The ACE approach is to design sector-specific anti-corruption strategies that enable the enforcement of the rule of law - supported by enough players affected by those rules – to lead to improved development outcomes.
The best way to achieve this is to find ways of ensuring that enough actors with sufficient collective power stand to gain from the enforcement of particular rules that enhance socially desirable or productive activity. This makes the enforcement of sectoral anti-corruption strategies more feasible, supported by improvements in appropriate monitoring and enforcement capabilities of governance agencies.
This ‘horizontal’ support for anti-corruption at a sectoral level can be developed in several ways. ACE’s scoping work suggests 4 broad strategies to be used on their own, or together, to create evidence and proposals for successful anti-corruption outcomes.
- Aligning Incentives
- Designing for Differences
- Building Coalitions
- Resolving Rights
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The Anti-Corruption Evidence (ACE) programme is taking a new and innovative approach to tackling corruption.Read more
SOAS-ACE March 2022 newsletter Event: Upcoming: Making anti-corruption real: how to stop wasting money and start making progress (29 March 2022) Latest publication: Lending corruption and bank loan contracting: implications for gender inequity and inclusive growth in Nigeria Briefing Paper | Working Paper Blog: Nigeria’s ‘miracle examination centres’ undermine education: how to stop the rot What opportunities are there for reducing corruption in climate finance and the energy transition? Film: Inside an artisanal oil refinery in the Niger Delta Read full newsletter hereRead more
SOAS-ACE December 2021 newsletter Events: Upcoming event: Unlocking corruption: Frontline perspectives on locally-led solutions (8 December 2021) Session: Scaling Up Community of Practice: Fragile States Working Group (29 October 2021) Webinars: Resolving citizens’ complaints: what makes it happen? Who owns the process? (November 2021) Making anti-corruption messaging effective: the critical importance of feasibility and targeting (22 September 2021) Off-grid solutions to corruption in Nigeria’s electricity sector (7 September 2021) Latest publications: The EFCC and ICPC in Nigeria: overlapping mandates and duplication of effort in the fight against corruption (Working Paper) From dysfunctional to functional corruption: The politics of reform in Lebanon’s electricity sector (Journal Article) Blog: Queuing for petrol in Bath and Beirut Podcast: LSE Cutting Edge Lecture Series Making Anti-Corruption Effective: a new approach Watch on YouTube | Listen to the podcast | Read the blog Read full newsletter hereRead more
Making anti-corruption real: how to stop wasting money and start making progress Tuesday, 29 March 2022 In early 2022, Transparency International reported that ‘corruption levels remain at a standstill worldwide, with 86% of countries making little to no progress in the last 10 years’. The entrenched and sometimes growing levels of corruption in many countries demonstrates the limits of current strategies of anti-corruption and the theories informing them. Results have been poor, and much money has been wasted, because theory and practice have largely ignored the problem of implementation. If a policy adversely affects powerful individuals and organisations, we shouldn’t be surprised when they try to block or distort its implementation. In developing countries where the rule of law is weak, policies may also be blocked in informal or corrupt ways. Making anti-corruption real means understanding these processes and ensuring that every anti-corruption strategy has built-in incentives so that actors with the ability to implement these strategies will do so in their own interest. Over the past 5 years, the SOAS-ACE programme has tested a number of different approaches in a range of countries and sectors to identify feasible and implementable anti-corruption strategies. SOAS-ACE has identified three anti-corruption strategies which offer most potential for reducing corruption. In this panel discussion we outlined these three approaches, shared case studies and discussed areas of future anti-corruption implementation. Speakers: Mushtaq Khan, Executive Director, SOAS ACE, SOAS University of London Dina Balabanova, Professor of Health Systems and Policy in the Department of Global Health and Development, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) Prince Agwu, Researcher, Department of Social Work, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria Anir Chowdhury, Policy Adviser, Aspire to Innovate (a2i), Government of Bangladesh Pallavi Roy, Research Director, SOAS ACE, SOAS University of London Chair: Peter Evans, Director, U4 Anti-Corruption Resource CentreRead more
