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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?
50 Episodes
Diana Chigas is a professor of the practice of international negotiation and conflict resolution at The Fletcher School and also serves as aSenior International Officer and Associate Provost at Tufts University. Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church is a Professor of Practice in Human Security. Together, Diana and Cheyanne have been working on the topic of social norms of corruption (see references below). The interview covers why system analysis helps to capture the adaptive dynamics of corruption (more on this can also be found in this episode with M. Khan and P. Heywood: . The interview shows how understanding the social forces that sustain corrupt practices helps to identify useful entry points for policies. It highlights in particular the importance of understanding social norms of corruption. Importantly, social norms are the shared understandings of which practices are common and acceptable and therefore differ from attitudes and behavior, as Diana and Cheyanne outline (for more on this you can also listen to our interview with C. Bicchieri: The two further provide an overview of the concrete methodology that can be used to diagnose social norms, like systems analysis, vignettes and eview of previous attempts to fight corruption (for more see the reference list which also contains the paper on salary reforms in Ghana that is mentioned in the interview). References Paper on salary reforms among Police officers in Ghana: Foltz, J. D., & Opoku-Agyemang, K. A. (2015). Do Higher Salaries Lower Petty Corruption? a Policy Experiment on West Africa’S Highways. In IGC International Growth Centre (Vol. 53, Issue 9). Diana & Cheyanne’s joint work on corruption: Scharbatke-Church, C., & Chigas, D. (2016). Facilitation in the Criminal Justice System: A Systems Analysis of Corruption in the Police and Courts in Northern Uganda. Institute for Human Security Occasional Paper. Medford, MA: The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Scharbatke-Church, C., & Chigas, D. (2016). Taking the Blinders Off: Questioning How Development Assistance Is Used to Combat Corruption. Institute for Human Security Occasional Paper. Medford, MA: The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Scharbatke-Church, C., & Chigas, D. V. (2019). 11 Using systems thinking to understand and address corruption in the criminal justice system in fragile states. Corruption, Social Sciences and the Law: Exploration across the disciplines, 176. Scharbatke-Church, C., & Chigas, D. (2019). Understanding social norms: A reference guide for policy and practice. Work on social norms messaging: Cheeseman, N., & Peiffer, C. (2020). The unintended consequences of anti‑corruption messaging in Nigeria: Why pessimists are always disappointed. SOAS ACE working paper 024. London: SOAS University of London https://ace. soas. ac. uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/ACE-WorkingPaper024-NigeriaUnintendedConsequences-200608.pdf . Köbis, N., Troost, M., Brandt, C. and Soraperra, I. (2019). Social norms of corruption in the field: Social nudges on posters can help to reduce bribery. Behavioural Public Policy, 1-28. doi:10.1017/bpp.2019.37 Guide to Anti Corruption from a social norms perspective: Jackson, D., & Köbis, N. (2018). Anti-corruption through a social norms lens. U4 Issue, 2018(7).
This second interview with Gary Kalman (director of the US office of Transparency International) The interview starts discussing the recently passed Corporate Transparency Act and what that progress on the issue of Beneficial Ownership means for anti-corruption efforts in the US. Gary outlines the unique strategies they applied to make headway on the issue and whether this strategy is scalable to other anti-corruption efforts. Gary describes some of the next top priorities in TI’s advocacy work besides successfully implementing the Corporate Transparency Act in order to avoid loopholes. He mentions the importance of addressing the role of gatekeepers in the financial system, dealing with the demand side of international bribery, and providing safe havens for whistleblowers. Matthew and Gary discuss corruption risks revealed during the Trump administration, zeroing in on the firing of inspectors general and look ahead to the anti-corruption efforts of the Biden administration. They also discuss what the decreasing scores of the USA in the Corruption Perception Index means and whether political polarization increases or decreases trust towards politicians, as well as checks and balances against corruption. Work of the FACT coalition ( Gary and Matthew then go on to discuss 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 The FACT Coalition:…n-transparency
