Challenge using Lenses

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Having some feasible options is a good place to get to, especially if you have been able to discuss within your team their merits, risks, and relative chances of success. But you still need to make a choice of which approach to go for, not just make a long list of omnibus reforms and controls to tick off. You need to think carefully about how to make those choices, in light of your particular context. You also need to be careful about the language you use to describe the preferred choice. How you describe it – the language, the terminology, and the points of reference – and how you sell those choices to your stakeholders matters a great deal.


Our guidance is to scrutinise your options according to a number of different challenges: how you present the approach, how you frame it, how complex it is, how resilient it is to upset, who wins and who loses, how aligned it might be with other initiatives, and so forth. Through doing so, we think you will quickly see that some options look much better, and can be more easily sold, than others. Think of this as seeing the options through different sets of specialised spectacles, or ‘lenses’.

Here are our ten lenses. You don’t need to use all of them, but we find that they do help in getting to the way forward that has the most chance of success:

  1. Dialectical lens
  2. Branding lens
  3. Politics and power lens
  4. Timeframe lens
  5. Skill and motivation lens
  6. Plan and Programme lens
  7. Multiple-paths-to-reform lens
  8. Government alignment lens
  9. International lens
  10. Sequencing lens

Dialectical lens

A dialectical lens means exploring contradictory choices, which forces you to choose between them. It provides another framework to help you and your colleagues debate the merits of the possible options.  Here are some alternative preferences:

Preventive strategy or disciplining strategy?

The quick answer to this choice is that a preventive strategy is better, easier, and cheaper. A good example would be e-procurement, which has shown significant results in reducing corruption in multiple sectors. There are also no situations where a purely disciplining strategy has been seen to be successful over time. That said, you must have discipline options available, and these require some thought.

First, prosecutions: this is less of a choice than it may look when working within a sector, for the simple reason that you have little control over the way your country’s investigative and prosecution processes operate. You have one big lever – to recommend staff, contractors or others for investigation and prosecution when this has not been the habit of the organisation in the past – but that’s about it.

Second, sanctions and dismissal of staff: this is a crucial area to examine because disciplinary measures are often less used. There can be different reasons for this – the procedures are slow and cumbersome, or they are biased in favour of certain groups, or they have been marginalised with insufficient, poor-quality staff, and so on – but you should plan so that some of your reform measures address how disciplinary measures can be strengthened or used more effectively. Another example would be implementing a robust disciplinary code, with clear outlawing of corrupt actions, that all within a sector (health, education, etc.) agree to abide by.

Incremental progress or large-scale change?

We have already discussed these two possible broad approaches in Chapter 6. ‘Incremental’ is usually favoured because corruption problems are more complex to solve than you expect, involving a range of stakeholders and often some difficult political choices. We too favour this incremental approach – tackling molehills rather than mountains. But, as we discussed in Chapter 6, there are occasionally powerful arguments for the alternative. When there is a political opening, you may have one chance to make a significant change; perhaps following an election; or after the disgrace of a major political figure; or after a national disaster aggravated by corruption. Such openings rarely stay open for long. There is also an in-between strategy: to start with small changes to build momentum and credibility, moving on to larger change projects if the first smaller ones go well and/or if opportunities emerge for a sudden larger change. Academic research has identified this approach as the more common route to success: ‘…change will occur gradually and punctuated equilibria will be the rule’ (Mungiu-Pippidi and Johnston 2017: 76).

Prioritise fighting corruption or building integrity?

There has long been discussion over whether active anti-corruption measures – such as controls and sanctions – are more effective than measures that promote and incentivise good behaviour by individuals (cf. Heywood and Rose 2016). The simplest and most common answer is that both are necessary, and this means that the question becomes one of striking the right balance between them. This will vary depending on the cultural context.

Fighting corruption Being explicit about corruption has advantages. In some countries the word ‘corruption’ is easily used in public, discussed, and argued over. But in other countries the word corruption has only the most negative connotations, of possible personal involvement and therefore likely punishment and disgrace, and few leaderships in such situations would want to prioritise ‘anti-corruption’.  In some countries it is not only a sensitive topic, but one that carries real risk to life, with increasing numbers of investigative journalists and civil society activists killed in recent years.

