INTERPOL is working with the World Bank Integrity Vice Presidency to fight corruption related to World Bank funded projects.  The effort, described here, is certainly a worthy one.  The idea behind this, or any anti-corruption campaign, is that support will be provided to countries so that they can cull out the corrupt elements of their governments and general society after detecting them.

A question that arises when any country launches an anti-corruption initiative is this:  Who’s watching the watcher?  

Any observer of anti-corruption drives can attest that with such efforts usually comes a measure of . . . corruption.  How does it happen?

  • First, a government official is charged with the duty of rooting out corruption, and such rooting may target bribery, fraud, embezzlement, and the like.  
  • When officials begin to prosecute such crimes, the public is often quite supportive of those actions, and governments are allowed a bit more wiggle room in their law enforcement activities than they might otherwise have.
  • Once the anti-corruption activity gains steam, it sometimes takes on the taint of the very corruption it seeks to eliminate.  Officials feel emboldened to act in ways that are technically illegal, but seem palatable in an “end justifies the means” sort of way.

The anti-corruption effort can be used as a shield to cover politically motivated criminal charges, as has been seen in countries such as Ethiopia, Indonesia, Cameroon, and Malaysia.  After criminal charges are filed and the accused has reason to believe that his rights will continue to be violated, he often flees the jurisdiction and a Red Notice is issued.

With the World Bank Integrity Vice Presidency aiding in the investigation of allegedly corrupt activity, the hope is certainly that such investigations will be more transparent and properly targeted than we might otherwise see.

As always, comments and thoughts are welcomed.