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The purpose of this review is to provide examples and experience of how others in this sector have reduced the damaging impact of corruption. The sector-specific information is relevant for politicians, leaders, managers, civic groups, company executives and others. We hope it will bring both knowledge and inspiration.



Read the whole review below or jump to any section using the main headings below and the sidebar on the left. Or you can download a complete copy of this sector review as a pdf document to read separately.

  1. Corruption issues in local government
  2. Reforms in local government
  3. Developing an overall approach
  4. Transnational initiatives
  5. Local reform in fragile states – Myanmar case study
  6. Annex  on the diversity of sub-national government worldwide
  7. Reading and Bibliography


Sub-National Government is huge and comes in many shapes and sizes. There can be one layer of government beneath the national government (31% of countries), two layers (47% of countries), three layers (23%), or more complex forms; The size of a local government entity varies from a few hundred inhabitants up to 500,000; Local government spending as a % of national spending varies from zero to 85 %, averaging 24%. Most spending is in education, social protection, economic affairs, transport and expenses relating to the operation of the authority (For more on the diversity of local government, see the Annex).

Often a large, devolved administration or a national city is many times larger than the economies of whole countries. Cities are the pre-eminent local organisation form in many countries and some of the best innovations in anti-corruption are coming from cities rather than from national-level.

Terminology note: We use the terms ‘Sub-National Government’ and ‘local government’ interchangeably. The abbreviation is ‘SNG’.


The originating author of this sector review is Mark Pyman, who is the managing editor of CurbingCorruption. Additional contributions have been made by Dessi Hristova and Alan Doig.

1. Corruption issues

FOCUS on the specific corruption issues - Guidance summary

Because it comprises many of the multi-sector functions of a national government – education, social services, transport, construction, elections and tax collection, for example. But it is useful to consider it nonetheless as a discrete sector because councils manage the totality of the services as a whole, and they have a clear accountability to their citizens for providing these services. The specificities of tackling corruption in local governments, especially in cities, also often may have more in common with other cities and local governments around the world that within their country.

The specific corruption types in local government are of two broad kinds:

  1. Those specific to local government or not common at national level. On the spending side, these include waste collection and disposal services, housing services, planning controls, environmental management services, and maintenance service. On the revenue side they include grants and subsidies, business taxes, local penalties.
  2. Those similar to the equivalent national sectors. You can see the 20-40 corruption types in each of these sectors in the other sector reviews: Education, Health, Police Services, etc.

You can also see below a description of the very general forms of corruption (bribery, collusion, conflict of interest, cronyism, etc) as they apply to sub-national government, in a publication from Transparency International.

Transparency International definitions of forms of local government corruption

1.1 Gather overview data

There is an immense diversity to the types of Sub-National Governments. You might like first to see how your municipality or province fits within the range of size/autonomy/functions/etc. There is a detailed Annex that explores this further.

There is often a lot of data available on the scale and nature of local government corruption. We suggest that you first use this to develop an overview, for example comparing across municipalities or across services, or aggregating across municipalities. For EU countries, plus Turkey and Serbia, there is a detailed comparative corruption database at the University of Gothenburg. (See also Charron et al 2015).

Here are some examples:

Perception of corruption across French Départements, 2013. Green is best, brown is worst. European Parliamentary Research Service (2017), p45.

Example 1: Perceptions of regional corruption in France

68 % of respondents across France consider corruption to be widespread in their country (EU-27
average: 76 %). Their perception varies quite widely from one Département to another (see diagram), with the greatest perceived corruption in the North East and the South East.

Nevertheless, only 6 % mention to have been personally affected by corruption in their daily life (far below the EU-27 average of 20 % and at the same level as Germany). Similarly, when asked about their personal experience of bribery, only 2 % (less than the EU-27 average of 4 %) say they have been asked or expected to pay a bribe in the last 12 months, and 6 % (EU-27: 8 %) to have experienced or witnessed a case of corruption. Interestingly, 16 % report to personally know someone giving or taking bribes (EU-27 average: 12 %). (EPRS 2017 report p45).

To read more on France and on other EU countries, see European Parliamentary Research Service on Corruption in the European Union (2017).


