Guest Post: The IOC Is Lagging Behind In Fighting Corruption in Sports Mega Events

Professor Thomas Kruessman, of the Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies at the University of Tartu in Estonia, contributes today’s guest post:

Recently Jimmy McEntee criticized the anticorruption provisions that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had added into its standard Host Country Contract (HCC), arguing that the revised HCC language fails to represent genuine progress in fighting Olympic corruption. I might quibble with a few of his arguments, but McEntee’s larger point is essentially correct. For example, while I think McEntee erred as a technical legal matter in asserting that the HCC contains no legal enforcement mechanism, he’s right that as a practical matter, the IOC may not be able to credibly threaten to enforce the anticorruption provisions against a host city, or host National Olympic Committee (NOC) that violates them. Although the IOC is entitled to terminate the HCC and to withdraw the Games from the Host City if there is a violation of or failure to perform “any material obligation pursuant to the HCC or under any applicable law,” this threat is not very credible, given the high stakes involved for the IOC, the demanding timeline on which Olympic Games are prepared, and the fact that termination may invite burdensome and uncertain litigation over what counts as a “material obligation.” For similar reasons, the less extreme remedy of retaining or withholding funds from the host city or NOC or Host National Olympic Committee (NOC) is also not very appealing, and therefore not very credible, in light of the IOC’s strong interest in making the Olympic Games a success and the fact that withholding funds which would weaken the local hosts.

But perhaps McEntee’s most important point—and the one I want to explore further here—is his argument that the HCC’s anticorruption languate is excessively vague. He argues that “a meaningful anticorruption provision – one consistent with best practices for such provisions – would need to include language that requires the host city to ensure that its agents, contractors, suppliers, and consultants do not participate in any corrupt practice” (emphasis in the original). It is here, especially with respect to the failure to deal clearly and adequately with third-party corruption, where the revised HCC lags behind most, and where comparison with another international sporting association’s approach to the same issue—the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Tournament Requirements for the EURO 2024 tournament—is most enlightening. 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.

Institutions, Not Heroes: Lessons from Nigeria’s EFCC

Nigeria has a corruption problem. Whether described as misuse of public office for private gain, trading in influence, money laundering, or the theft of public funds, this problem is rife, and we know it. There is also a list of scandals that is as long as it is depressing: that fuel subsidy fraud, those egregiously inflated prices for the purchase of vehicles, the disappearing treasury, and a bewildering pardon for an infamous corrupt convict.

Between 2003 and 2007, it looked as if Nigeria had found a solution to the corruption problem, and that solution had a name: Mallam Nuhu Ribadu. As Chair of the Economic and Financial Commission (EFCC), Mallam Ribadu led successful prosecutions of financial crimes, bringing thousands of indictments, over 270 convictions and double that number in arrests. Described by the UN Office of Drugs and Crime as “a crime-buster made of the hardest steel alloy every manufactured”, Ribadu’s work was filled with fearless firsts. Under his leadership, the EFCC conducted investigations leading to the indictment and conviction of the Inspector General of Police (Ribadu was a policeman). The EFCC indicted five governors and secured two convictions – feats previously thought impossible. The EFCC also arrested and prosecuted hundreds of confidence scammers, and served as an effective deterrent to financial crimes. It was also largely due to the EFCC’s efforts that Nigeria was removed from Financial Action Task Force’s list of non-cooperative jurisdictions. Ribadu put a face to the previously mythical dependable and trustworthy law enforcement.

Yet for all his well-deserved praise, Ribadu’s tenure at the EFCC, and what happened afterwards, illustrates the limits of strong individuals in weak institutions. While anticorruption heroes are great, institutions matter more.

Continue reading

National Anticorruption Strategies: A Request for Assistance

GAB editor-in-chief Matthew Stephenson and I have been asked by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, which serves as the Secretariat to UNCAC’s Conference of States Parties, to write a guide to support the development and implementation of effective and sustainable national anti-corruption strategies.  The guide will contain an outline of the key stages in the development of a national strategy, an explanation of the role different stakeholders can play in developing it, models for implementing a strategy, and a discussion the methods for monitoring and evaluating its implementation. Good practices and success stories at all stages of the process — development, implementation, monitoring and reporting — will be highlighted.

