Prevention strategies

The different ways to stop corruption before it starts and instigate a virtuous circle of integrity.

Prevention is the most cost-effective strategy for tackling corruption. Prevention strategies need to be understood across all organisational levels and job functions. Consistency and simplicity are key, and strategies need to be adaptable so organisations can respond quickly to evolving threats and risks.

After decades focusing on tackling corruption through investigation and sanctions, known as reactive or downstream activity, there is now increasing emphasis on prevention activities and addressing corruption within wider governance and financial integrity arrangements.

In June 2021 the special session of the UN General Assembly not only re-emphasised the United Nations Convention Against Corruption but also signalled a shift from reactive responses to combatting corruption to a more pro-active, preventative approach.

Given the different types of corruption, differing cultures and legislative approaches, it should be no surprise that there are many different strategies across the globe. There are a number of best practice strategic models and templates that can be tailored to any organisation.

The World Bank has highlighted 10 Ways to Fight Corruption, including preventative measures such as increasing citizen engagement with government and making use of technology to strengthen relationships between key stakeholders. The article also underlines the importance of building capacity and improving stability across society.

Transparency International have published five key ingredients to stop corruption, including improving public financial management and auditing and promoting government transparency through greater freedom of information.

There are other examples of initiatives being taken at governmental levels worldwide, for example the Beneficial Ownership Leadership Group. This group was established to drive the global policy shift towards free, open beneficial ownership data. The UK joined on 1 September 2021 by signing up to the best practice beneficial ownership disclosure principles.

These principles improve the transparency of who owns and controls companies, helping build business and market confidence. This can improve governance and public procurement and therefore helps tackle corruption and criminal activities.

In addition, there are various standalone national initiatives such as the UK local government procurement fraud/corruption review, as well as the UK anti-corruption strategy 2017 to 2022.

Other examples, such as Uganda’s Zero Tolerance to Corruption Policy (ZTCP) 2019 can be seen as clear intentions to change pan-governmental culture at the national level. The policy was introduced at a time when at least eight of every ten Ugandans believed that corruption was a serious problem in the country. This policy in particular was designed to reduce corruption by involving numerous state and non-state actors (ministries, anti-corruption bodies, audit offices) as well as civil society in one comprehensive, national policy.

Examples and further resources

Assessing effective prevention policies

The EPPI-Centre report on the effectiveness of anti-corruption policy provides findings from a systematic review on the effectiveness of micro-level anti-corruption strategies implemented in developing countries. It finds convincing evidence that monitoring and incentive-based interventions (both financial and non-financial) have the potential to reduce corruption, at least in the short term.

Why corruption matters: understanding causes, effects and how to address them was commissioned in 2015 by the Department for International Development (DfID) to assess the existing body of evidence on corruption. The resulting evidence paper acts as a key source of synthesised knowledge, considering which anti-corruption interventions are effective and why. This can inform policy narratives and programme design.

The impact of reforms

Transparency International’s review of successful anti-corruption reforms shows that tackling corruption requires a combination of complementary (top-down and bottom-up) approaches, driven by the interaction of a number of reforms introduced simultaneously.

While evidence of effectiveness is thin, several mapping exercises suggest that public finance management reforms, strengthening horizontal accountability mechanisms and transparency tools, transparent budgeting and asset declarations can have an impact on controlling corruption.

A new understanding of corruption

The CMI publication Understanding corruption and how to curb it brings together some of the latest thinking on corruption and how best to curb it. It draws upon research and evaluations that analyse past anti-corruption reforms as well as advances in the theoretical understanding of corruption. It focuses exclusively on broader anti-corruption efforts, not on corruption risk management or on specific processes vulnerable to corruption, such as procurement. 

Regime change and anti-corruption

The CMI have also issued a report on rethinking anti-corruption in de-democratising regimes. Regime types differ in terms of what kinds of corrupt practices are most prevalent, and their scale; in the government’s power and capacity to curb corrupt practices. This paper looks at the relationship between politics and anti-corruption and analyses the overall use and abuse of corruption and anti-corruption in regimes of different types.

International partnerships

The Westminster Foundation for Democracy have published a series of articles on the UK Parliament’s relationship with anti-corruption agencies in Indonesia, Pakistan and the Maldives and a similar relationship with agencies in Lithuania, Ukraine and Serbia. A further article compares anti-bribery legislation in various countries with the UK Bribery Act 2010.

The importance of governance

Sigma is a joint initiative of the OECD and the EU that aims to improve governance and management in the public sector. The group has developed the Principles of Public Administration as a framework for best practice in this area. As part of their work they have undertaken reviews of EU candidate countries in relation to these principles, outlining progress made against governance standards in order to fulfil the requirements for successful European integration.

Integrity Focal Persons

Under the implementation of Uganda’s ZTCP, the Directorate for Ethics and Integrity (DEI) launched an initiative in 2021, with support from Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), to integrate Integrity Focal Persons (IFPs) in each Ministry, Department and Agency at the central government level. The role of an IFP is to raise awareness on issues of corruption within their respective institutions and advise management on corruption prevention strategies. As of autumn 2022, around 50 IFPs have been appointed from within their organisations and have received initial training on their role.