Example 2: Perceptions of regional corruption in Italy

Example 3: Comparing transparency of municipalities in Ireland

Example 4: Measuring local government transparency in Portugal

Example 5: Survey data on anti-corruption capabilities in twenty municipalities in Albania

Example 6: Provincial information from Local Government Auditors in the UK

1.2 Gather local data

Local data may already be available but usually you will need to obtain it specifically. There is some guidance available on how you can do this in local government. See, for example, Transparency International (2014), Local integrity system assessment toolkit, and the Council of Europe Centre of Expertise for Local Government Reform (2017) Strengthening public ethics and preventing corruption in public administration: toolkit for public authorities. Or you can browse the following examples:

Example 1: Gathering leadership opinions on corruption extent in the city of the La Paz, Bolivia (1985-) One easy mechanism is to bring together experienced people across your administration to discuss their knowledge of local corruption and to ask their estimates of the magnitude of it. Here, for example, is such an exercise from early reforms by the mayor of La Paz, Bolivia, where they review seven main types of corruption in the city, its approximate value, who it hurts and helps, and possible solutions. Analysis from Klitgaard et al (2000) Corrupt cities: a practical guide to cure and prevention.

Corruption type analysis. Source: Klitgaard et al (2000)

Example 2: Gathering leadership opinions on corruption extent in the city of the La Paz, Bolivia (1999-)

Example 3: Integrity surveys of public organisations in the city of Seoul, South Korea

Source; Jacko (2010) p16.

Example 4: Using audit to gather city corruption risk policies in the municipality of Martin, Slovakia

Example 5: Micro level, hyper-local analysis of corruption in the city of Lviv, Ukraine

Example 6: Surveys about corruption in accessing services in municipalities in Ghana, Philippines & Serbia

2. Reforms in local government

Specific Reform Measures - guidance summary

This is the second part of the process of developing an anti-corruption initiative in local government. The first part was to analyse the issues and problems. The third part will be to bring together the range of chosen reform measures into an overall strategy, and the fourth will be to review what transnational expertise there is around. Here we bring examples of local government reforms under each of the ten reform approaches.

2.1 Functional reforms

Simplification, reducing procedural complexities, automating cumbersome procedures, removing the need for person to person exchanges with the procedures, are all part of such institutional improvement. This is often the largest part of any anti-corruption strategy, and it is where most prioritisation decisions have to be made.

Local government services comprise a wide range of activities. On average, about 90% of local government spending is taken up by seven categories of services (Read more). In order of spending magnitude these are: Education; Social protection (social services and benefits, plus social infrastructure); Economic affairs and transport; General public services, which covers all expenses relating to the organisation and operation of government; Health; Housing and community services; Recreation, culture and religion; and Other (environment protection, defence, police and public order..). Several of these are major activities that are treated elsewhere in Curbing Corruption, such as in the sector reviews on Education, Health, or Police. These major functions are of course both national AND local.

On the income side, local government revenue usually consists of local revenue collection, local tax collection and subsidies from central government. One of the most promising revenue reforms has been Participatory Budgeting. Participatory Budgeting has been implemented in Brazil for several years, but different forms of participatory budgeting can be found today in many countries, including Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Peru, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Mexico, Spain, Italy, Germany, France, Belgium, Portugal, Switzerland, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Portugal, Switzerland, Cameroon, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, South Africa, and the Philippines. Most PB experiences are at the urban and rural municipal levels. Some provincial governments have recently introduced Participatory Budgeting in Latin America. For more analysis of participatory budgeting, see the World Bank report from Shah (2007) Participatory Budgeting, and Camargo et al (2017) Hidden agendas, social norms and why we need to re-think anti-corruption.

Here are some examples of functional reforms in local government:

Example: The procurement anti-corruption initiative in Seoul metropolitan government

Example: An ‘accounting clinic’ in the city of Jakarta, Indonesia

Example: Analysis of municipal revenues and shortfalls in Afghanistan

2.2 People-centred reforms

Building a team of officials across the municipality (or city of province) who come to share the vision of what can be achieved with less corruption is a key place to start. Here are two examples:

Example: People-centred reforms in the city of Lviv, Ukraine

Example: Radical people-centred reforms in the city of La Paz, Bolivia, Ukraine

Active discussion of corruption and corruption reform is important

Building supportive teams and coalitions is clearly very important. But there is also a deeper rationale at work here. In general, corruption is a subject that is sometimes actively avoided among professional groups. There is the fear that you might be showing yourself to be naïve, or that you will show yourself not to care about the topic, or that your colleagues may be involved, or that you may be outcast for raising such a sensitive topic. I have been in numerous professional leadership groups, from global companies to military leadership teams, from clean Scandinavian countries to conflict countries. It has been difficult to generate open discussion about corruption in all of them. So, do take this ‘building commitment’ stage seriously. Do start a dialogue about corruption. Or ask someone to open up these discussions both across the political leadership and across the organisation, as happened in La Paz in the Bolivian example above.

