An Interesting Collection of Corruption Posts at the Public Administration Review’s Blog Symposium–Worth a Look!

The Public Administration Review recently published a blog symposium on corruption, edited by Liz David-Barrett and Paul Heywood. (As some readers might recall, GAB published the announcement and call for submissions last April.) The broad-ranging symposium includes an impressive lineup of contributors and a diverse set of topics–and in keeping with blogging norms, the pieces are short and to the point, and often provocative. Worth checking out. You can find the full table of contents at the link in the first line of this post, but I’ll also copy it below so readers can jump directly to posts that look particularly interesting:

Corruption: A Bully Pulpit Symposium

Introduction

  1. Why re-think anti-corruption? An introduction to the symposium, Elizabeth Dávid-Barrett and Paul M. Heywood

A systems approach to corruption

  1. Learning to understand corruption as a systemic problem, Johannes Tonn
  2. Eradicating Corruption: You Can’t Just Pin Your Hopes on Democracy, Elisabeth Kramer
  3. Informal networks: the invisible drivers of corruption and implications for anti-corruption practice, Claudia Baez-Camargo, Saba Kassa and Cosimo Stahl
  4. What ‘hidden’ success stories tell us about anti-corruption policy and practice, Heather Marquette and Caryn Peiffer
  5. Pressure to change: a new donor approach to anti-corruption? Phil Mason

Broadening the definition of corruption

  1. Fighting corruption through strengthening financial integrity: Reflections on Pakistan’s experience, Tom Keatinge and Anton Moiseienko
  2. Add women and stir? Exploring the gendered dimension of corruption, Rrita Ismajli and Miranda Loli

Moving away from compliance-based, regulatory approaches to anti-corruption

  1. Fighting Corruption with Insights from Behavioral Science, Johann Graf Lambsdorff
  2. Focusing efforts and blurring lines: the OECD’s shift from ethics to integrity, Sofia Wickberg
  3. Rethinking corruption risk management for global health programmes: from compliance-based approaches to informed programme design, Sebastian Bauhoff, Sarah Steingrüber and Aneta Wierzynska
  4. Interpreting anti-corruption within a public ethics of accountability, Emanuela Ceva and Maria Paola Ferretti
  5. Using a social norms approach to tackle corruption in Nigeria, Abdulkareem Lawal

New roles for the private sector in tackling bribery and corruption

  1. Market for Bundles: A New Stage of Foreign Anti-Bribery Enforcement, Branislav Hock
  2. Towards a system of compensation for the victims of foreign corruption, Friederycke Haijer
  3. Public/private partnerships – an opportunity or risk for anti-corruption? Nick J Maxwell
  4. Communicating with SMEs on anti-corruption, Brook Horowitz and Jan Dauman
  5. Charting a New Path of Anti-Corruption in Africa: Bringing the Private Sector in from the Cold, Tahiru Azaaviele Liedong

Engaging more local and community partners in anti-corruption

  1. “Bottom Up” Corruption Prevention, Jennifer Widner and Tristan Dreisbach
  2. Look beyond the nation-state: Local-level success stories may reflect different power dynamics, Tom Shipley
  3. Nuevo Leon’s Anticorruption System: Taking Stock of an Ongoing Experiment in Fighting Corruption at the Local Level, Bonnie J. Palifka, Luis A. García and Beatríz Camacho
  4. Can Customary Authority Reduce Risks of Corruption and Local Capture? David Jackson and Jennifer Murtazashvili
  5. Every Penny Counts: Exploring Initial Strategies for Successful Open Contracting Initiatives in Challenging Environments, Tom Wright, Eliza Hovey and Sarah Steingruber
  6. Empowering Agents of Change, Phil Nichols

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

Announcement: PAR Blog Symposium on “Corruption and Anti-Corruption in the 21st Century”

Here at GAB we’re always thrilled to see more useful discussion of corruption-related issues in the blogosphere. I’m therefore delighted to announce that the Public Administration Review is organizing a special “blog symposium” on “Corruption and Anti-Corruption in the 21st Century,” and is soliciting contributions from anticorruption experts. The symposium editors, Liz David-Barrett and Paul Heywood, provide the following overview of the symposium theme and the sorts of contributions they’re looking for:

It is a quarter of a century since the launch of the global anti-corruption NGO, Transparency International. In those 25 years, corruption has become a major focus of academic research, while seeking to curb corruption has become a core preoccupation of ever more international organisations, national governments, dedicated agencies and civil society groups, as well as an issue with which the private sector increasingly engages.