Furthermore, using nice words like ‘improved governance’ and ‘integrity’ when you really mean tackling corruption can demonstrate immediately a lack of political energy to tackle the real problem, or a justification for more technical reforms such as process improvement, rather than tackling the tougher sides of the problems. Integrity measures – capacity building, training, codes of behaviour and so forth – can appear insubstantial and often focus on areas where it is hard to demonstrate impact.

Building integrity Integrity is an attractive personal attribute, and more motivating for individuals than the negatively loaded ‘reducing corruption’ – see the discussion in Section 6 of Chapter 7, above. Behavioural research also shows that people respond well to appeals to their integrity (Halpern 2015, OECD 2018a).

Such moral appeal has been shown to be even more effective than a reminder of the threat imposed by a punishment. These findings are in line with the understanding that most people view themselves as moral individuals: ‘When reminded of moral standards, actions are adjusted accordingly to reduce the dissonance between self-concept and behaviour’ (OECD 2017c: 70).

Focus on routine day-to-day corruption or high-level corruption?

In ‘developed’ countries there is usually little day-to-day corruption in interactions with public officials, so this choice has an easy answer. In ‘developing’ countries, however, both are prevalent, and often the two are linked because the corrupt high-level groups control hierarchies of bribery that go all the way down the levels of the organisation to extracting money from citizens.

This is a big and tricky strategic question. If your answer is ‘both’, then you risk having such a wide range of objectives as to be unlikely to succeed at any. However, there can be a more nuanced answer. A strategy can have several public-facing elements which are easier to achieve, whilst at the same time having some lower profile, slower reforms that will have longer-term impacts. An example was given in the health sector, where a public-facing reform is on a day-to-day issue, reducing corruption in surgery waiting lists through making those lists available and prominent for the public, and a substantive reform is to put in place a proper stock management system of medicines.

Engage the public, or keep the reforms private and public expectations low?

Engage closely with the media, or keep them at arm’s length? This is a critical question that can make or break the initiative. In a government context it is a complex question with a whole ‘communications plan’ of its own, and also depends on the nature of the media in the country, as well as on the nature of the reform objective and plans. It is an area to ask for the assistance of any communication professionals that you have in your organisation.

Narrow or broad focus?

Narrow is attractive – focus, concentrating on one issue, with the chance, perhaps, to ‘solve’ the issue, as in the single-issue example given in an earlier chapter of Maersk’s shipping reform. There are many other examples given by the NGO Integrity Action, who are champions of solving specific corruption problems through narrow framings, using community monitoring to keep track of how many have been satisfactorily ‘fixed’. As the ‘fixes’ build up, they help support broader improvements in the community as well as restoring trust.

Substantive reforms or giving people hope?

This is a choice because officials are often drawn to substantive reforms, but they have a nasty habit of turning out to be expensive, slow, and not delivering what was hoped for. Going for simpler reforms, often unkindly called ‘cherry-picking’, can be a better choice because they give people hope that corruption reduction is actually possible. Especially in countries and sectors where the government is very bureaucratic and rule-bound, the chance of a technocratic change being successful is low and people know this.

Substantive reforms or improving monitoring?

This is a slightly different choice: the drawbacks of substantive reforms are like the above case, but the alternative is instead to focus on strengthening ways of monitoring and responding to cases. People are realistic, and they know when a system is inflexible, so they may respond more positively if it becomes clear that individual grievances and abuses of the system are being flagged up and more actively addressed. This could be as simple as the CEO of an organisation and its leadership team, or the Minister responsible, being available for one whole day every week to hear the complaints of citizens.

Improving service delivery or saving money?

Citizens may say they want both, but they are most likely to want improved service delivery. Yet, for example in health, there are often huge sums of money to be saved for reuse in national health systems by reducing corruption in procurement, in medicine pricing, in reducing unnecessary operations, or illicit resale of products and drugs, or health insurance scams. Establishing an anti-corruption programme involves recognising this complexity.

Branding lens

Besides deciding between alternative actions, how do you want to ‘brand’ the initiative? Is it best to be seen as ‘tough’, with an anti-corruption message, even though there may be plenty of integrity focused measures? Or do you want to show that the initiative is a positive, motivating one? There is no right answer. In the defence sector, for example, NATO chose a message of ‘Building Integrity’, as did the Defence Ministry of Saudi Arabia, whilst the Ukraine and Afghan Defence Ministries chose messages of anti-corruption (Pyman 2017b).