You can also consider using a questionnaire to bring out peoples’ opinions. There is one example below, from UN Habitat (2006), which it presents as an ‘Informal, Do-It-Yourself, Corruption-IQ Test for Local Government and Community Leaders’.

Example: UN habitat questionnaire on peoples' opinions about corruption in their organisation

2.3 Monitoring reforms

Active monitoring – mechanisms that allow the municipal executive, legislature and/or citizens to have accurate oversight of the actual or potential corruption issues – is always a central approach in corruption reform initiatives. There are multiple types of monitoring: State-authorised watchdogs, local legislative oversight committees, ad-hoc legislative committees, local government auditors or comptrollers, executive units like ‘Transparency units’, citizen groups like ‘Independent Citizens Commissions’. Usually, the issue is not whether such entities are present, but whether they are effective or toothless, strong or weak. One good action to take is to carry out – or to commission – an analysis. Here, for example, is an analysis of the effectiveness of the local government monitoring entities in the states of the Unites States of America.

It comes from an analysis by the Center for American Public Integrity (2016) An overview of the State and Local Anti-Corruption Oversight in the United States. (CAPI). They find that US has a complex and highly diverse system of anti-corruption oversight at local level, with some states, cities and counties having multiple agencies whilst others have none at all. CAPI concludes that there is no ‘best model’

Read more on US local government oversight from CAPI

2.3.1 Use and strengthen the local government Internal Audit Department

The Internal Audit department can be a major resource. They have the analytical skills and the knowledge to dig below the surface of the corruption issues, and the mandate to look across the whole organisation. Internal audit is the ‘Third line of defence’ in organisations, the first line being management and line management controls, the second line being broader management control measures, such as quality control and inspection.

One of such resource is in the UK, where the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) has a ‘Counter-Fraud Centre’. This is a useful centre to access, with many case examples. There is also a useful book from the UK on the topic of internal audit and fighting fraud, called The successful frauditor by Peter Tickner (2010) and a following book The successful frauditor’s casebook (Tickner, 2012).

Another good example of the active use of internal audit to inventories the problem and to open up routes for reform, though not in local government but in the defence ministry, is from Barynina and Pyman in The third line of defence: The experience of Ukraine.

Example: Detecting local health corruption through «fraud audit» in Calabria, Italy

2.3.2 Establishing a Commission of Enquiry

Another possibility, if you do not have effective monitoring institutions and you have sufficient authority or advocacy, may be to set up a Commission of Enquiry. There is a very interesting analysis by Monica Kirya (2011) Performing “good governance” Commissions of Inquiry and the Fight against Corruption in Uganda of the legitimacy and potential of Commissions of Enquiry, especially in countries where monitoring is weak, which shows their negative side – appeasement without action – but also shows how they can be useful.

Analysis of the utility of Commissions of Enquiry in weak governance environments

2.4 Justice and Rule of Law reforms

In low corruption environments, criminal investigation and prosecution of corruption is a normal, periodic part of professional life. Sadly this is the exception rather than the norm. Nonetheless, even in environments where mainstream courts are slow and risky, speaking out and putting senior individuals under investigation can change the culture.

Equally, you can change the organisation dynamics if you make it clear that sanctions or disciplinary action will definitely be taken. Often such sanctions do exist, but have fallen out of use or have been taken over by special interest groups. In this case you have first to reclaim the proper functioning of these disciplinary mechanism, but that is much easier than trying to engage with the judicial processes.

One good example already referred to is the Mayoral initiative of zero tolerance in La Paz, Bolivia in 2002. But…an anti-corruption strategy focused only on punitive measures is usually not successful, and is not the norm internationally (See, for example, Pyman et al (2017) Research comparing 41 national anti-corruption strategies. Insights and guidance for leaders. This failure is usually attributed to two reasons: 1) the investigations are usually complex, prosecution is invariably slow, and the judicial process is often itself corrupted; and 2) Most people want to behave with integrity, so you are likely to get a larger take-up of changed behaviour with positive and nudging measures.

2.5 Transparency reforms

The more resistance there is to publishing data, the more likely it is that there is some corruption reason behind it. In all such data cases the related question is about which forum you use to present the data. Is it electronic, or via meetings, or in journals, or in newspapers?

Example: Transparency effect on local receipt of primary education budgets in Uganda. Below is a famous campaign diagram from the 1990s where one region in Uganda, working with the World Bank, was able to dramatically show how its local education budgets had been stolen by the central government and to change that situation. See the write up of this experience in Reinikka and Svensson (2002) Measuring and understanding corruption at the micro level.

