Posted by Chris Iles
Corruption is a global scourge. In the public sector it can be defined as the diversion of public resources or the misuse of public authority for personal gain. It threatens political, social and economic stability, and undermines economic growth and development by distorting the delivery of public goods and services. Transparency International calls it one of the major threats facing society and has worked hard to focus international attention on reducing corruption in the public sphere. Preventing corruption has become a key policy priority for donors, especially in fragile or conflict-affected countries.
A recent paper by Norway’s U4 Anti-corruption Resource Centre reviews how much we know about the effectiveness of different anti-corruption interventions. The answer seems to be “not much”. The paper reviews the fairly scant literature on the impact on corruption of various reforms such as direct budgetary support, PFM technical assistance, using donor systems and applying international norms. Evidence presented by the reviewed literature suggests that most anti-corruption measures are of disputable benefit.
The notable outlier seems to be PFM reform; there is, according to the study, (relatively) strong evidence that PFM reforms have a substantial anti-corruption impact. This is gratifying for PFM practitioners but also somewhat surprising since reducing corruption is not the explicit goal of PFM reform.