Kicking off GI-ACE: 3 Anti-Corruption Themes & 14 Projects

Johannes Tonn
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January 23, 2019

Paul Heywood – Programme Director, GI-ACE
Johannes Tonn – Director, Integrity & Anti-Corruption

The Global Integrity Anti-Corruption Evidence Programme (GI-ACE) supports 14 research partners around the world in generating actionable evidence that policy makers, practitioners, and advocates can use to design and implement more effective anti-corruption programmes. The Programme has three core themes: addressing the international financial and legal architecture that enables different types of  high-level corruption to take place; exploring how to support effective integrity management as one approach to countering corruption; and combating corruption at different scales, including in distinct sectors and jurisdictional levels.

Happy 2019 on behalf of the entire GI-ACE team! We are excited to start the new year by organizing the GI-ACE inception workshop in London on January 28 and 29, bringing together all 14 grantees. The workshop serves as the official kick-off for the programme and will ensure we can explore opportunities for synergy and collaboration amongst the new research projects.

Most importantly, it will provide a space to learn about, reflect upon and further develop the overarching programme logic. A key aspiration of the Anti-Corruption Evidence programme is to ensure that innovative research is translated into actionable outcomes, informing the design and implementation of new, targeted initiatives. To achieve that aim, we will place major emphasis on promoting and supporting close relationships between researchers and practitioners, in line with a theory of change that will be elaborated during the inception workshop. More details on that theory of change to come in a blogpost next month!

It is increasingly well-recognised that most of the established, top-down technical and regulatory approaches to tackling corruption implemented over recent decades have a very poor record of success. Accordingly, there have been growing calls for more flexible and imaginative interventions that take account both of the complexity of how corruption operates in practice and also the importance of contextual factors, and to do anti-corruption, as well as development, differently Notably, there is an emerging recognition that we need to move beyond seeing corruption as a property of nation-states, amenable to both measurement and response at that level.

To that end, the GI-ACE programme is organised around three core themes that seek to move forward our understanding of how best to develop anti-corruption initiatives that can have a practical impact.

• Theme One: addressing the international legal and financial architecture supporting corruption

The first theme explores the link between high-level corruption and the enabling international architecture that supports illicit financial flows – for instance, in the banking sector, as well as the role of professional intermediaries such as agents, accountants and lawyers facilitating purchase of property and luxury goods, exploitation of tax regimes, and the use of offshore facilities.

Under this first theme, a team led by Dan Haberly of the University of Sussex will explore the effects of moves to create greater transparency in offshore secrecy jurisdictions to understand how they contribute to financial reform efforts. Jacqueline Harvey of Northumbria University will focus on how to meet the challenges of developing systems to increase transparency and trace beneficial ownership in Nigeria. The project led by John Heathershaw from the University of Exeter will assess the effectiveness of the international Anti-Money Laundering (AML) regime, looking at how to counter the use of shell companies in six jurisdictions in Africa and Asia and focusing particular attention on banking and real estate purchases. Finally, Thorsten Chmura of Nottingham Trent University is running a project based on experimental economics that looks at the interrelationship between the international anti-corruption legal architecture and local social norms and beliefs.

• Theme Two: Promoting integrity and systems of integrity management in the public and private sectors

Everyone is in favour of integrity, but too often it is understood in practice as simply an absence of corruption. We need to understand better how integrity can be positively identified and promoted in both the public and the private sectors in order to build effective models of integrity management – that is, the formal frameworks that ensure public officials and private corporations proactively engage in ethical behaviour, acting with honesty and fairness whilst complying with prevailing legal norms.

The second theme will see Mark Buntaine of the University of California, Santa Barbara, organise randomized field experiments to explore how civic expectations may be realigned to counteract corruption, focusing on western Uganda. Another project led by Jacqueline Klopp of Columbia University will run randomized controlled trials to explore the functioning of sauti (a mobile-based platform) in assisting traders to address corruption on the Kenya-Uganda border. Vanessa Watson of the University of Cape Town, meanwhile, will explore the link between urban planning and corruption, focusing on how to support the promotion of professional integrity as an anti-corruption strategy in Zambia and South Africa.

• Theme Three:  Corruption at sub national and sectoral level

Studies of corruption and anti-corruption have generally focused on nation states as their unit of analysis, largely driven by attempts to understand the causes and effects of corruption by using country rankings as proxy dependent or independent variables. Whist this work has been valuable in identifying broad patterns, it can mask significant variation in corruption within countries, and between different sectors. We need to understand better how anti-corruption interventions can work both at sub-national level (regions and, especially, cities) and in sector-specific settings.

Under this theme, Gerhard Anders of the University of Edinburgh will lead a comparative study of law enforcement and the prosecution of high-level corruption in Nigeria, Tanzania and Malawi, looking at the effectiveness of particular legal tools. Claudia Baez Camargo of the Basel Institute of Governance will work with colleagues to develop an experimental approach to test behavioural interventions in the Tanzanian health sector, looking to harness social networks through ‘governance clubs’. Another project sees Amrita Dhillon of King’s College London explore different auditing mechanisms (top-down versus social) as tools to ensure effective public service delivery in Indian states. Finally, Ryan Jablonski of the London School of Economics will lead a team that evaluates different mechanisms, including the use of GPS tracking devices, to reduce drug theft in Malawi.

Extension projects from DFID-ACE Phase 1

In addition to the exciting new research projects outlined above, GI-ACE also includes three projects that were awarded follow-on funding from the first phase of the DFID-sponsored Anti-Corruption Evidence programme (2016-18). Liz Dávid-Barrett of the University of Sussex leads a team exploring the regulatory framework of donor recipient countries and their interaction with donor regulations, looking to extend their innovative analysis of ‘red flag’ risks revealed by the big data analysis of procurement. They are particularly interested in potential displacement effects.

Scott Newton of SOAS is working with colleagues to extend their exploration of how network-based governance systems based on informal practices impact on specific anti-corruption reforms, seeking to design ways to ensure these deliver more effective results than more formal mechanisms have managed. Finally, Jan Meyer-Sahling of the University of Nottingham is developing the work he and colleagues did on civil service management practices to focus specifically on ethics training in Nepal and Bangladesh, using randomized controlled trials to identify best practice interventions.

Johannes Tonn
Johannes Tonn

Johannes is Director of our Integrity and Anti-corruption work.

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