Transparency International Norway has developed a handbook for tackling corruption in Norwegian municipalities.

Example: Establishing a Transparency Unit in the city of La Paz, Bolivia

2.5.1 Transparency through regional comparisons: indexes

The anti-corruption world is no different from most other walks of life, in that people always want to know how they are doing compared with their peers. Indexes in anti-corruption are most common at the national level, like the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, but they also exist – or can be created – at the sub national level. Metrics that can compare the corruption extent from one region to another, or from one service to another, or simply a trend within a region or a city, have a natural value to campaigners. Countries have been using such metrics to compare the relative corruption in different Ministries (e.g. Colombia), and between regions of a country (e.g. Ireland, France, Albania). This is a useful trend and one that you might consider copying. There are several methodologies available, and often there are NGOs in a country have the capability to carry out the surveys behind such indexes.

In late 2010, TI Slovakia ranked the hundred largest cities in Slovakia for their transparency – Martin came in third. Similarly, TI national chapters in Spain and South Korea have utilised local municipal indices to capture and promote transparency and integrity. TI Korea uses an integrity index, which is produced by the national anticorruption agency, to bring local stakeholders to the table to discuss policy options for municipalities to better address corruption risks. The selection and design of local governance indicators and indices have been helped by international best practice and the sharing of country experiences. You can see more in local government transparency indexes in Section 1 of this review for Albania, France, Ireland, Portugal and Ukraine.

2.5.2 Transparency through citizen report cards

Citizen report cards (CRCs) are used in situations where demand side data, such as user perceptions on quality and satisfaction with public services is absent. By systematically gathering and disseminating public feedback, CRCs serve as a “surrogate for competition” for state-owned monopolies that lack the incentive to be as responsive as private enterprises to their client’s needs. They are a useful medium through which citizens can credibly and collectively ‘signal’ to agencies about their performance and advocate for change. Specific CRC methodologies may vary depending on the local context. A clear pre-requisite is the availability of local technical capacity to develop the questionnaires, conduct the surveys and analyse results. There are some basic steps that apply to all CRC methodologies:

  • Deciding on agencies/ services to be evaluated;
  • Identification of scope and key actors that will be involved;
  • Design of questionnaires in a manner that is simple enough for ordinary citizens to understand;
  • Careful demographic assessment to select the appropriate sample and size for survey;
  • Raising awareness of the survey respondents to the process;
  • Providing training to the individuals involved in conducting the survey;
  • Analysing the data: compilation and analysis of the responses to survey questionnaires;
  • Dissemination of findings with due consideration of the power relationships and political economy of the situation; and,
  • Institutionalizing the process of providing citizen feedback to service providers on a periodic basis.

Examples: Use of Citizen Report Cards in local government in India, Peru, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea

2.6 Integrity reforms

Local officials easily can be both part of the problem and an essential part of the solution. Attention to the basics – the legality and reality of hiring, firing, promoting and disciplining staff is always necessary. In addition, there is usually a need to regulate official discretion, maintain or improve an ethical employee culture, have clear standards and codes of conduct, have credible internal reporting procedures, have mechanisms for identification and resolution of conflicts of interest, and mechanisms for disclosure of assets. ‘Officials’ is perhaps too bland a term: the reality of local government is that it is shaped jointly by the local leaders – the 1% – and the myriad of officials who interact with citizens. Working to improve integrity is a question of working at both levels, and, in the case of ‘street level’ officials, working sector by sector. There is a helpful diagram below showing a three-level hierarchy of bureaucratic actors in a Chinese city:

There is an insightful account of the evolution of the public services in five Latin American countries, showing how patronage was gradually squeezed out from government, in a seminal book by Merilee Grindle 2012 Jobs for the boys.

Improving the knowledge, behaviour and integrity of local government officials is likely to be a significant part of most anti-corruption initiatives. There is a lot of material available, covering almost all aspects of public official behaviour, such as: Regulating official discretion, Maintaining ethical employee culture, Clear standards and codes of conduct, Internal reporting procedures, Identification and resolution of conflicts of interest, and Disclosure of assets and political contributions. Sources of such integrity-building material can be found in the following:

You might like to use this checklist from CIPFA in the UK to measure the integrity culture and response in your own organisation:

Example: Checklist to measure local government integrity culture, from the UK

2.7 Whistleblowing reforms

Almost all large bureaucracies have mechanisms for complaints and or whistle-blowers.  At the same time, these mechanisms often exist on paper only.  Civil society has often shown that it can be a more honest and independent way of checking performance and/or being a trusted place that complainants speak with. Today, many complaint systems are actually run by NGOs for this reason. Besides feeling confident to make the complaint to someone, the other half of the complaint system is assurance that there will be prompt and accountable complaint investigation. There needs to be a range of sanctions (fines, loss of contract renewal) which can be implemented without going to the judiciary.

