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KickBack - The Global Anticorruption Podcast
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KickBack - The Global Anticorruption Podcast

Author: KickBack

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This podcast series features in-depth interviews with a wide range of corruption experts, on questions such as:
What have we learned from 20+ years of (anti)corruption research?
Why and how does power corrupt?
Which theories help to make sense of corruption?
What can we do to manage corruption?
How to recovery stolen assets?
44 Episodes
Jack Goldsmith (@jacklgoldsmith) and Matthew discuss the recent book After Trump, that Jack and Bob Bauer wrote. The interview begins by discussing the strength weaknesses of current laws preventing malfeasance by US presidents in office, why norms play an important role and how norms are established. To address risks of corruption such as conflict of interest by presidents, the two law professors discuss the pros and cons of granting more autonomy to the attorney general, the shortcomings of transparency and whether more and stricter laws are the adequate response. Jack outlines what in his view is the best approach for new administrations to deal with serious allegations of corruption and malfeasance against the previous administration and whether a truth commission is a suitable answer. Links: Bob Bauer and Jack Goldsmith - After Trump: Kubbe & Engelbert (Eds) - Corruption and Norms
Daniel Freund (@daniel_freund) is a Member of the European Parliament and the parliamentary group’s rapporteur on attaching conditionalities of rule of law for dispersion of funds within the EU. Daniel outlines how he got interested in issues of (anti-)corruption starting with his work at Transparency International’s offices in Brussels. Daniel describes the general procedures of allocating funds within the EU, which loopholes for corruption exist and how the recent negotiations about conditionalities for rule of law could help to close these loopholes. The interview zooms in on the case of Hungary, explaining the challenges that independent media face and how the government has set up a system that raises several corruption red flags. Daniel outlines which steps need to be taken to reduce leakages of EU funds and the criteria that help to determine whether a government takes the necessary measures of good governance. Pick of Podcast: Bill Browder - Red Notice: Further Reading: Media freedom in Hungary: Radio station, Klubradio, mentioned by Daniel, that is under pressure in Hungary: Research paper on the link between media freedom and corruption: Starke, C., Naab, T. K., & Scherer, H. (2016). Free to expose corruption: The impact of media freedom, internet access and governmental online service delivery on corruption. International Journal of Communication, 10, 21. Explaining the European Parliament: Articles on the corruption allegations against the Hungarian government: Recent news on the conditionality of rule of law for fund dispersion in the EU:
Judge Claudia Escobar is a former magistrate of the Court of Appeals of Guatemala who resigned from her position because of an executive and legislative interference in the judiciary that forced her to relocate. The interview kicks off with Claudia outlining how the history of more than 36 years of civil war in Guatemala has left a legacy of impunity, civil insecurity, violence and inequity. Up until today, this legacy affects the challenge to develop an impartial judiciary system. Claudia describes the current limitations in the ways judges are appointed and which corruption risks they bring about. The interview continues by a discussion about international involvement in the fight against corruption, why the US might not have done enough to push for reforms and why targeted sanctions towards individuals might provide a promising way to foster public integrity. Claudia and Matt discuss the process leading up and following the “Guatemalan spring”, leading to the election of former president Jimmy Morales ( and the current term of Alejandro Giammattei ( Finally, Claudia outlines that her top 3 priorities for anti-corruption reforms in Guatemala are 1. Reforming the process of how public officials come to office, 2. Strengthening the judiciary system, also by fostering security of judges 3. Changing the way tax money is spent spending.