Yet many question what has really been achieved and bemoan our seeming inability to distill research and experience into effective lessons for action. Scholars and practitioners alike complain that they lack channels through which to share ideas and learning, and that all too often their respective agendas and insights fail to connect. And many international organisations, including the World Bank, IMF and OECD, are reassessing their approaches. This blog symposium seeks to develop an open and engaged dialogue to facilitate learning.

We invite scholars and practitioners to contribute posts on the topic of Corruption and Anti-Corruption in the 21st Century, which:

  • Showcase new approaches to understanding and tackling corruption.

  • Share learning about how change can be encouraged, achieved and sustained.

  • Exchange ideas on how to evaluate the impact of anti-corruption interventions.

Those interested in contributing should submit a proposal/abstract by midnight GMT on April 27th (two weeks from today); the proposal should not exceed 150 words, and should outline the main argument and examples to be discussed. The submission should also include a brief bio of the author(s), not to exceed 100 words. Please send your proposal by email to e.david-barrett@sussex.ac.uk and Paul.Heywood@nottingham.ac.uk, and mark the subject line “Blog Symposium Proposal.” The editors will invite 20 authors (or author teams) to contribute, and will notify the selected authors on May 11th. Invited authors should submit their completed blog posts (1200 words max) by June 1st, and shortly thereafter the blog posts will then be published in an online symposium hosted by the Public Administration Review.

Here at GAB, we look forward to reading (and perhaps responding to) what we’re sure will be a set of insightful and provocative contributions in this symposium.

Guest Post: The British Academy/DFID Anti-Corruption Evidence Programme

Paul M. Heywood, the Sir Francis Hill Professor of European Politics at the University of Nottingman, contributes the following guest post:

In a recent post, Matthew recommended a speech by Robert Barrington, Executive Director of Transparency International UK, on the relationship between academics and advocates in the fight against corruption. I was very pleased to read the post, as Robert had given the speech at my invitation during the inaugural meeting of research projects funded under an exciting new initiative being jointly run by the British Academy and the Department for International Development (DFID). The Anti-Corruption Evidence (ACE) Programme, which I serve in the capacity of Academic Leader, is designed explicitly to address the interface between researchers and practitioners, with a fundamental focus on what actually works when it comes to fighting corruption.

Prompted in part by a highly critical report of DFID’s anticorruption approach by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) – itself reproached for poor use of evidence (including on this blog) – and in part by its own commissioned evidence papers into corruption (here and here), DFID has partnered with the British Academy to launch a £3.6m programme aimed at helping us understand better exactly how and why specific interventions succeed or fail in particular contexts. Some may wonder why we need yet more research on corruption; indeed, that is precisely the question I was recently asked by Jeremy Lefroy MP when giving evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee on International Development inquiry into tackling corruption overseas: “I would have thought there was plenty of evidence around. In what way do you think the evidence base needs to be strengthened, or is this just creating extra work for people who look at these things?”

The question is a reasonable one, especially given the exponential rise in the number of books and articles on corruption published over the last quarter century (as reflected in Matthew’s ever-expanding bibliography on the topic). There are many answers that could be given, but one key factor is that much of the existing research on corruption has simply been too generic to produce specific recommendations on which policymakers can act. Although it is widely recognized that corruption is not just one thing, such recognition has often not been translated into research design. Notably, many large-n studies have used an undifferentiated concept of corruption to serve as either a dependent or independent variable, seeking to explain a host of specific failings across a very wide canvas. Where there have been attempts to disaggregate corruption, these have often proposed bipartite, rather than graded, classifications (grand/petty, political/bureaucratic, need/greed, and so forth). In practice, corruption is a much more complex phenomenon than such dichotomous approaches can conceivably capture. Four observations follow from this: Continue reading