Eric Kinaga (@EricKinaga) is a Kenyan-born writer, social justice enthusiast, working for Transparency International Kenya ( and is the campaign coordinator for the Shule Yangu Campaign Alliance ( aiming to protect public schools via open data initiatives. On this podcast episode, we also welcome another “guest co-host”, Neil Sorensen, who is the Communications Specialist for Landportal ( an NGO committed to improving land governance through open-access data and cross-sectoral collaboration. The interview describes how Eric got interested in anti-corruption issues, how he got involved in the Shule Yangu Alliance, and what other civil-society run anti-corruption efforts can learn from the initiative. Eric outlines how open online databases can help to foster transparency to prevent land-grabbing and how marginalized groups can be included in the efforts to prevent land corruption. Eric describes the knowledge gaps that exist around the impact of naming rights of private schools and how to incentivize media outlets to cover the often complex land corruption issues. Documentaries mentioned by Eric: Documentaries by ShuleYangu Alliance on School Land Grabbing: Not My School: My School My Life: My School My Responsibility: Shule Yangu Digital Platforms: Website: OpenData Platform: SY Twitter Handle: SY Facebook Account: Papers on the importance of media freedom: Brunetti, A., & Weder, B. (2003). A free press is bad news for corruption. Journal of Public Economics, 87(7-8), 1801-1824. 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. Pick of the Podcast: Duncan Green - How change happens,
Lola Adekanye (@lola_kanye) is a Senior Program Officer, Africa at the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE). Her background in compliance and banking got Lola interested in development and ethics, a stopover at the World Bank. Lola describes CIPE’s work at the intersection of the private and public sector, using market-oriented reforms to tackle corruption, with the key goal: drive up the cost of corruption and drive up the cost of compliance. Lola describes joint work with the University of Sussex trying to get a better understanding why people do not engage in corruption. She also describes concrete ideas against corruption, such as the Compliance Clubs in Kenya that provide a support network for enterprises to do business without engaging corruption. The interview touches on how corruption in Subsaharan African is often a survival issue, listen to the short term reasons to develop long term solutions. They follow the principle of 3R consisting of: How to RESPOND to request of corruption by providing them with realistic alternatives RECORD the request and pass it on to the higher level REPORT the request in order to get an estimate of how often such payment request occur Lola describes the Ethics first project as an example for realistic ethics guidelines and cautions against short-term impact measures as change often takes time and requires institutionalization of ethics. Her advice for young scholars is crucial: stay in the game and don’t burn out by taking small steps towards improvement. Strengthening Ethical Conduct and Business Integrity: A Guide for Companies in Emerging Markets: Free Anti-Corruption online course:
We welcome President Obama's “ethics czar” Norm Eisen (@NormEisen) to our first episode of 2021. The interview kicks off with a discussion on what the past four years have revealed about the vulnerability and resilience of American political institutions. Norm weighs in on the Mueller investigation, impeachment and currently ongoing legal investigation against President Trump. Hear Norm’s advice on how to shift into a new administration when the previous one is accused of corruption and learn about Norm’s recommendations for improving the integrity of the institutions: a) by reducing conflict of interest that are also outlined in Obama’s new book and by b) increasing transparency. The interview ends on Norm outlining what the world has to offer as a teaching for anti-corruption, what, why anti-corruption needs to be anchor in the general theory and practice of democracy. References: - Book -> - Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) that Norm Eisen co-founded à - The Voter Protection Program (VPP) the nonpartisan initiative to ensure safe, fair, and secure electionsà - Obama’s new book, A Promised Land à
Doussouba Konaté (@DoussoubaKonate) is the Global Program Officer and Moussa Kondo (@Kondoba) is the Country director of Mali for the Accountability Lab (@AccountLab). The two outline how they both became interested in anti-corruption and accountability in Mali. They outline how the accountability lab applies a human-centric approach in the fight against corruption, one of the most famous example is the Integrity Icon project that is centered around the idea of “naming and faming honest government officials”. Doussouba also describes the Civic Action Team and how the Accountability Lab tackles fake news about COVID-19 by collecting fake news and using popular voices to provide factual information. The interview outlines how Accountability Lab tries to follow the disbursement of funds to relieve the COVID-19 pandemic. The two outline a briefly outline the link between the political situation in Mali and corruption. The interview also outlines why now is the time to think deeper about the recurring challenges in Mali, which reasons for hope exist and what the top-priorities are for anti-corruption measures in Mali. References: Integrity Icon project: Civic Action Team:
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
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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