This same choice exists for strategies at the national level. Out of 41 national anti-corruption strategies reviewed in 2017 and 2018 more than half had an approach of preventing corruption only. Eleven plans referred in some significant capacity to both preventing corruption and building integrity as a dual approach to anti-corruption. Only one country strategy, Taiwan, had a tone that focused primarily on integrity. The other balance of note was a combination of preventing corruption and ‘promoting transparency’ in Estonia, Lithuania and Turkey (Pyman et al 2017, 2018).

Similarly, is it better to be seen as focusing on a single key issue and promising to solve it, or better to show that you are addressing the corruption problems ‘thoroughly’? Again, there is no ‘right’ answer. For example, in the same study of country strategies, 33 of the 41 strategies were broad in scope and 8 were narrow in scope (Pyman et al 2017).

Politics and Power lens

This is different from both the previous lenses in that it focuses directly on the politics and the power issues that are often the hidden drivers of corruption enablers and constraints. Here are some politics and power ways to examine your options.

Look at the winners and losers from the different options

Arguments over the gaining, losing, and sharing of benefits is the essence of politics. The argument and the resistance are all the greater when the benefits are illicit ones – ‘rent-seeking’, in the language of economists. You are likely to know the political context, but it can be valuable to challenge your options by asking the following questions:

  • Who may be gaining from each corruption issue, and why?
  • Who might gain and who might lose from reducing corruption in this specific area?
  • What sources of leverage are there for the reform group?
  • What advantages might they have that they can use?

A useful way to look in more depth at this is to use the ‘Corruption Functionality Framework’, discussed above in the ‘Analysis’ section of Chapter 5 (Marquette and Peiffer 2020).

Look at how ‘Political will’ might vary between the options

‘Political will’ is usually an unhelpful lens for framing or scrutinising the options, too often being presented as an un-analysed magic bullet. A better frame is to analyse the different options in the light of what can be achieved with different levels of political support. A useful perspective comes from the man who headed the corruption reforms in the Polish defence ministry (Wnuk 2008): when you have high political support, go for the reforms that are most fundamental and hardest for successor politicians to undo; where there is minimal political support, possible improvement options will be those that are less ambitious, or focused on just one thing, or where you encourage outside groups, like civil society groups, to build reform momentum. Reformers have shown many times that tactical reforms can occur successfully under conditions of limited political will, even in the most unfavourable situations of endemic corruption or violence, such as improvements in public procurement in Ukraine through initiatives like ProZorro (McDonough 2017). For more on understanding politics and political will as the process of making change, see Developmental Leadership Program (2018).

Look at how national regime type might favour some options over others

Regime type matters in respect of corruption reform. Johnston (2008, 2010, 2014) was the pioneer of such analyses, where he concludes that there are four distinct syndromes of corruption, each associated with different political regimes, as shown in the text box below:

 Syndrome  Political regime  Examples
 Influence markets  Mature democracies  US, Japan, France, Uruguay
 Elite cartels  Consolidated/reforming democracies  Italy, Argentina, South Africa
 Oligarchs and clans  Transitional regimes  Russia, Philippines, Mexico
 Official moguls  Undemocratic  China, Kenya, Indonesia

Regime type also impacts the likelihood of success or failure of specific reform measures. One such example, where the same reform was implemented in two different political regimes with quite different results, is ‘I Paid a Bribe’ (, a citizen driven initiative created in India for collating petty bribery reports via a web-based portal. It had a significant early effect in India and remains active, although its long-term efficacy remains open to question. Chinese online users copied the initiative, but they failed after three months, not only because of state repression, but also because Chinese netizens did not have the relevant experience and know-how to make it work.  Ang (2014) has done a detailed comparative analysis of how the differing contexts led to the failure of I-paid-A-Bribe in China.

Look at how sectoral industry structures favour one option over another

Each sector is different, with quite different incentives. These differences can be large, and indeed larger than the differences between countries. An analysis by Khan et al. (2016) found different corruption syndromes for different industries within a single country. They illustrate this with four case studies of the different corruption regimes: three different industries in Bangladesh (power, garments, electronics) where the different industry structures led to quite different sorts of corruption, and a fourth one in the Land Administration.

Look at whether major disturbance to the social equilibrium might favour one option over another

At times of significant disturbance, the normal reluctance to change may be replaced by a willingness to accept extraordinarily rapid change. For example, some of the most dramatic reductions of national corruption, such as in Georgia and Estonia, happened because the political leaders believed – rightly – that their people were ready for rapid, radical action against corruption, and that the unusual political circumstances provided an opportunity; even whilst the outside specialists were advising a slow, cautious approach. If this is present in your situation, then many of the normal guidance on how to do corruption reform does not apply.

