World Bank cracks down on corruption | 

Corruption has persisted for millennia as have various efforts to root it out. International development efforts, with money moving from donors like the World Bank to contractors and governments, have their fair share of corruption.

A chart from The Economist shows the number of individuals and organizations that have been debarred from working with the World Bank due to corruption. The increase from 2006 to 2013 appears to be the result of an increased effort by the Bank to cut down on corruption.

Interestingly, 2013 already has four times more debarred firms and individuals than 2012 and more than twice that of 2011. Could that increase be the result of Jim Kim taking the helm?


Rooting out seen and unseen corruption | 

A dapper Teodorin Obiang emerges from his luxury car.
A dapper Teodorin Obiang emerges from his luxury car.

Nine cars were sold off at an auction in Paris raising $3.6 million. Luxury names took the stage including Porche, Bugatti and Bentley.

The owner: Teodorin Obiang, son of Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodor Obiang. The cars were seized in 2011 when the younger Obiang was charged with embezzling public funds in France to buy real estate in Paris.

It is quite the collection for someone who earned an official salary of $7,000 a month during that time. He has also managed to purchase a $30 million home in Malibu and liberated an €18 million art collection from the walls of fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent.

The money comes largely from the oil that the country produces. The sale of oil makes it way into the smooth rides and stylish suits worn by the Obiang family.

Corruption may feel like a problem in a far off nation, but it is much closer to home than one expects, says Global Witness co-founder Charmain Gooch.

“Corruption is made possible by the actions of global facilitators,” says Gooch. Continue reading

How open and democratic is your country? Corruption Index 2012 | 

The Guardian has published a nice interactive graphic of Transparency International’s Corruption Index 2012.

The United States, which was ranked slightly above average at 19, has improved a bit while countries like Bangladesh and Gambia have plummeted. Syria and Egypt did not score well, unsurprisingly, along with the usual suspects with dysfunctional governments. China also seems to have a corruption problem, Voice of America noted. Here’s a report on this new index by the Washington Post as well.

A caveat: When talking about corruption, I always remember what a Nigerian friend told me once: “In Nigeria, we can see our problem with corruption. In the United States, it is so large and institutionalized you Americans don’t see it.” (See this story re Dick Cheney and oil companies, for example. Didn’t get much US media coverage …. )

New Zealand was top ranked as were a number of those Northern European countries we’re used to seeing ranked high in almost everything. Damn socialists. (Below is just screen grab. Go to link for interactive map.)

The Guardian

Do you know about Transparency International, the story of John Githongo and his fight against corruption in Kenya? It shows the blood, guts and heart behind this index. The Guardian explains it’s use:

The index, which is closely watched by investors, economists, and civil society campaigners, is based on expert assessments and data from 13 surveys from independent institutions, covering issues such as access to information, bribery of public officials, kickbacks in public procurement, and the enforcement of anti-corruption laws. While critics note that measuring perceptions of corruption is not the same as measuring corruption itself, the latter is almost impossible to do – as the corrupt are usually keen to cover up their tracks, hard data on graft and bribery is notoriously difficult to come by.

Rule of Law Index 2012 – latest from Seattle’s quiet revolutionary front | 

The new Rule of Law Index for 2102 is out! Apparently, Nordic countries are most law-abiding and Asia is full of scofflaws. Here’s a link to an interactive map (below is just a screen grab):

World Justice Project

Never heard of the Rule of Law Index?

It was started out of Seattle. I’ve mentioned before (here and here, for example) that post-WTO Battle in Seattle is still full of a lot of folks trying to change the world. This is another example.

William Neukom

The World Justice Project was launched a few years ago by Seattle attorney and former Microsoft general counsel Bill Neukom. The initiative is aimed at “reducing corruption, improving public health, enhancing education, lifting people from poverty and protecting them from injustices.” Neukom, I should note, was the lead attorney in Microsoft’s battle with the federal government defending the software giant from federal anti-trust charges and has worked hard to protect Microsoft’s intellectual property rights.

So, yes, he’s a corporate cage fighter. But that was his day job. Shining a light on global lawlessness, government corruption and human rights violations is Neukom’s side job.

As Inter Press reports, the project has issued its annual Rule of Law Index rankings of how well countries do when it comes to adhering to nine factors: Limited government powers; absence of corruption; order and security; fundamental rights; open government; regulatory enforcement; civil justice; criminal justice; and informal justice. The US did a fair to middling job, as Inter Press notes:

Botswana, in particular, scored consistently among the higher-income countries, besting the United States, for example, in three factors: providing fair and equal access to the criminal and civil justice systems, and fair enforcement of regulations.

Here’s the annual report for the 2012 rankings.


More pushback on AP story re Global Fund fraud | 

Flickr, by AMagill

Circle of money

The Associated Press recently caused a firestorm in global health circles with a (somewhat questionable) report describing instances of fraud and corruption in the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria.

Given the echo chamber nature of the media, the AP’s version of this story is still out there bouncing around on the InterWebs producing copycat reports typically headlined something like “Corruption Plagues Global Fund.”

As I wrote yesterday, this was no small exaggeration given the actual level of identified problems (about 0.003 percent of all grants). Further, the AP story was written as if this was a major revelation when it was, in fact, the Global Fund itself that identified these cases of fraud — about a year or so ago.

Here are two more reports, one from NPR and another from William Savedoff at the Center for Global Development, that challenge the AP’s story.

Nigerian allegations of corruption, against Dick Cheney | 

Dick Cheney

We’re always hearing about the corruption of African governments, especially so when it comes to Nigeria.

Now, the Nigerians are pointing their collective finger back at us — or, well, at former Vice President Dick Cheney anyway.

Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency has filed bribery charges against Cheney and nine others claiming that while he was CEO of Haliburton he and others spent $180 million bribing Nigerian officials in order to win some gas contracts for Haliburton’s affiliate KBR in the southern part of this oil-rich African nation. Continue reading