2.8 Civil society and media reforms

At local level, you have much more opportunity to enlist citizens for change, or to be pushed forward by citizens who are determined to achieve change. This may involve a ‘call to action’ for citizen involvement, or it may happen naturally. There are also endless opportunities for citizens to monitor whether things are working correctly or not; such mechanisms are often better, and cheaper, than official mechanisms. Much of the anti-corruption effort of the last twenty years have been focused on civil society efforts working on local government deficiencies as much, or more than, on central government corruption issues.

Nonetheless, an analysis of some 471 civil society projects in Eastern Europe found that almost all had failed to have any impact. The distinguishing feature of the 10% that had some impact was that they had developed their projects integrally with media involvement. For further detail, see Mungiu-Pippidi (2015) The quest for good governance, pp172-174. One solution to both these constraints is that the local government can become the engine of permanent, ongoing collaboration with citizens; not just talking to each other on projects, but with citizens as an integral part of the decision and policy environments. Many such mechanisms already exist around the world – such as school committees, patient organisations and police committees of citizens. But they are certainly not yet integral to the world of good governance and anti-corruption.

This emphasis on social participation is much broader than anti-corruption. There are examples in local government all round the world. More and more governments recognise that service users and communities know things that many staff commissioning and delivering public services may not and can help enormously to improve outcomes. The OECD’s ‘Observatory for Public Sector Innovation’ (OPSI) is active in acting as an incubator of this trend and holds multiple country examples. You can read more of their good practice examples here, and there is more theoretical underpinning of the approach in this blog from OPSI in February 2016 on Citizen Powered Cities.

An analysis of 200 civil society anti-corruption projects world-wide, supported by the ‘Partnership for Transparency Fund (PTF)’, found that most of their projects succeeded and were cost effective. The reasons for the success, as explained by one of the founders (Pierre Landell-Mills 2013 Citizens against corruption: report from the front line): Their projects targeting well-identified cases of corruption, understanding exactly what was going on, designing an action plan with a credible chance of success, and structured monitoring of the impact. (Landell Mills, p229). However, many of the projects were not sustainable, and it proved so difficult as to be almost impossible to scale up the projects to a larger scale.

Example: Civil society working on local government corruption issues in Slovakia

You can also read more of the work in Slovakia at the SMART cities conference, Madrid 2017 Transparent and accountable cities: innovative solutions for municipal management and finance’. Session 4 – innovative solutions to increase local capacities in the fight against corruption. Transparency International Slovakia highlighted four aspects that can help improve the work of Slovakian cities in the fight against corruption: (i) more investment in transparency initiatives by national government; (ii) more robust decentralization system; (iii) improved access to information, making sure data is not only published but most importantly readable; and (iv) better channels of communication with citizens.

Example: Community-based NGOs working on local government corruption- Integrity Action

2.9 Incentive reforms

We don’t have any good examples – do you?

2.10 Nudge reforms

We don’t have any good examples – do you?

3. Developing an overall approach

Now that you have done the analysis of the specific corruption issues (Section 1), and you have brainstormed with colleagues and others on what reform approaches and specific reform measures may be feasible in your context (Section 2), the third part is to think through and develop your overall strategy.

Political & Tactical Approaches - Guidance summary

3.1 Examples of city strategies

Cities pre-date nation-states by millennia, and the process of urbanisation – particularly when it occurs quickly, and in places where natural and civic resources are limited – has always created opportunities for those willing and able to bend the rules. “A high-density and expanding population puts pressure on space, on water, on public services like health and education, and that causes shortages. Whenever you have shortages, you have big corruption risks; one has to ask oneself ‘who are the gatekeepers of these resources, and how are they being allotted?’ Of course, this can exist in the countryside too, but it plays out in the urban theatre in a more concentrated and drastic way.” (Which are the Most Corrupt Cities in the World?).