Test the options against your sources of advantage

Organisations have all sorts of features that can be turned to advantage when seeking to reduce corruption. The biggest of them all is to tap into the pride and professionalism of the various professions working in the sector. Most professionals want to do a good job and look on in despair when their organisation is viewed as corrupt. Thus, possible sources of advantage need to be considered explicitly at this stage of reviewing the reform options.

Compare the different sources of power in each option

Power helps individuals, organisations, and coalitions to shape their environment. It can be a positive and productive force, as opposed to negative and controlling. Taking power seriously means you should take time to recognise its different forms (Lukes 1974; Isaac 1987). Analysing power means identifying the powerful individuals who get to decide at key decision-making points − so-called visible power. Second, it can mean identifying who or what sets the decision-making agenda. For example, hidden power can determine what issues are taken off the agenda behind closed doors and never openly debated or voted on. Or third, the most structural and ‘insidious’ form of power is that which shapes people’s desires, values, and ideological beliefs in the first place. Invisible power like this can influence people without them even realising it – as in the acceptance by both men and women of gender roles, such as authority to speak in public meetings, that is a deeply ingrained form of power in many societies.

Timeframe lens

The choice of timeframe is not just a technical, programming matter. It is also about motivation (too long a timeframe causes loss of momentum); about opportunities for delay (a relaxed time frame allows all sorts of delaying tactics to be established); about alignment or misalignment of the reforms with other significant events in an organisation’s life or purpose.

The timeframe can be a party political one also. The timing of the electoral cycle has all sorts of impacts – for example, much government activity slows down about twelve months ahead of upcoming elections; or a newly elected government may also cause your plans to be changed. If you are developing a sector strategy for a ministry, for example, the timeframe would normally need to be a maximum of 2-3 years, because of the imperative to show results within the lifetime of the parliament.

A key challenge in relation to timeframe is to recognise when opportunities for action arise. Identifying a propitious political moment for implementing reforms relies on a combination of detailed knowledge of the political economy of the setting in question, the nature of the reform measure proposed, and – in some cases – an element of luck. Some internal political circumstances, such as elections or other enforced changes in leadership, offer key moments to promote change; sometimes, external events such as global commodity price changes or even a pandemic can create windows of opportunity for change. Being able to spot such potential windows is crucial, but moments of change can be highly unpredictable.

Social science concepts, such as the ‘Overton window’, or ‘window of discourse’, seek to explain how a policy idea is viable only if it falls within what is seen as a politically acceptable range at a given time. The idea, shown schematically in Figure 8.4 below, was developed by Joseph P Overton, a US policy analyst, and the window describes how ideas become more or less politically viable according to where they are seen on a six-point spectrum that runs from ‘unthinkable’ to ‘policy’. To move the Overton window requires proponents of policy change to shift what is seen as acceptable, ensuring that an idea comes to be seen as sensible and popular in order for it to be adopted as policy.

In addition to taking advantage of the right political moment, the broader timescape of anti-corruption reforms is important. Rather than just focusing on the timing of interventions, we need also to consider how long it will take to understand their impact. Some types of reform may be expected to have a rapid impact; others may take decades to achieve their intended effect. Using a longer timeframe to evaluate the success of anti-corruption interventions has the added benefit of allowing for homing in on specific parts of the implementation process, helping explore what was successful and why. Process tracing strategies allow for more granular assessments and provide a more nuanced evaluation of whether and how policies have worked.

We suggest you work through the options looking at their pros and cons according to a different range of timescales.

Skill & Motivation lens

Besides convincing people to support your reforms because of common purpose and because the ideas are right, you are also seeking to achieve your reforms through judicious influencing and political skill.  For example, in the reform of the ‘Sin tax’ in the Philippines, cited in Chapter 6 above, a sophisticated coalition was put together involving parliamentarians and companies and the ministry and civil society. The core strength of the coalition came from established advocacy groups alongside experienced activists. These groups and activists used highly labour-intensive, specialised, and complex forms of mobilisation. Thus, this campaign was able to attract people who were almost ‘professionals’ at building such coalitions.

You may have these skills yourself or are planning to bring on board people with such skills. Scrutinise the options from the perspective of criticality and availability of the skills that each one requires.