We are in the early stages of collecting information and would welcome readers help in identifying useful materials: copies of national strategies, evaluations of their effectiveness, and so forth.  We will of course build upon the fine analysis of Asian countries’ experiences with national strategies that the UNDP Bangkok office released in December, which I wrote about here.  We also have the very useful policy notes posted on the websites of U4 and TI.

To date we have identified 60 plus the countries that have or have had a national anticorruption strategy.  They are listed below.  Additions to this list would also be welcome.

Afghanistan, Albania, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bhutan, Bosnia And Herzegovina, Bulgaria, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Egypt, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Ghana, Greece, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Kosovo, Kuwait, Kyrgyz Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Pakistan, Palestine, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Southern Sudan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, UK, Ukraine, Vietnam

Anything from newspaper stories to policy papers to academic analyses would be appreciated.  Thanks to Google translate, we will be happy to receive material in any language. You can post suggestions either as a comment on this post, or send your input using the contact page. Thanks in advance!

Who Guards the Guardians in the Anticorruption Battle? Compelling Prosecutors to Take Action

Article 30(3) of UNCAC calls upon state parties to ensure that any legal discretion pertinent to the prosecution of corruption is exercised to to maximize the effectiveness of law enforcement.” Yet there is evidence that prosecutors do not always exercise their discretion in anticorruption cases in a manner that conforms to this principle. Prosecutorial decisions to shelve or terminate a case might instead be influenced by economic considerations — as when a large financial institution is involved, or when prosecution risks losing a valuable foreign investor — and by political considerations — as when the case may influence foreign diplomatic relations or when the case involves senior officials or other parties close to the governing regime.

There is no shortage of such troubling cases in both developed and developing countries. One of the best-known is the BAE Systems/Al-Yamamah case, which involved credible allegations that the British multinational had paid substantial bribes to senior Saudi Arabian officials in connection to a major arms deal. The UK investigation into the bribery allegations was brought to an end on grounds of public interest. The British government, and some of its defenders, emphasized the need to combat terrorism through maintaining relationship with Saudi Arabia with all underlying intelligence cooperation. Nevertheless, cases of this kind impair progress against entrenched corruption. Even if such cases are relatively infrequent, their existence risks depriving both the UNCAC treaty and domestic anticorruption laws of their deterrent effect.

If public prosecutors sometimes fail in their responsibility as anticorruption “guardians” by shelving or dropping investigations, what can be done? Long term solutions might require broader systemic reform, but there are some actions that could be taken, under the rubric of the UNCAC, to pressure or compel prosecutors to fulfill their responsibilities: Continue reading

The Role of Academics in Anticorruption: Some Tensions

As I mentioned in a couple of previous posts (here and here), I was fortunate enough to attend a conference last month, hosted by the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, for academics who write and teach on anticorruption and related subjects. Virna di Palma of TRACE International, who also attended the conference, has posted a very nice overview and discussion of some of the conference themes on the B20 Collective Action Hub’s blog. Ms. di Palma accurately summarizes three main roles that academics can and do play in this field:

  1. Research: “[A]cademic research into the nature of corruption and measures to reduce it is needed … Academics [also] need to challenge existing information on anti-corruption and to filter out low-quality research.”
  2. Activism/advocacy: Professors can serve as “activists and play a firsthand role in shaping public opinion and policy issues.”
  3. Teaching: “Academics educate future policy makers and business executives, directly shaping social, economic and political structures and values…. Academics can influence behavior, promote international standards and norms, counter rationalizations before they become ingrained and mold future leaders.”

I agree with all of this (and I get a warm, fuzzy feeling when someone who is not a professor says something nice about my tribe). But I want to highlight a potential tension between goals 1 and 2 (research and activism/advocacy), and point out how that same tension may play out in the context of goal 3 (teaching). Continue reading