We welcome for a second time, Chief of Party for Democracy International in Afghanistan. James described how he almost overnight became an advisor involved in anti-corruption in a warzone, the challenges he faced and how his experiences in Kosovo, Ukraine and Afghanistan differed from each other. Matthew and James discuss the concrete challenges of dealing with corruption in conflict areas. James outlines why it is important to not compromise anti-corruption efforts, especially early as they are often hard to address later on and the challenges of winning hearts and minds in conflict areas. The interview outlines why it is important to take a strong stance - which might not always be popular - against corruption in such challenging environments
39. Frederik Obermaier on the FinCEN Files, revealing global money laundering systems by KickBack
This week on podcast world-famous UN whistleblower James Wasserstrom ( His case made the headlines around the world (see links in coverage). Brought in to investigate corruption in Kosovo, James soon received hints that some UN officials themselves were involved in corruption. Learn all about the retaliation against James, including death threats, illegal searches, and smear campaigns. James offers his views on how the UN reacted to the case and indicates whether, in hindsight, he would blow the whistle again. The interview continues on how James’ own experience as a whistleblower has inspired him to found the integrity sanctuary. International Coverage: Economist: NY Times: Reuters: Süddeutsche Zeitung: The Guardian: Foreign Policy: Al Jazeera: Le Figaro:
We welcome Michael Hershman co-founder of Transparency International for an in-depth conversation about founding TI, populism, COV-19, FIFA, and politicization of sports. Michael’s shares his experience of being Senior Staff Investigator for the Senate Watergate Committee, how his work on Police corruption in New York inspired the movie Serpico ( and the challenges that Michael and his fellow co-founders faced when founding Transparency International, which other name Michael proposed. Listen to Michael looking back on the successes and failures of anti-corruption in the past decades. Michael takes the listener through his many stations of anti-corruption work including the famous Bofors scandal ( and Siemens corruption scandal ( The second part of the interview deals with corruption sports, including Michael’s surprises when he served on the Independent Governance Committee for FIFA and why FIFA was reluctant to implement reforms. The interview ends with Christopher, Nils and Michael discussing the importance of athletes as role models, and how sports athletes, in particular in the NBA, are increasingly making use of their public role to demand for social justice. References: Michael’s TED talk: Michael’s pick of the podcast:
36. Danielle Brian on her work at the Project On Government Oversight and corruption risks in the US This time on Kickback Danielle Brian Twitter: @daniellebrian Executive Director of Project On Government Oversight (POGO,; @POGOBlog) The first part of the interview provides background info about how POGO’s work was initiated by Pentagon whistleblowers and how it examines - often legalized forms of corruption - in the US. The hybrid work model entails investigation, policy advocacy and Anti-corruption training. Danielle shares an example outlining how POGO made a positive difference through their oversight work on the oil and gas industry, which shows that anti-corruption work often requires patience. Danielle and Matthew discuss revolving door issues, Danielle’s and POGO’s approach towards being aggressive versus more conciliatory with power holders - featuring Danielle’s visit to the White House.The interview further covers the difference between bipartisan and non-partisan work, corruption risks in the Corona virus relief funds and the Trump administration. Finally, Danielle shares her views on which are the most pressing issues for anti-corruption work to address in the US. Further reading: Links: Pogo's website Pogo about Oil and Gas Royalties Trump says he wants Harvard to pay back $8.6 million in stimulus funds Books: Jesse Eisinger - The Chickenshit Club Samuel W. Buell - Capital Offenses
We welcome Franz von Weizsäcker (@franzvw) from the GIZ (German Corporation for International Cooperation) Blockchain Lab and Niklas Kossow (@NiklasKossow) from the Hertie School of Governance. The interview takes a deep dive into how new technologies (ICTs), in particular distributed ledger technology like Blockchain can be used to curb corruption. Franz and Niklas first describe how they became interested in the topic of ICTs and anti-corruption and provide a basic introduction into how distributed ledger technology works. The interview then outlines the challenges that development projects that seek to make use of such technologies face but also highlights some positive examples. The interview closes with concrete recommendations for academic research that can help to fill knowledge gaps about the use of ICTs in the fight against corruption. Links & References If you are completely new to the topic of Distributed ledger technologies and Blockchain, this video provides some of the basics: Find out more about the GIZ Blockchain lab ( Niklas references a previous episode of Kickback with Irio Musskopf which you can find here: To find out more about the referenced Ukrainian public procurement system ProZorro: Niklas refers to the TruBudget Project: More information about the education credential project that Franz mentions: More info about the referenced Corona App: The infamous Dao hack: How to use ICT to strengthen Anti-Corruption authored by Niklas and Viktoria Dykes: The potential of distributed ledger technologies in the fight against Corruption by the GIZ Niklas recent review article on Digital anti-corruption: hopes and challenges
This time on Kickback: Asoka Obeysekere (@asokao), Executive Director of Transparency International (TI) Sri Lanka. Asoka describes his work prior to joining TI, provides an overview of the work that TI does in Sri Lanka, zeroing in on how TI offers legal advice to citizens via Advocacy and Legal Advice Centres (ALAC) ( and mobile legal aid clinics. The work of such decentralized and mobile legal advice allows those who would otherwise not receive legal advice to get access to it. Asoka outlines, that when it comes to corruption, fixing the problem of the client and fixing the system differ. The two discuss the system of corruption in Sri Lanka, how corruption has become normalized and whether attitudes about corruption can be changed. In particular, Asoka describes how notions around the right to information needs to move towards entitlement and how their collaboration with the accountability lab and the “naming and faming” approaches as well as Civic education can help to so. Asoka and Matthew discuss how registries of Politically Exposed Persons (PEP) in Ukraine inspired TI Sri Lanka to go through state-owned enterprises and search for individuals who are in higher positions to provide an overview of who are PEP. The two discuss how to overcome the challenge of keeping such PEP registries up to date, and how AI could help to provide sustainability in supporting sustainable solutions.