Leveraging emotional motivation

Whilst some problems and some options involve large-scale change, many others are more about persuading particular individuals, or groups of individuals, to support the changes and/or to stop active opposition.

The experience of one of the authors (Pyman) in the military sector was that officers were much readier to work ‘with the grain’ of the reforms than was expected. People within and outside of individual military forces anticipated wholesale rejection of corruption reform plans by military officers, but this often proved not to be the case. In general, the reason was simple. Officers around the world have similar professional training as cadets – like at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in the UK. A core part of the training is that you must have, and show, integrity if you are to be credible as a leader of soldiers. Most officers have deeply internalised this training, and they recognise the conflict if the military culture they are in obliges them to participate in corrupt practices. It therefore takes less persuasion than you would expect to get them to assist in the reforms, even if the benefits will only be felt by the next generation of officers. Their caveat, in cooperating, is that the reforms should not be aimed at personal charges against them (see Pyman 2017b).

Examine whether the strength of family ties is an important motivation-shaping factor

Some reform approaches are founded on the presence of strong links between individuals in communities. An example would be the oversight impact of parent committees in schools. Conversely, where the community links are weaker, other measures – such as central oversight agencies – may have better chances of success. The strength of such ties varies widely from country to country and region to region and is illustrated in the schematic of Alesina and Giuliano (2010) in Figure 8.5. In some countries, family ties form only a modest part of the social context, such as in Denmark, Japan, and China. At the other end of the spectrum, family ties are extraordinarily strong in countries such as Zimbabwe, Egypt, and Venezuela.





The strength of family ties. Source:

Test the options for appeal to diverse groups, especially women and youth

Always test your initiatives and options with one or more groups of youngsters, who can have perspectives and motivations that are wonderfully free of professional stuff. Different groups can have radically different motivations; often ones that can help you in your reforms in ways that you had not anticipated. Be sure to discuss the choices internally and externally with diverse groups, preferably segmented.

Plan and Programme lens

A statement of the blindingly obvious, but none of the reform options can be considered ready for decision unless an outline plan has been developed to show how the individual elements are going to be put into place. Sadly, this vital step is ignored in many strategies. A false notion has become increasingly prevalent that an anti-corruption strategy is somehow too broad/grand/conceptual to require basic planning and testing on how it can be implemented (Heywood and Pyman 2020).

Compare each option for flexibility

Military generals are eloquent on the limits of planning. Almost two hundred years ago, the German war thinker Carl von Clausewitz (1874) said, in words that could equally apply to anti-corruption: ‘War is the realm of uncertainty: three quarters of the factors on which actions in war are based are wrapped in a fog of uncertainty. A sensitive and discriminating judgement is called for, a skilled intelligence to accent out the truth.’

Improvisation is part of strategy, not a denial of it. A formal and overly rigid strategic plan can be a threat because it reduces the chance of learning and adapting when key assumptions are no longer working. There is good theory behind these statements. Plans can be specified to the point of bound-to-fail rigidity.

This does not mean anarchy; it simply means that success can be more likely if the amount of order is deliberately under-specified. For example, a clear statement of purpose in a commercial organisation is a powerful symbol that that may give sufficient sense of direction to all the senior executives in the organisation. The same can be true of anti-corruption strategies: a single very strong sense of direction, such as happened in the land registry in Georgia. This line of thinking about strategy has become more common in the last few decades and is sometimes called ‘Emergent strategy’ (Weick 2001: 350ff; Freedman 2013: 555ff.).

Challenge whether complex options are going to be well-run

If you speak to any experienced project manager, he or she will tell you that most large projects fail. An average failure rate of 70% has been the widely accepted norm since the landmark study by Hammer and Champy (1993): of every three large projects, two will fail to deliver. This is a shocking statistic, albeit one that has been challenged (Hughes, 2011; Barends et al. 2014). Whatever the actual failure rate, it is high and that is equally true in the developed world as in the developing world. The safest way to avoid this risk is to make sure that your work programme is built up of many smaller pieces of work rather than a few large ones. Ask of each option: can this option be managed as a proper programme?

When engineers have a large task, such as building a ship or a power station, they plan the work into many small projects, each of which is individually managed. The engineers then manage the totality of these projects as a single ‘programme’, with one master plan of how all the individual projects fit together, depend on one another, and so on. Each separate project – which for our purposes is an individual reform – might be managed in quite different ways: for example, a project to implement technical changes to IT systems will be managed quite differently from a project to strengthen the values of the organisation. This is ‘Programme management’. Programme management approaches are routinely used for managing organisational change programmes in government.

