Curbing Corruption in Development Projects: Memo for the World Bank Board of Governors

The wAnnual meetingsorld’s finance ministers serve as the governors of the World Bank and meet this weekend to review the Bank’s activities over the last year and set policy for the coming one.  The annual meeting is the first since the OECD released a remarkable document, one that subtly but unmistakably  damns the development community for failing to curb corruption in the projects it finances. In skillfully-crafted prose that points the finger at no one miscreant while charging all with dereliction of duty, the OECD’s Council for Development identifies weaknesses large and small in the corruption prevention efforts of both bilateral and multilateral development organizations and urges major reforms.  Corruption in development projects not only defeats the reason development aid is provided but, as the council stresses, many times leaves the recipient worse off than had no aid been extended in the first place.

The Bank’s Board of Governors should make the report and its recommendations the focus of their meeting. For two reasons. Continue reading

Corruption Risk Assessments: Some Observations on Private Sector Analyses

As the pressure to curb corruption has grown, so too has the demand for “corruption risk assessments,” efforts to predict what form corruption in a public agency or private firm is likely to take and what can be done to reduce if not to eliminate it.  In the private sector risk assessments have been fueled by national laws that reduce penalties for corruption violations if a firm has a risk management program in place.  In the public sector risk assessments help assure citizens that their money is not being stolen and provide an agency leader unlucky enough to be at the helm when a corruption scandal breaks at least a partial defense to charges of incompetence or venality.

Public sector assessments come in several varieties: those which examine the risks faced by a single organization, say the Albanian tax agency, others which assess risks in a publicly-funded program, for example a de-forestation project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and still others which consider overall risk in a sector with a large public presence such as water or education.  While public sector assessments are almost always readily available, private sector assessments are not, presumably for proprietary or competitive reasons.  What is available on private sector risk assessment are hundreds (thousands?) of tomes advising firms on how to conduct a risk assessment — often written by those looking to assess the corruption risks a corporation faces for a fee.

A Google search for “corruption risk assessment” produced 300,000 hits, one for “assessing corruption risks” 48 million!  I won’t pretend to have read even a representative sample of the reports or “how to” manuals, but the many I have read so far have been a disappointment. Continue reading