This week we interview Irio Musskopf (@irio), one of the founders of the AI-based anti-corruption project Operacao Serenata do Amor ( in Brazil. The interview provides detailed insights into how open government data paired with intelligent algorithms can be used to promote integrity. The interview kicks off with a short outline how the panel on AI as an Anti-corruption tool chaired by Nils, Christopher and Steven Gawthorpe (@SteveGawthorpe) at last year’s Interdisciplinary Corruption Research Forum in Kyiv ( and a recent report by Per Aarvik for U4 ( inspired Kickback to invite Irio for the interview. In the interview, Irio outlines in much detail how the project came about, what challenges the team had to overcome and how it has been received by journalists, politicians and the public. Irio describes the statistical approach used to detect suspicious spending patterns, referring to normal distribution and standard deviations. In case statistics is not your strong suit, you can check out this short explanation ( Chris, Nils and Irio also discuss the role that machines and humans play in such new anti-corruption efforts, whether and where humans might be replaced by intelligent algorithms and which tasks require the involvement of human decision making. The interview covers the Twitter bot Rosie da Serenata (@RosieDaSerenata) that automatically tweets out suspicious cases. For some further reading: * Report published at the end of the 3 months financed by the first crowdfunding campaign. * Measuring the impact of the operation after one year of the first mass report to the Congress
Best known for being the lead investigator in the Obiang case, we welcome law enforcement professional Robert Manzanares, who is also the co-founder of Gatekeeper Consulting ( . Robert outlines how he started off as a probation officer and eventually became the lead investigator of the famous Obiang case. Find out the unexpected role that Michael Jackson memorabilia played in the case. Also, once on the case one article gave Robert extra motivation to successfully close the case (see Foreign policy article). The two also discuss why should American law enforcement officers should actually take action in investigating such cases of kleptocracy abroad and how other states reacted to the US efforts to seize kleptocrat’s assets. Robert outlines in detail the important roles that facilitators played in the case and how it enrages him that none were indicted. The two also discuss the challenging question what should actually happen with the stolen assets? References: The article that Robert mentioned, that served as special motivation to pursue the case: NYT article outlining the Obiang case: UNODC and World Bank repository on stolen asset recovery
This week on the podcast: Sarah Steingrüber (@sarahsteino), Independent Global Health Consultant, and the global health lead for the Curbing Corruption Platform ( The interview touches on many topics related to corruption and public health. Sarah outlines how the global health crisis of COVID-19 poses two main corruption threats. 1) Corruption of funds that are devoted to improving the health situation, due to lack of infrastructure to combat corruption. Sarah outlines that according to conservative estimates at least 6% of all health investment is lost to corruption in a given year and how this affects, and at times takes lives. 2) Opportunistic corruption, occurring in the shadow of the pandemic, as some might take advantage of the unique situation of people’s attention being placed on COVID-19 to engage in corruption. The two further discuss how the urgency of emergencies affects the safeguards against corruption. Sarah outlines that in that process it plays an important role to figure out what forms of corruption one might be willing to live with while making sure that other forms are prevented. Sarah further discusses the donor activities of organizations like the IMF or the Global Fund and outlines how they are at times attached to anti-corruption goals, such that funding is pulled back if cases of fraud and corruption are detected. The interview shifts to discussing what lessons have been learned from the Ebola outbreak (2013-2016) that could be applicable to the COVID-19 crisis. Sarah outlines the risk of corruption within procurement that is especially pertinent in times of health crisis. Moreover, she outlines how misinformation can contribute to corruption, such as fostering absenteeism (#infodemic). She also describes how too bureaucratic and overcomplicated procedures can incentivize workarounds of the rules and how digitization might help to mitigate these risks. The interview then shifts to the topic of monetization and privatization of health more generally. Here, Sarah describes the influence of undue influence on decision-making processes in the health sector. Approaching the topic from a human rights perspective, assuming that access to health care is a human right, she outlines several concrete roadblocks to it. As an example for anticorruption in the health sector, the two discuss approaches to tackle bribery in the Ugandan health sector (see video: and whether this approach should be considered a success (for relevant work by Prof Heather Marquette, on this issue see further below). The interview ends on a positive note, by Sarah providing some examples for success stories from Ukraine.
