A year ago, I requested comments on a draft manuscript about corruption. Last week, we launched the resulting book: Results Not Receipts: Counting the Right Things in Aid and Corruption. I think the text was considerably improved by the comments process (and I hope the commenters agree). So I’m hoping the discussion can continue even though the book is now out.
CGD Policy Blogs
A bipartisan group of eight Senators led by Senate Foreign Relations Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-MD) has just reintroduced a new version of a bill designed to identify and combat corruption overseas. The Combating Global Corruption Act of 2017 ties some potentially useful anti-corruption measures to a less-than-useful exercise in corruption ranking that will blunt their impact. That’s a shame, but it also suggests an easy fix: junk the ranking.
One of the questions reportedly from the Presidential transition team to the State Department was: “With so much corruption in Africa, how much of our funding is stolen?” During the nomination hearings for Rex Tillerson to be Secretary of State, Senator Rand Paul provided one answer: seventy percent of aid is “stolen off the top.” The question is a fair one to ask. The bad news is that the short answer is “we don’t know.” The better news is that the slightly longer answer is “nowhere near 70 percent.” And the best news is that if we spent more time tracking the results of aid projects, we’d have a much better idea of where corruption was a problem and if our efforts to reduce it were working.
Maryland Senator Ben Cardin recently introduced legislation to establish a tiered system of countries with respect to levels of corruption by their governments and their efforts to combat such corruption. It is great to see Senator Cardin looking for ways the United States can contribute to the global fight against corruption, and there is some smart language in the bill. Of course, it wouldn’t be a CGD blog if I didn’t also have some suggestions on how to make the bill even better.
Health aid pays for life-saving medicines, products, and services in the poorest countries in the world. Funding for such uses needs to be smooth and uninterrupted. But when fraud is detected, funds are subject to sudden stops and starts—the result of a sequence of events set off by the scandal cycle in health aid. We examine this idea in a new CGD policy paper.
I’ve been reading news of corruption scandals in Brazil with a great deal of sadness. I lived in Brazil during its return to democracy and experienced first-hand the hope and optimism that came with that transition. In a recent policy paper, I argue that decisions about funding projects in other countries should depend more on the results achieved by those countries than by formal actions meant to control corruption.