Managing a multitude of small projects in a coordinated way is a formal skill. There is plenty of guidance available on how to run a good programme, which we summarise briefly in the text box below.

Two useful programme implementation guidelines are:

Programme management guidance from the UK.  The UK has an agency called the Infrastructure and Projects Authority whose purpose is to provide ‘…expert project delivery advice, support and assurance to government departments and works with industry to ensure projects are delivered efficiently and effectively, and to improve performance over time’ (IPA 2021). There is a formal qualification in project management, widely used across the UK public sector, called ‘PRINCE2’.

Implementation guidance from UNODCNational Anti-Corruption Strategies: A Practical Guide for Development and Implementation. This is a detailed report about the process of strategy-making and implementation. It covers assigning responsibility for drafting the strategy to a small, semi-autonomous group; ensuring the continued support and involvement of senior political leaders; consulting regularly with all government agencies that will be affected by the strategy; soliciting the views of the political opposition whenever possible; engaging all sectors of society in the drafting process; emphasizing communication, transparency and outreach throughout the drafting process; allocating sufficient time and resources to drafting the strategy; and taking advantage of other countries’ expertise (UNODC 2015b).

Programme management weaknesses

When engineers have a large task, such as building a ship or a power station, they plan the work into many small projects, each of which is individually managed. The engineers then manage the totality of these projects as a single ‘programme’, with one master plan of how all the individual projects fit together, depend on one another, and so on. Each separate project – which for our purposes is an individual reform – might be managed in quite different ways: for example, a project to implement technical changes to IT systems will be managed quite differently from a project to strengthen the values of the organisation. This is ‘Programme management’. Programme management approaches are routinely used for managing organisational change programmes in government.

Managing a multitude of small projects in a coordinated way is a formal skill in its own right, so do approach this with respect as many programmes fail due to poor execution. There is plenty of guidance available on how to run a good programme, which we summarise only briefly in this section.

6.1 Common errors in programme management

6.2 A clear definition of the purpose, value and scope of the programme

6.3 Full-time project personnel

6.4 Programme management and control

6.5 Programme Governance

6.6 Programme ownership

6.7 Engaging with stakeholders

6.8 Tracking results and benefits

6.9 Two programme implementation tools

Multiple paths to reform

Sometimes, formal planning processes are your enemy. Such formality conceals the fact that this is usually not how change happens: people will interpret and react to the changes in many ways, and it may be a better strategy to allow and indeed encourage such variation. For example, you might set just a few fixed policies at central level, then allow extensive variation and improvisation across the organisation.

This alternative approach, sometimes called a ‘complexity approach’, has been in vogue in large corporations for some time, but is also relevant in societal change. For example, allow separate teams to choose how they carry out the project in their area: or implement different reforms in different cities or provinces. On a larger scale, recent research suggests that encouraging such variation and diversity may be one of the reasons why China has been able to develop so quickly (Ang 2017).

One way to encourage variation and thereby increase political momentum is to have a strategy focused on networks, utilising them to create space for reform. You focus less on specific reforms and the political dynamics of effecting those reforms and instead focus on creating more flexibility and more space so that there are more possibilities that can emerge, however the political dynamics evolve. The way that the political dynamics evolve – or are encouraged to evolve – is through networks, especially by working with those who act as the connecting nodes within networks (Andrews 2008).

Government alignment lens

One of the lessons learnt about tackling corruption is that to do corruption reforms ‘on their own’ can be a recipe for failure. They usually benefit from being incorporated into an organisation’s overall change programmes, and/or included in larger cross-organisation alignments.

If your organisation is a part of government, you would normally expect to have a greater chance of success and more sustainability if your efforts are aligned to wider government efforts; especially if the government has a broader anti-corruption plan running and is pursuing progress on it across multiple sectors. A good example is the sector-specific reforms that form part of the UK Government’s National Anti-Corruption Strategy, and how they are dovetailed into the overall coordination (UK Government 2017, 2020).

A comprehensive organisation-wide anti-corruption strategy would embrace national, sub-national and sector strategies. Ideally your sector strategy would fit cleanly into an overall structure along these lines. Where the government’s anti-corruption efforts are not well aligned, you could consider setting up an informal coordinating forum across ministries.