The interview starts with Sam outlining how the documentary about Eliot Spitzer, called Client 9, got him interested in corruption and how it inspired him to study an MA in corruption research at the University of Sussex. Sam describes the research questions he sought to answer with his dissertation on party financing and corruption. Namely, he unpicks the relationship between money and politics, using interviews to examine whether the amount of state subsidy has an effect on perceptions about corruption and which types of corruption it brings about. Here he builds on Michael Johnston’s work on syndromes of corruption Sam describes how his dissertation shaped his perceptions about the amounts of money involved in politics, referring to the famous example of Stuart Wheeler who held the record for the highest donation of 5 million pounds to a political party in the UK. One of the main insights from his work comparing party financing in the UK and Denmark is that perceived donor based corruption does not differ between the countries even though the party financing is mostly private in the UK and largely state-funded in Denmark . Sam describes how he went about conducting elite interviews and how he managed to get people talking about corruption. The interview tackles the question of what even counts as corruption when it comes to financing political parties: is it access or influence? Sam, Christopher and Nils discuss the complex nature of networks of influence in politics and how perceptions and reality about the effect of money on policy might at times differ starkly. Sam refers to the so-called Thomas theorem - if people define situations as real, they are real in their consequences - and how perceptions about corruption often might follow a similar logic. Zeroing in on perceptions about corruption Sam compares the public’s views on corruption to a thermostat. The last part of the interview deals with Sam’s work on Facebook advertising and party financing. It shows how Facebook advertising works and how it essentially differs from classical political campaigning. One main difference is that it allows political parties to use Facebook and similar services to test ads. For more information about how social media is used in political processes Sam recommends “Who targets me?” Christopher drawing on work by Helen Margetts which argues that “Social Media May Have Won the 2017 General Election” asks about the corruption risks that emerge with social media advertising by political parties. Sam describes several corruption risks that arise from social media political campaigning, referring to the challenges outlined in a recent report by the Electoral Reform Society
29. Mushtaq Khan & Paul Heywood on populism, digital technologies & RCTs (Part II) Social norms of Corruption The interview picks up on a discussion about research on social norms and corruption, mentioning the distinction between descriptive and injunctive norms (for more insights check out our previous episode with Prof Bicchieri In evaluating these and other projects, Paul points out the general challenge to measure success in anti-corruption projects. Many insights can serve as a proof of concept, that then need further support via follow-up research. One promising example is the work by Liz David-Barret and Mihály Fazekas on identifying red flag risks in procurement by using big data (see here: and the work by Jan-Hinrik Meyer-Sahling and Christian Schuster on training civil servants ( Further resources need to be invested to gain better insights and to evaluate the success more broadly. Can it be a problem that there is apparently no progress in anti-corruption (at least when looking at the CPI)? Paul outlines that major organizations such as the World Bank are aware that the standard toolkit approach of the last 25 years has not worked very well. They start to ask themselves what they can do. There is space for further support. So when it comes to the donor’s perspective, the lack of progress does not lead to apathy but a rethinking of corruption efforts. When it comes to the public perception of apparent lack of progress, Paul outlines that this unfortunate, yet something that we on our own cannot address. At the same time he emphasizes the work with the change agents who can help to bring about real change. Mushtaq adds that indeed, not all problems can be immediately addressed. It often requires a long transition for corruption on a broad scale to be reduced. Development will not happen without detailed anti-corruption work across different sectors. At the same time, he argues that there are some forms of corruption that can be addressed pretty quickly. Having more nuanced, sectoral-level indicators, will help to better understand which efforts have impact and are feasible. He thereby proposes a “radicalism of digging into solvable problems” and working hard to solve them. The double-edged sword of public perceptions about corruption Large scandals have helped to get a better understanding about corruption among key policy makers. Particularly important have been the revelations such as the Panama papers (see more insights Kickback #6: ) as they show that corruption is a multi-faceted concept, not a thing. It is complex, dynamic, and new forms of corruption often emerge, in particular revealing that corruption often occurs in networks that span across several countries. These revelations have raised awareness and moved away from a simple interpretation of corruption. Yet, at the same time, the public eye, such revelations might reinforce a view that corruption is widespread.