We all know this, and there are never-ending corruption cases that go through the courts involving city mayors and officials, whether in Chicago or Colombia, where 1380 Mayors have been charged with corruption over an eight-year period (Quoted in Which are the Most Corrupt Cities in the World?). But the opposite is also true – that cities are a fruitful focus for anti-corruption reform: They have a well-defined political leadership and administration; Citizens naturally have a sense of belonging and connection with their home city; It is much easier to show connections between local, grass-roots improvement sand how this can translate across the city, than at national level; Reforms may be possible in individual cities even though the situation at national level is bleak. Two of the best-known global examples of successful corruption reform – Singapore and Hong Kong – are city-states. Furthermore, cities are arguably the most important future locus for corruption reform, with 70% of the world’s population projected to live in cities by 2050 (Zinnbauer, 2017)

In this section we have collected together the reform strategies from four cities: La Paz (Bolivia), Martin (Slovakia), Lviv (Ukraine), Ciudada Juarrez and Monterrey (Mexico). The common feature between all four cases was a reformist group that was able to build support by demonstrating small reforms and an emphasis on self-reliance.

Reform in la Paz, Bolivia.

This radical change experience uses many of the reform approaches. It is of radical reforms in La Paz, Bolivia from 1999 to today, started by Mayor Del Granado. It was not the first reform in La Paz, as there was an earlier effort, under Mayor Ronald Maclean-Abaroa in 1985 that had some impressive successes, but the city returned to its old corrupt habits after his departure. This initiative in Bolivia was a radical one, which won’t work in all environments. But it has many other features that we do think are translatable to other contexts:

  • Clear political leadership
  • Working with a committed team
  • Emphasis on instilling pride, as well as sanctions, in the local government officials
  • A serious administrative group, the ‘Transparency unit’, that organises and responds on anti-corruption
  • Establishing more participative mechanisms aimed at building trust: discussion forums, scrutinising policies
  • Utilising a major event (a flood) to publicly demonstrate the new style of public engagement
  • Establishing Improvement units for each of the corrupt bits of bureaucracy, like permits; Online feedback mechanisms for completion of bureaucratic processes
  • A changing conception of the council as social participant, not just to direct spending

Be aware that there are also lessons about what did not go so well. In particular, Bolivia sought to scale up this initiative to towns across Bolivia, and in lessons for the national government, neither of which went particularly well. You can read more about this in the Zuniga (2015) article.

Be aware that there are also lessons about what did not go so well. In particular, Bolivia sought to scale up this initiative to towns across Bolivia, and in lessons for the national government, neither of which went particularly well. You can read more about this in the article by Zuniga and Heywood (2015) Cleaning up La Paz.How Bolivia’s biggest city freed itself from a ubiquitous culture of corruption.

A more detailed account of the reforms in La Paz, Bolivia

Reform strategy in Lviv, Ukraine

An energetic group of reformers have made huge improvements in this Ukrainian city, despite all the continuing national corruption problems. They had a strong message of self-reliance and chose specifically to focus their reforms on small neighbourhood issues. Examples included: Getting more young people into the city government; Hiring administrators from other cities; A massive internship program (thousands of students); Encouraging businesses and tourism, including in former council locations; Technology outsourcing and a technology hub; and Pressing an integrity message that the city and city officials can and should be honest and open. For more information, see Lozovsky (2015) The Spirit of Lviv.

Reform strategy lessons from Martin, Slovakia

The northern Slovak city of Martin was given the prestigious UN Public Service Award for its anti-corruption reforms. It is the first time that a Slovak institution was awarded such a prize, which is given to public institutions such as ministries or cities. Martin’s example drew interest from other municipalities, especially in the election year of 2010. Meanwhile, late last year, Hrciar was soundly re-elected as a mayor of Martin. For more detail, see Jacko (2016) Bottom-up versus top-down local governance: local government anti-corruption approaches in the Slovak towns of Sala and Martin compared (case study).

Reform strategy in Guadalajara, Mexico

Guadalajara is the second megalopolis in Mexico with 1.5 million habitants. The metropolitan area has 4.5 million people distributed in nine municipalities.  The local government of Guadalajara has made important efforts to foster transparency in its fight against corruption with four main strategies:  1) Open data – strategy to make local government information primarily accessible; 2) Accessible performance and infrastructure information – through the development of “El Mapa de Guadalajara”, a site that made information about infrastructure available, so it can be understood for its habitants in terms of indicators and performance; 3) Enhanced citizen participation – Guadalajara has 14 mechanisms of participation that promote the involvement of its citizens in local decisions, and 4) Improved Management System – through the Integral City Management Platform. For more detail, see Smart Cities conference (2017) Transparent and accountable cities: innovative solutions for municipal management and finance Madrid, 2017. Session 4 – innovative solutions to increase local capacities in the fight against corruption

Reform strategies in other cities

A report by the Anti-Corruption Resource Centre U4, entitled Corruption and the City summarises the positive anti-corruption reforms in a number of other cities. Read the U4 report or the references below for more details. In addition, the ways in which the Mexican cities of Ciudad Juarez and Monterrey managed to claw their way out of a terrible security situation – in which corruption was a real but lesser problem – is also well worth reading. See Conger (2014).

