‘Doing good without bribery’ could organisations do more to stop corruption in the places they work?

sean.darby May 5, 2017

On the 27th of April 2017, Beth Turner of Integrity Action attended a panel discussion ‘Doing good without bribery’ hosted by Transparency International. This was a part of Transparency International UK’s free e-learning course launch designed to ‘help businesses and NGOs combat corruption in their work’.

The session brought together speakers, from both the private and non-governmental sector, to talk about how they dealt with corruption challenges in the day-to-day running of their operations. A diverse range of speakers  ensured there was representation from the humanitarian sector, Hiruy Teka, Samaritians Purse an international NGO  Donna Lusti, WWF International,  a corporate background, Keith Onslow, Coffey, as well as public policy Jon Spence, Westminster Foundation for Democracy. This diversity in the panel highlighted how corruption can transcend across all sectors. In addition, it drew attention to how different types of actors have a responsibility in ensuring they are not complicit in the ways that corruption can function.

A ‘health budget that goes missing’ or a ‘school not being built’ were examples discussed which highlight how corruption can disadvantage the most vulnerable across all contexts, regardless of where and how it functions. Corrupt practices, whether performed by actors on the ground, actors in ministerial positions or by the funders themselves ultimately presents itself as beneficiaries or the public not getting what was meant to be delivered. This impedes development, destroys trust in institutions and allows corruption to become embedded in the functioning of societies.

A focus of the panel discussion was the number of crisis that are now protracted[1] and how corruption, through the form of paying a bribe can contribute to a system that perpetuates poor outcomes over a sustained period of time. Dependency on local organisations to carry out and understand the context is becoming more essential to larger organisations as they deal with complex corruption challenges on the ground. These challenges have tested many of the panel’s attitudes of ‘zero tolerance,’ especially in such cases where the safety of your workers depends on the organisation paying a bribe, or even when a bribe is demanded from the governmental level and therefore can impact the ability of an organisation to even operate in a specific country.

The conversation turned towards how best to respond to corruption challenges and the risk of ‘contributing to a system of corruption in society’. There was a noticeable absence of what these organisations and businesses can do to actually address and change the way corruption functions in the places they work. It was centred on how they preserve their own actions in order to not be complicit in corrupt practices, which although admirable, does not address the reasons corruption exists at all.

As the panellists alluded, it is important to have in-built protocols in order to be able to prevent being corrupted. However, it is more important to reduce corruptions relevance to the community, in order to allow the outcomes intended to be delivered, no matter who is implementing a project. It is only when there is a better alternative to corruption that health budgets won’t go missing, schools will be built properly and there will be less need for ‘zero tolerance.’

Our projects at Integrity Action, with organisations such Global Fund to Fight AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, along with our Community Integrity Building (CIB) approach as well as our  engagement with communities to monitor infrastructure projects, are examples of how we are changing attitudes towards corruption on the ground. By providing mechanisms for communities to voice issues with project delivery, platforms for collaboration between all stakeholders and the ability to access information freely, we create a space for accountability, transparency and integrity that initiates change from all.


[1] Protracted crisis- Protracted crisis situations are characterized by recurrent natural disasters and/or conflict, longevity of food crises, breakdown of livelihoods and insufficient institutional capacity to react to the crises (FAO, 2010)