Taryn Vian (@TarynVian), Prof. at the Department of Population Health Sciences, School of Nursing and Health Professions, University of San Francisco (USF). For people who think about the relationship between corruption & public health, what are some of the main lines of research & what are some of the important findings? Taryn outlines that one main problem lies in the fact that people have to pay doctors for public health services that are supposed to be free of charge. Quantitative & qualitative studies have investigated why people pay doctors & how they know why they have to pay or give “gifts” while intervention has tested how corrupt practices like informal payments & absenteeism can be reduced. What does health care corruption- look like during times of emergencies in comparison to “normal times”? Taryn points out that one of the risk factors for corruption during emergencies stems from the pressure to finish things quickly. Such pressures can create incentives to ignore controls. As a result, higher tolerance of saying “we’ll figure out the paperwork later” often emerges. In an emergency situation is it even more important that we stick to corruption guidelines or not? How do you implement the right measures in emergency situations? Taryn describes audits conducted by the catholic relief service after a natural disaster revealing 100 findings. Yet, closer examination often revealed that minimal mistakes were committed such as a single missing signature out of four. This suggests that we need to find a different procedure for times of emergency. There are streamlined processes e.g. for the procurement of emergency medicine. How many countries in the world have implemented emergency measures/procedures? Are there examples? There were gaps in procurements of test kits in the US because the US proceeded as business as usual. Many countries have emergency procurement procedures. The question is how to launch such special procedures at the right time for the right products & also still holding people accountable. What observations do you have on a relation between the coronavirus pandemic & corruption? One place where Taryn sees a link between corruption & the Coronavirus play out is in the US. Here, one of the big problems is that the government has not appointed actors, which undermines the trust between decision-makers & scientific leaders. There is a lack of trust in science in our government right now. The personalization of power is a big problem. Such distrust can have very adverse effects. In a public health crisis, the government needs to give directives to people. Directives that are not popular. If there is no trust in the government, people will not want to follow their directives. Yes, e.g. Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone & Liberia. People were actively avoiding government directives because there was no trust. Corruption during “normal” times eroded the trust towards the government bodies which undermines emergency response efforts as people might to not comply with the recommendations or orders of the government. Informal payments & bribes during normal times do have an adversarial effect on trust in the payment system. Can you elaborate on the evidence for this claim? Dagmar Radin looked at the connection between corruption & trust. She argued that there is a connection. Other work showing similar links stems from Nicaragua, where a comparison of social audits over a 4 year period has been conducted, showing that trust increased when the government tried to work against informal payments. Which measures have been effective in reducing corruption in the health sector under control? There is a famous study on community monitoring in Uganda by the World Bank showing promising effects of involving communities to increase accountability. However, studies by the Harvard Kennedy School in Tanzania did not exactly replicate the findings above. There have been many interventions against corruption.