3.2 China’s provinces and directed improvisation

A recent analysis of the economic development of China’s provinces, especially the less favoured inland provinces, offers a valuable perspective of how economic development has been, and can be, achieved, alongside gradual control o0f corruption. In her book, Yuen Yuen Ang (2017) charts how China and some other countries developed by a ‘co-evolutionary mechanism’, in which ‘good governance’ mechanisms alternated with periods of relatively uncontrolled economic growth. At the heart of the analysis – ‘how did they do this?’ – is what she calls ‘Directed improvisation’. This comprises three linked processes: Variation – encouraging provincial variation by a deliberate mixture of strict mandates and flexible guidelines. Encourages local boldness; Selection – clearly rewarding success among bureaucratic leaders. Encourages entrepreneurship but also corruption; and Niche creation – encouraging niches and looking for mechanisms to connect successful cities and provinces with laggard ones. In relation to corruption, provinces experience surges in corruption alternating with periods of penalisation and gradual implementation of institutional checks. She gives many examples, such as unauthorised and uncontrolled collection of school fees by local government officials in Forest Hill City, Fujian province, which causes local outrage, which leads to periods of penalisation. After some cycles of this, gradually, institutional checks developed (Ang (2017), p165). She makes the argument that historically most countries developed via this co-evolutionary mechanism, with discussion of medieval Europe, the USA and a Nigerian success story, the Nigerian film industry. This is a different approach than the single-measure approach mostly presented in this chapter. It serves as a good reminder that reducing corruption may not be a linear process, but that success may come through more complex approaches. See also Ang’s later book, China’s Gilded Age: The paradox of economic boom and vast corruption 2021, review here.

4. Transnational initiatives in sub-national government

Transnational initiatives - Guidance summary

The task of curbing corruption in local government might seem not to require any trans-national initiatives. But in fact, as corruption knowledge slowly builds beyond purely national-level approaches, various international organisations and transnational initiatives are researching and publishing on how local government reform can be approached. There are now several organisations who have initiatives on raising integrity and reducing corruption in sub-national government. Here are details of three that we know of.

4.1 Council of Europe: Centre of Expertise for Local Government Reform

‘The Centre of Expertise helps European countries deliver good local and regional governance and promotes European standards and best practice in the field. It continuously invests in research and expertise, creates partnerships with national and international actors, develops practical tools and enlarges its offer of programmes by adapting them to the specific needs of the countries.

The Centre provides capacity-building programmes and policy and legal advice to local, regional and national authorities, in order to support on-going processes of reform of public administration and local government. It is directly connected to the European Committee on Democracy and Governance (CDDG) and therefore has a ready access to high-level government officials from the 47 member States and a reservoir of knowledge.

The Centre builds on a unique set of European standards and the 12 Principles of Good Democratic Governance. It has a repertoire of 18 capacity-building toolkits representing the practical crystallisation of the Council of Europe standards and best European practice, enabling the evaluation and reinforcement of the capacities of local authorities.’

4.2 Open Government Partnership

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is a broad initiative involving 70 nations and is working to increase open government and transparency in some 50 subject areas. One of their new programmes is for improving the transparency and effectiveness of sub-national government. Called ‘Local’, the program recognizes and supports the role that municipal, city, metropolitan, state, regional, and provincial entities play in advancing open government, due to their close proximity to citizens and the crucial public services they provide.

‘OGP launched a Subnational Pilot in 2016, with 15 pioneering subnational governments submitting and implementing their first Action Plans 2016-2017. Moving forward, the program will be known as OGP Local, and will prioritize the participation of diverse range of entities. The OGP Local program aims to harness the innovation and momentum demonstrated by local governments and civil society partners across the world. OGP is a platform for these governments and civil society to come together to make their governments more open, inclusive and responsive, modelling the values and principles of the Open Government Declaration and processes’.

Read  more here on the OGP Local Government plan.

4.3 UN Habitat

This UN organisation for a better urban future has some focus on corruption. For example, they published a report in 2006 Restore the Health of your Organisation – A Practical Guide to Curing and Preventing Corruption in Local Government and Communities, Volume 1 Concepts and Strategies. UN Habitat is also involved in more recent anti-corruption support and debate in cities. See for example the report of their Smart Cities conference Transparent and accountable cities: innovative solutions for municipal management and finance Madrid, 2017.