Nigeria’s ‘miracle examination centres’ undermine education: how to stop the rot This blog was written by a team of researchers of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, partner of the SOAS Anti-Corruption Evidence Consortium, and Dr Pallavi Roy of SOAS-ACE. It was originally published on The Conversation on 2 February 2022. It is republished here under a Creative Commons licence. In Nigeria, the West African Examination Council and National Examination Council are the agencies that conduct the Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations. The results serve as evidence of completion of secondary school in Nigeria. They are required to qualify for some employment opportunities and contest certain political offices. They’re also needed to secure admission into higher education institutions within and outside of Nigeria. So, a high value is placed on success in these exams. Some candidates use illegal and unethical means to pass. They are aided in this by the so-called “miracle examination centres” – special secondary schools that encourage such malpractices. These centres have institutionalised cheating in the school certificate examinations. Despite efforts by government and examination bodies to clamp down on them, they continue to thrive and enjoy the patronage of people from different classes of society. Nigeria’s education sector has been listed among the five most corrupt sectors in Nigeria. The exam centres’ practices cast doubt on the quality of students admitted into higher education, the quality of the workforce and that of political leaders. Despite the harmful impact these centres have, they haven’t been studied systematically. As part of the Anti-Corruption Evidence Research Consortium led by SOAS University of London, we conducted a systematic review of the existing literature about their nature, the drivers, and proposed solutions to the problem. Our work is the first comprehensive study into the issue. We hope that our review will help researchers and policymakers to understand and combat exam malpractice. Our research The SOAS Anti-Corruption Evidence approach aims to find out what could motivate people to change their rule-breaking behaviour in specific contexts and also if these actors have the power to carry out this change. This is unlike conventional anti-corruption strategies that simply try to enforce rules. In line with this approach, we examined the drivers of the centres and the opportunities for feasible solutions by grassroots actors interested in bringing about change. These actors include parents, students, school owners, teachers and community members. Examination bodies, ministries of education, security agencies and the government can also make meaningful efforts. Our literature review was supported by visits to communities in Abuja, Anambra, Edo and Kogi States, where the centres are prevalent. We also held workshops and interviewed more than 175 people, including providers and users of the exam centre “services”. Operations and drivers of ‘miracle centres’ We found that the “miracle centres” tend to be at private schools (though some are public). They either help leak examination questions in advance, or compromise the examinations once the question papers arrive at the venue. Parental and peer pressure, and inefficient teaching and learning practicesRead more
In this video, an owner explains how a typical artisanal oil refinery works. The rudimentary technology has evolved over time into an industrial-scale phenomenon. There are thousands of similar sites located across the Niger Delta of Nigeria, processing stolen crude oil, and producing gasoline, diesel, and kerosene. This presents a conundrum to policy makers as it highlights a productive trade, which creates employment and fuels. But it is deemed illegal, as it functions on stolen crude oil, and has severe impacts on environment, health, and corruption. This video is part of research by the SOAS Anti-Corruption Evidence (ACE) programme, and SDN Nigeria, into the networks of corruption associated with the artisanal oil industry. It explores the ‘benefits’ or incentive structures, which extend beyond those directly involved in refining, to thousands of citizens who depend on the fuels they supply, and powerful figures who enjoy the revenues generated. Pragmatic steps to encourage action from these different beneficiaries, and reduce the negative externalities, are explored in an associated research paper, and the first video in this series. For more information, visit ace.soas.ac.uk and www.stakeholderdemocracy.orgRead more
What opportunities are there for reducing corruption in climate finance and the energy transition? As the dust settles following COP26 in Glasgow and the world reflects on what was, and was not achieved, it is clear that climate finance is going to be a critical factor in whether countries around the globe are able to make the necessary shifts to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. Developed nations have, so far, failed to make the promised $100 billion a year target of climate finance available to developing nations. Given this, it is going to be important that developing nations are able to make (and demonstrate) effective use of the climate finance that is available. This energy transition is also a significant governance problem. Any transition including the one to the green economy implies costs and benefits across various segments of society and issues of distributive justice—a just transition in this case—have to be considered. The need to ensure this is achieved without damaging distortions or capture makes anti-corruption an important feature of climate justice. Solutions have to keep in mind the relative power, incentives and capabilities of affected players. For most developing countries dependent on extractive sectors this makes thinking through the political economy of a just transition even more critical. The SOAS-ACE team has reflected on what our work can tell us about effective and feasible anti-corruption strategies to reduce leakage and corruption in climate initiatives. We have collated a number of relevant resources which provide pointers of where there are opportunities for effective anti corruption: Climate Adaptation Projects: Often suffer from high levels of corruption. In Bangladesh, around 35% of