case for years if not decades, the fear of punishment will be lessened if not eliminated altogether. An effective national anticorruption policy thus requires ensuring cases are resolved without inordinate delay.

Court delay is a long-standing problem in many nations, and courts in any number of jurisdictions have implemented programs to reduce delays. Few, however, have succeeded.  In a new policy brief for the U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre I argue that one reason why so many delay reduction programs have failed is that they have ignored how the formal and informal rules governing case disposition shape the incentives of judges, lawyers, court staff, and litigants.  I urge that a successful delay reduction strategy must start with such a “political economy” analysis and that reforms be built around what that analysis reveals. Comments welcome.