When the Government’s strategy does have authority, this can be useful in building more support: official plans and strategies act as a common point of reference across all the different ministries, agencies, and related organisations. You may be able to use this authority in persuading other parts of a ministry and other parts of government to support your proposals.

Decide whether cross-government alignment is a worthwhile effort

Nevertheless, there is a prior decision to consider: you may not want to align with the efforts across government, but to operate solely within your organisation and independent of any larger grouping, whether public sector or private. This might be the best way to proceed, if for example your organisation is doing much more than others. It is also possible that the rest of your organisation does not yet have a strategy or is taking its time. In this case, you may well choose to go ahead regardless. There is also the risk that working together with the rest of a larger organisation will mean ceding some control of the programme to the central unit, with consequent dilution of your efforts.

Take advantage of any central cross-organisation coordination unit

Large organisations are always limited in personnel, and they often look to set up anti-corruption strategies without any champion and without any coordinating or monitoring unit. Our belief is that this is a guarantee of failure of the strategy. If there is a champion and a full-time unit, they may or may not be effective, but at least there is a chance. If your organisation has such a unit, then do ensure that your larger team engages with them. If it is all being done without dedicated personnel, then you may be better off pressing ahead on your own.

At national level, some countries have set up active coordinating mechanisms and staff for coordinating their anti-corruption actions across government ministries and sectors, such as the UK (UK Government 2020).

Strengthen alignment with major government policies

For public sector reform, there is also a policy aspect. Corruption types differ in how much they distort the policies necessary for achieving important policy goals of a ministry and a government. Policy goals such as poverty reduction, increasing tax collection or improving national reputation can be subverted by modest levels of corruption: examples include building permit corruption and nepotism in the appointment of teachers. This is a good reason for strong coordination at policy level between ministry anti-corruption initiatives and policy makers (see Khan et al. 2016).

Strengthen alignment with other stakeholders

Your plans may also involve close working with others, be they politicians, parliament, companies, international organisations, or with civil society and others. These all take effort to engage with, but it is a core part of building support and coalitions. This is where key helpers, with deep experience of working with such groups, may be able to support you, as discussed in the section above.

International lens

As we first discussed in Chapter 4, you should make maximum use of international sector support, and international sector goodwill. They may be sources of knowledge, ideas, support, and assistance in the development of your initiative and in helping you to determine your preferred option.

Non-sector-specific organisations also have sectoral knowledge. UNODC, and OECD have been joined by other international organisations (such as the World Bank, the European Commission), and more specialist groups such as the Financial Action Task Force on money laundering (FATF) and the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) set up by the Council of Europe.

There are two big extra advantages to working by sector. First, sector knowledge is not confined within national boundaries, and you can access this expertise all over the world. Second, people within a profession are usually very willing to share their knowledge for the benefit of others in the profession, and we have found that this is certainly the case in helping others with their anti-corruption efforts.

Gain from the international efforts are active in tackling corruption in your sector. They may be sources of knowledge, ideas, support and assistance in the development of your initiative. Sector-specific organisations include:-

  • professional sector associations (many have an ‘anti-corruption working group’ or similar forum);
  • Initiatives and programmes targeted on building integrity, raising transparency and reducing corruption in the sector; and
  • Multilateral organisations associated with the sector (eg World Health Organisation). They too may have anti-corruption knowledge and capability

Sectoral anti-corruption initiatives

At the sector-level, the first transnational initiative was in the extractives sector – oil/gas and mining. In the late 1990s civil society, governments and some international companies were striving to find ways to reduce the levels of corruption in the oil and mining sectors. Originally this was expected to evolve into a corporate social responsibility standard for companies, but instead it evolved into a disclosure standard implemented by companies. This is now well established as the ‘Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative’, or EITI, with 51 implementing countries as at September 2018. The Netherlands is the most recent country to join (on June 28, 2018).

The table below summarises the current range of sector-specific anti-corruption initiatives. Let us know if you know of others that are also active and useful.