funds are estimated to be lost. Our research shows that corruption can be significantly reduced by creating immediate material incentives for local communities to engage in monitoring. For instance, we show how strong ‘dual-use’ benefits (embankments used as roads or cyclone shelters as schools) induce local influential people to ensure corruption was controlled and build quality improved. The research shows how feasible improvements in the design of climate adaptation projects can reduce corruption. Climate change investments in Bangladesh: leveraging dual-use characteristics as an anti-corruption tool (Working Paper) Win-win: Designing climate change projects for effective anti-corruption in Bangladesh (Blog in Oxfam Poverty to Power and Global Policy) Private Power Projects: High risks in power projects drive out politically unconnected firms and allow massive collusion by politically connected companies. Result: high prices and dirty technologies. Procurement rules fail if only connected companies bid. We show that an effective anti-corruption strategy is to provide concessional financing accessible to any bidder (and not linked to one supplier). Comparing 58 projects over a decade in Bangladesh we show that this reduced prices by 26%, implying a huge reduction in collusive mark-ups, and greener technologies. The potential entry of unconnected bidders made procurement effective, reduced corruption and improved technical compliance. This shows the importance of getting the design of green financing right to reduce corruption in high-risk environments. De-risking as an anti-collusion strategy inRead more
Cutting Edge Issues in Development – Making Anti-Corruption Effective: A New Approach This blog was written by Hayoung Lee, MSc student of Development Studies at LSE. It was originally published on LSE Department of International Development on 3 November 2021. It is republished here under a Creative Commons licence. On Friday 29 October, Mushtaq Khan gave an online lecture on ‘Making Anti-Corruption Effective: A New Approach’ as part of the Cutting Edge Issues in Development Lecture Series for 2021/22. Mushtaq Khan is a professor of Economics at SOAS University of London and Chief Executive of the FCDO-funded SOAS-ACE (SOAS Anti-Corruption Evidence) Research Partnership Consortium. Visiting fellow at LSE’s Firoz Lalji Institute for Africa, Dr Uche Igwe was an invited discussant for the lecture. Read what MSc student Hayoung Lee took away from the lecture below. You can watch the lecture back on YouTube or listen to the podcast. Why are anti-corruption efforts so ineffective? Mushtaq Khan, professor at SOAS and Executive Director of Anti-Corruption Evidence Research Consortium, finds the answer to this question in the absence of horizontal monitoring mechanisms. He explains that current anti-corruption efforts are constructed under the assumption that people having more access to information and their ability to hold offenders responsible for their wrongdoings would reduce corruption. But what if people know about corruption but the stakeholders do not want to hold offenders accountable because they are also corrupted? This is exactly the case in many developing countries. Dr Khan argues that transparency and accountability based anti-corruption efforts fail to bring satisfactory results because rule of law is very weak or even absent in many developing countries. In a society that has a rule of law, most people comply with the rules and a small number of violators are equally and fairly punished regardless of their power. Members of such a society want to protect their self-interest and maintain the social order through law and therefore engage in monitoring and enforcement of the law. However, in the developing world, many people violate the rule either because they can’t comply or do not need to as they can avoid the punishment through power and connection. This is important because weak rule of law and rampant corruption pose a critical obstacle to achieving developmental goals in health, education, environment, and growth. Ineffective development or aid work delays the betterment of life for the people and wastes tax-payer money. Dr Khan presents two feasible strategies to achieve developmental goals despite the weak rule of law. The first is the “voice strategy” which leverages self-interested horizontal monitoring. The second is the “exit strategy” which provides an alternative mode of operation to achieve development goals with the realisation that corruption is too hard to crack at the moment due to a strong network among the major actors of corruption and absence of internal incentive to break the cycle. To demonstrate the two strategies and other contextualised interventions, Dr Khan presents five case studies on climate adaptation projects, skills training programmes, power sector corruption, artisanal oil industry, and doctor absenteeism in Bangladesh and Niger Delta. The following are the key lessons from these case studies respectively: Corruption is less likely when influential but similar people get involved in monitoring as they can (or have the illusion to) have a real, immediate impact on the monitored’s livelihood. To get influential people involved, there must be immediate dual-use benefits rather than long-term single-use purpose in a project Corruption is less likely when the demand side capabilities, especially to absorb the supply, are strengthened Politically unconnected actors can prevent collusion and prevent corruption Standard enforcement approach may do more harm than good in cases where people’s livelihood is at stake and conflict is likely; rather, provisionRead more