5. Sub-National reform in Fragile States

Here is an example of reforms at sub-national level in Myanmar. The work is original research from Heesu Chung. You can find her full report here:

 Myanmar – Reforms and Reform Approaches

Overall Approach: Create New Opportunities through Incremental Systems Change

Legislative and institutional reform in Myanmar:In 2013 and 2014, the Anti-Corruption Law and Anti-Corruption Commission were established. In the recent years, the Commission has been increasing its activities and has taken action against senior figures.

Myanmar’s decentralization: In 2008, 14 state/region governments with legislative and administrative responsibilities were created along with three mechanisms to allow for public participation in the subnational governance system:

  1. Members of Parliament have been set up to be locally elected.
  2. Township Management Committees (TMCs) and Township Development Affairs Committees (TDACs) were also establishedwith some community representation.
  3. In 2012, Ward/Village Tract Administrators were made to be directly elected by community members through a system of voting for household leaders.

Local Reform Approaches in Myanmar

There appear to be significant differences in corruption between the different Myanmar regions, as shown by the survey results below for five Myanmar urban regions. However, so far there is no obvious explanation for the differences.

Functional Approaches

  • Capacity Building of Subnational Administrations in Myanmar

Initiatives to promote participatory planning and budgeting involving civic consultations to increase transparency and accountability at subnational levels have been ongoing in select states and regions.

  • One Stop Shops (OSS) for Public Services at District and Township Levels in Myanmar

With the support of UNDP, One Stop Shops (OSS) have been established throughout the nation to improve access to quality and transparent administrative and regulatory services at district and township level. However, OSS, thought to reduce red tape and bureaucratic corruption, has not yielded high levels of usage by citizens.

People-Centered Approaches

  • Consultations and Dialogue Sessions with Civil Society in Myanmar

Since 2015, 54 township-level and 18 State-level consultation events were held between subnational authorities and civil society through UNDP, leading toa “30% increase in the number of CSOs in target States reporting engaging in advocacy with local authorities for improved public services” according to UNDP.

  • Capacity Building and Awareness-Raising of Civil Society in Myanmar

In Mawlamyaing and Lashio, 40 CSOs were brought in for atraining supported by USAID that not only reportedly increased the CSOs’ ability to address corruption issues in local communities, but also the recognition of the need for transparency, accountability and integrity to combat corruption. Subsequently,a watch group involving community members and politicians is also being formed for corruption monitoring.

 Monitoring Approaches

  • Checks and Balances in the State and Region Governments in Myanmar

In Monywa of Sagaing Region, budgets have to be signed by Members of Parliaments, creating a system of checks and balances.

In Hpa-An of Kayin State, the public accounts committee is very active. According to an INGO staff, the committee conducts independent investigations of roads and creates a “blacklist” of companies that have gone below specifications in the road construction. In all states and regions, these construction companies are also monitored by a third party, the Myanmar Engineering Society, creating additional oversight.

  • Citizen Oversight through Feedback Mechanisms in Myanmar

In Bago Region, a World Bank-funded mobile service delivery feedback monitoring system has been put in place. This allows MPs to collect citizens’ feedback on the public service they received including information on any corruption involved. Citizens have been reporting incidences of bribery, which are addressed at township level management meetings and citizen gatherings.

Transparency Approaches

  • Budget Transparency and Citizen’s Budgets in Myanmar

With the help of the Asia Foundation, in 2018, four sub-national governments—Bago, Kayin, Tanintharyi, and Yangon—have published their versions of Citizen’s Budgets. Ayeyarwady, Mon, and Kayah have also published on their own.In addition, the Taunggyi Township Development Affairs Organisation (DAO) launched the nation’s first municipal-level citizen’s budget for greater transparency.

  • DigitizingGovernment Budget Data and Engaging Civil Society and Journalists in Myanmar

Since 2016, Ananda, a local NGO, has been working on digitizing publicly available regional government data, specifically project level data, to increase budget transparency. They’ve also been training civil society and journalists on how to use the budget data to measure government performance and address issues like corruption. As a result, in Bago Region the public officials were forced to respond to citizens’ demands—i.e.) fixing a dam—when presented with discrepancies in the numbers stated in the budget and what the public officials were claiming.

Media Approaches

  • Strengthening Media Networks in Myanmar

UNDP has led initiatives to strengthen 3 local media networks in Chin, Southern Shan and South-East area, gathering 171 media organizations. Greater media presence might create further pressure for subnational governments to act in their beneficiaries’ interest.


6. ANNEX: The diversity of sub-national government

Expand here to read this ANNEX on the Diversity of Sub-National Government


Local government sector: Full bibliography

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