Sector Name of initiative Practical action
Construction Global Infrastructure Anti-Corruption Centre (GIACC)CoST Infrastructure Transparency Initiative (CoST) UK-based centre, contact them via the website here.Application for membership

Defence Transparency International Defence and Security
Education IIEP-UNESCOEducation for Justice (UNODC)
Fisheries Fisheries Industries Transparency Initiative (FiTI)
Health Boston University School of Public HealthTransparency International Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Programme (TI-PHP) Professor Taryn
Judiciary Judicial Integrity Group
Mining, Oil & Gas Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI)
Police services DCAF
Prisons service None
Procurement Open Contracting Partnership
Shipping Marine Anti-Corruption network (MACN) Use this form to contact MACN
Sub-National Government Council of Europe: Centre of Expertise for Local Government ReformThe Open Government Partnership (OGP)’s ‘Local’ programme

UN Habitat, the UN organisation for a better urban future

Use this form to contact CofENo given contact point


No given contact point


Water Water Integrity Network (WIN) Launched in 2006,Strategy 2017-2022 Use this form to contact WIN

Each sector review gives more detail and details of other supportive organisations and initiatives in the sector.

Non-sectoral multilateral initiatives

The first wave of transnational anti-corruption initiatives was in the 1990s, when UNCaC and the OECD Convention were being developed. UNODC, who provide technical assistance in various corruption-related thematic areas for UNCaC (see here) and OECD have been joined by other international organisations such as the World Bank, the European Commission and more specialist groups such as the Financial Action task Force (FATF) on money laundering and the Group of States against Corruption set up by the Council of Europe (GRECO), monitoring compliance with anti-corruption standards.

More recently, initiatives such as promoting stolen asset recovery (e.g. see here), making beneficial ownership transparent (e.g. see here), the Open Government Partnership ( OGP) and the Open Contracting Partnership (OCP) have attracted diverse groupings of nations in supportive partnerships.

The table below gives more details, plus an overview of the utility of each one, plus access these bodies. You can also find an overview of these bodies here, plus more on regional initiatives from bodies such as IADB, OAS, AU, etc.

  Formal name    Practical action body   Comment/contact
United Nations Convention against Corruption.Implementation Peer Review Mechanism UNODC Corruption and Economic Crime branch (CEB) within the Division for Treaty Affairs (DTA), Vienna. See here. UNODC has a lot of knowledge on anti-corruption, including on some sector issues such as medicines, drugs, firearms, shipping and wildlife.
UN Global Compact.  (10thprinciple: Business should work against corruption in all its forms, including bribery and extortion.) Global Compact Office, based in New York. See here. Not aware of any sector initiatives by Global Compact.
OECD Anti-Bribery ConventionOECD Public Integrity Division 1. OECD Working Group on Bribery in International Business Transactions. Paris. See here.2. Public Sector Integrity Division, OECD, Paris. See here. OECD is very active on integrity and anti-corruption, publishing analyses of many countries. However, they are currently doing little on sector corruption.
World BankWB Anti-Corruption Strategy

WB Anti-corruption expertise

World Bank a-c strategy. See hereIntegrity Vice Presidency, Washington DC. See here.

Governance Global Practice. See here.

Anti-corruption Thematic Group. See here.

World Bank has considerable expertise on anti-corruption. However you often see it not discussed at all at country or sector level.
G7, G20, B20 and C20G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group There is no secretariat of these groups as the leadership and location changes annually.Latest G20 ACWG is led by Argentina. See here.

See the ACWG reports listed here.

B20/C20: A statement on state owned enterprises
EU, EU Anti-Corruption policy  (not completed)
UNDPUNDP Global Anti-corruption Initiative (GAIN) 2014-2017 UNDP country officeshere UNDP has been prominent in anti-corruption efforts in the past. But there is no sector specialisation that we are aware of.
Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (STAR), which is an initiative of the World Bank and UNODC BSTAR Secretariat is in the World Bank, Washington DC, See here.
Global Financial Integrity Global Financial Integrity
Open Government Partnership  Open Government Partnership  Broad scope, very active on many fronts. No contact point given
Open Contracting Partnership Open Contracting Partnership
Financial Action task Force FATF No contact point given


Sequencing lens

Lastly, scrutinise your remedial strategies by looking at the order of your remedial measures. Whilst they may all look the same on paper, the ease of doing them may depend a lot on the order in which you do them – the sequencing. There is no prescription about this; sometimes it may be politically easier to do the hard measures first, sometimes better to do the low profile, easier ones first. More broadly, some measures may fit in well with external activities going on, or these other measures may require other changes, perhaps quite unrelated to the corruption issue in question, to be completed first. Going through the issues and asking this question about the order in which to take the actions to have the best chance of success (or, conversely, the least chance of being diverted or stalled) is a useful lens to apply.


5.4 Test with diverse groups, especially women and youth





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