Making anti-corruption messaging effective: the critical importance of feasibility and targeting Summary and recording of a SOAS-ACE Webinar on 22 September 2021 A few weeks ago, the SOAS ACE programme hosted a webinar discussion on how to make anti-corruption messaging more effective. Recent research led by Caryn Peiffer and Nic Cheeseman suggests that if targeted messaging is used to address specific corruption problems the chances of a positive outcome are higher. However, their research warns that generalised messaging can actually ‘prime’ citizens to over-emphasize the role of corruption in their lives and result in corruption fatigue. This conclusion about the inefficacy of generalised messaging and why this fails could also be extended in the context of Heather Marquette and Caryn Peiffer’s frameworks of ‘functional corruption’ as well Leena Koni Hoffmann and Raj Navanit Patel’s social norms framework in Nigeria about dealing with corruption that has become entrenched in some contexts. Targeted messaging fits very nicely with the SOAS-ACE framework that states there must be targeted players within the relevant sector who want to implement relevant changes and policies and have the capacity to do that if appropriate policies and messages are in place. To put it another way, our framework states that anti-corruption is more likely where actors are interested in following specific rules and also have the power to monitor peers and take them to task if they are violating those rules. One of the most important reasons why corruption persists is an enforcement deficit. Even where robustly defined rules exist their enforcement can leave much to be desired, particularly if many or most of the actors in that activity do not want enforcement. A lot of anti-corruption strategies fail because even if a policy appears to make sense it is often not implemented well, or at all. In most cases the reason is an inability to enforce. This is what leads to ‘despair’ or corruption fatigue. So, we need to ask who will support it, who will help enforce it and who will implement the enforcement? Solutions therefore require both the systems to enforce vertically but also the horizontal support for the policy from those directly involved in the activity.If there are no clear answers to ‘who will enforce’ messaging is unlikely to help. To sum this up there are systemic linkages between a number of issues. There has to be 1) two- way flows of information, from actors to enforcers and broader society, and vice versa. Actors must want to share information about violations and respond to information in their own interest 2) this is clearly linked to the issue of feasibility, ie, the messaging has to be such that it reminds actors of the real benefits of the feasible anti-corruption strategy for the actors themselves and 3) All of this is happening in a context of a massive ‘corruption equilibrium’, what we describe as ‘adverse contexts’ so there has to be realism about how success is measured And finally 4) Some corruption may be functional andRead more
Making Anti-Corruption Effective: a new approach LSE Cutting Edge Lecture Series 29 October 2021 (via YouTube) You can watch the lecture back on YouTube, listen to the podcast or read this blog about the lecture. Professor Mushtaq Khan shared and discussed new approaches to making anti-corruption more effective. He shared insights from the applied research programme SOAS ACE which takes an innovative approach to anti-corruption policy and practice. The SOAS ACE programme is responding to the serious challenges facing people and economies affected by corruption by generating evidence that makes anti-corruption real and using those findings to help policymakers, business and civil society adopt new, feasible, high-impact strategies to tackle corruption. The lecture was chaired by Dr Duncan Green with Dr Uche Igwe as a discussant for the lecture. This talk was part of the Cutting Edge Issues in Development Thinking & Practice, 2021/22, series, a high-profile lecture series run by the Department of International Development at LSE and organised by Professor James Putzel and Professor in Practice Duncan Green.Read more
The Political Economy of Electricity Reform in Fragile Contexts As part of their SOAS ACE research project, Neil McCulloch, Director of The Policy Practice, spoke recently at the Issam Fares Institute in the American University of Beirut on “The Political Economy of Electricity Reform in Fragile Contexts”. Lebanon’s electricity system is in a state of near collapse. Sadly, it is not alone. Electricity provision in Nigeria is lamentable; that in Yemen disastrous; in many fragile countries and contexts around the world, electricity provision is extremely poor. The reason is not simply poverty, a lack of finance, or technical failures – it is invariably political. But this talk argues that there is hope. Reasonable electricity provision has been achieved, even in very difficult circumstances, where it follows a set of political economy principles (for example, see TPP’s paper as part of the Anti-Corruption Evidence Research Programme that examined how one city in Lebanon, Zahle, was able to achieve 24/7 electricity in an environment characterised by dysfunctionality and corruption). However, the resulting arrangements look very different from the World Bank’s ‘standard model’ of reform. But they might provide a feasible way of moving beyond the current impasse and getting the lights back on. Watch the talk here.Read more