In the first part Mushtaq and Paul outline the milestones in their carriers as corruption researchers. ACE The next section of the interview takes a deep dive into the Anti Corruption Evidence Program. Paul outlines how it was initiated after concerns about the lack of evaluation of development projects and the risk of development spending being lost due to corruption were voiced. As a response DiFiD developed AntiCorruption Evidence, which has two parts: A Research partnership consortium led SOAS ACE which is led by Mushtaq and GI ACE which consists of grants competition for leading international researchers to examine the most effective ways to fight corruption. Mushtaq gives some background information about how SOAS ACE consists of projects that are linked and share a common theory of change, which focus on Nigeria, Tanzania and Bangladesh. Mushtaq argues that the reason why many anti corruption efforts have failed lies in the assumption that most people in developing countries follow rules and a few greedy people break the rules. The common approach has then been to find and punish these “bad apples” in order to get rid of corruption. SOAS ACE however starts from the assumption that in many developing nations, people do not have the capacities to follow rules leading to a large informal sector. Also politics in developing nations is different. There is less tax revenue in developing nations, leading to more clientelism. In order to then bring about anti-corruption one has to identify the demand for anti corruption. That is, finding organizations which need a rule of law in their own interest and are powerful enough to demand it. He then outlines how the rule of law is different from rule by law and how economics can help to identify a market for anti corruption. Paul in turn outlines the approach of GI ACE which has four features: a) Focus on anti-corruption, b) a focus on real world problems real issues, c) politics of anti-corruption, and d) demonstrating impact. It marks a swing towards local problem driven approaches. In this work GI ACE is focused on three core themes, namely International architecture enabling illicit financial flows, promoting integrity and moving away from nations as units of analysis. He comments on whether the integrity turn by organizations such as OECD and World bank indeed offers a better approach than classical anti corruption efforts. In the last part of the interview you can find out how much cross-fertilization happens between GI and SOAS ACE and how Paul’s and Mushtaq’s views differ when it comes to intrinsic integrity and how research in behavioral ethics might provide empirical answers (for more info on the study by Gächter that Paul mentions see references or this Kickback episode: References Matthew’s blog post Blogging in a Time of (Mostly Unrelated) Crisis–A Note to Readers can be found here: Gächter, S., & Schulz, J. F. (2016). Intrinsic honesty and the prevalence of rule violations across societies. Nature, 531(7595), 496-499.
This week we have a special episode in which Dr. Ina Kubbe (political scientist, University of Tel Aviv, interviews Dr. Doron Navot (political scientist, University of Haifa ( Corruption charges against PM Benjamin Netanyahu and the divided society After Doron gives a short overview of his work on corruption and populism, the interview outlines the corruption allegations against PM Benjamin Netanyahu, outlining how three main charges are brought against him involving gifts of cigars and champagne, recorded dialogue between Netanyahu and a publisher which allegedly reveals a quid pro quo and the favorable media coverage by the online platform Walla ( The interview continues by giving an overview of the different views on these allegations within the diverse Israeli society, in which no clear majorities exist, leading to a current political deadlock. Doron outlines why Israelis have divergent views about the allegations, touching on lack of trust in the media, public institutions, populism and post-truth politics. To give you a more detailed insight into the political landscape in Israel, the corruption allegations and the recent elections we compiled a few articles describing the situation in English in the references below. Corruption research in Israel Ina and Doron discuss what (anti-corruption) academics can do about this lack of trust that also affects trust towards academic work on corruption. Doron then outlines why generally there is little research about corruption in Israel. As a recent exception he describes the new book Corruption and Informal Practices in the Middle East and North Africa edited by Ina and Aiysha Varraich. ( In it, Ina and Doron wrote a chapter about corruption informal practices in Israel, which leads to a discussion about the concept of Combina, which describes the combination of interest and opportunities. While at times it describes forms of favoritism, at times it is used as a euphemism for corruption, or illegalism. ( Doron outlines how combina, similar to the concept of wasta, describes the connections that are often necessary but not sufficient for success. The interview closes on a discussion about different forms of corruption and how common they each are. Dorot outlines why many forms of street level corruption are rather uncommon in Israel, what role political institutions play, which trajectories he sees for the future of the Israeli state and what to learn of Israeli anti-corruption efforts. Pick of the pod When asked about literature on corruption, Doron recommends Paul Heywood’s Political Corruption: Problems and Perspectives ( And the work by Michael Johnston (see for example here: References Articles outlining the allegations against Netanyahu and the political support for him: Article on the corruption allegation and the election:
During his last visit to Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Matthew took the opportunity to interview Roberto de Michele (@rodemichele61) and Francesco De Simone, both Modernization of the State experts. As usual, the interview kicks off with providing some information on both interviewees’ background and motivation to do work on (anti-)corruption. The interview pursues to outline the four main clusters of anti-corruption work by the IDB: 1. financial integrity supporting countries with anti-money laundering tax transparency 2. governance in the extractive sector 3. control systems government oversight 4. open government access to information, open government partnership The three discuss how IDB standards can ensure progress in anti-corruption and what the track record of each assistance project has been. You can view the overview of all IDB projects on the website via The interview points out new challenges for anti-corruption such as targeted transparency and which procurement specifics can actually ensure that oversight continues beyond the point when public contract are awarded. The three discuss the challenges of how to measure success, touching on the difference between outputs vs. outcomes, and how it might makes sense to rely on intermediate outcomes that indicate that things are improving, e.g. number of bidders in public procurement as a sign of competition. Underlying the challenges to measure corruption, Roberto and Francesco mention a IDB workshop with experts on measurement of corruption, featuring research by Mitchell Seligson (see for an example paper on victimization surveys below) Roberto and Francesco also outline what they have learned in the last decade about anti-corruption that surprised them. The three discuss the IDB’s “Report of the Expert Advisory Group on Anti-Corruption, Transparency, and Integrity in Latin America and the Caribbean” (See link in references). They cover why it is both unusual and useful. They discuss the different ideas about incremental vs. big push policy reforms and more broadly discuss which academic research has been valuable to the work of IDB. In particular, they touch on Benjamin Olken’s work on how to measure corruption (see most famous paper in ref list) and Paul Lagunes work in Peru (to find out more about Paul’s great work, you can check out this previous episode of Kickback: The interview ends with Roberto’s and Francesco’s optimistic & pessimistic takes on corruption in South America. Francesco increasingly perceives himself in a pedagogical role emphasizing patience as anti-corruption is a long-term process, referring to the book The shame of the cities by Lincoln Steffens. References and further readings Engel, E., Noveck, B. S., Ferreira Rubio, D., Kaufmann, D., Lara Yaffar, A., Londoño Saldarriaga, J., Pieth, M., & Rose-Ackerman, S. (2018). Report of the Expert Advisory Group on Anti-Corruption, Transparency, and Integrity in Latin America and the Caribbean. Lagunes, P. (2018). Guardians of accountability: a field experiment on corruption and inefficiency in local public works. Available via: Olken, B. A. (2007). Monitoring corruption: evidence from a field experiment in Indonesia. Journal of political Economy, 115(2), 200-249. Seligson, M. A. (2006). The measurement and impact of corruption victimization: Survey evidence from Latin America. World Development, 34(2), 381-404. Full text available here: Steffens, L. (1904). The shame of the cities. McClure, Phillips & Company.
This week’s episode features Gary Kalman, the director of the US office of Transparency International in Washington. Work of the FACT coalition ( The FACT coalition has been pushing regulation on anonymous companies. One key element is beneficial ownership (check out our episode with Elise Bean). The principle is simple: When you register a company, you have to name the natural person who owns and controls the company. Gary mentions an example in which a person registered a company in the name of her cat Suki ( Beneficial Ownership Gary and Matthew then go on to discuss about legislation on beneficial ownership in the US in comparison to other countries such as the UK where the registry is public. Such a law may have an enormous impact. Gary mentions an example of an undercover operation carried out by the NGO Global Witness that tried to found a company in the name of a corrupt businessman. 12 out of 12 collaborated some of which from highly respected law firms in New York City (for more in the story Vision for Transparency International As Gary is the director of the new office of TI in Washington, Matthew asks him about his vision for TI. His top priorities are Illicit finance in the US as a facilitator for global corruption, trade based money laundering, issues around gatekeepers and supporting other anti-corruption institutions on issues like ‘revolving doors’. TI US is also going to comment on corruption within the US. He further discusses the role of partisanship. In the end Gary outlines a few more issues that anti-corruption efforts should focus on: - International trade issues - Whistleblower protection - Strengthening independent media Additional links Elise Bean’s book “Financial Exposure Carl Levin's Senate Investigations into Finance and Tax Abuse”: The FACT Coalition:
Comments (2)

mohsen fakhary

I think episode 0 is deleted or somehow have a problem. I cannot download it or listen to it while I downloaded episodes 1 and 2 successfully. BTW thank you for good content you provided!

Jul 10th

Tris Hicks

The common way to standardise is incidents per thousand which ‘disadvantages states like Wyoming over California’. Apparently. Otherwise an interesting topic with some insight into the complexity of measuring Criminal Justice

Feb 1st
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