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Project Blog The Role of Parliaments in Curbing Corruption at the Country Level

February 2017 news 

Anthony Stadden and Rick Stapenhurst are interviewed on MTV in Grenada (aired 10th January 2017) 

 

Dr Rasheed Draman appears on Ghana's Joy News, discussing the country's alleged parliamentary corruption scandal.

 

January 2017 update: The Role of Parliaments in Curbing Corruption at the Country Level

Professor Frederick Stapenhurst, Mr Anthony Mark Stadden, and Professor Louis M. Imbeau

It is widely recognized that corruption hinders development and, increasingly, that parliamentary oversight is an important determinant of corruption. Until now, little research had been undertaken at the country level on how parliamentary oversight is undertaken, which oversight mechanisms are effective or on how national parliaments interact with other anti-corruption stakeholders. 

Principal accomplishments to date include:

-          The development of a survey instrument, comprising approximately 40 open-ended and closed questions, for key informant interviews. This looks at issues relating to executive-legislative relations, the use and effectiveness of oversight tools and mechanisms (review of appointments; censure/confidence; veto power; dedicated oversight committees; question period/interpellations; supreme audit institutions; anti-corruption agencies; and ombuds offices); the influence of partisan politics; support services (research staff, libraries); interaction between civil society/think tanks and parliament; and ‘informal politics’. Protocols for focus groups have also been developed.

-          National partners have been identified and are assisting in field research: African Centre for Parliamentary Affairs; the Nigerian Institute of Legislative Studies; the Parliament of Trinidad & Tobago; the Research Department of the Parliament of Uganda; and UNDP in Myanmar. Having good, influential in-country partners is helping us not just complete field research but also helps promise broader impact of the results, at the country level.

-          Field work is near completion in two of the six target countries (Ghana and Nigeria) and is planned for January in Trinidad & Tobago. Data is currently being encoded and tabulated, and country case studies are being written.

 Prof. Stapenhurst's team meeting Grenada's Integrity Commission

Anthony Staddon with staff of the Parliament of Grenada

This project is one of eight British Academy-funded anti-corruption research projects, and you can see the main project page with full details of all awards and award holders here.

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September 2016 update: The Role of Parliaments in Curbing Corruption at the Country Level

It is widely recognized that corruption hinders development. Over the past decade, a growing body of research has demonstrated that parliamentary oversight is an important determinant of corruption. This view is based on a simple proposition: if parliaments can oversee government activity, then corruption will be reduced. Within this proposition is nested a second assumption: since financial oversight has long been the traditional cornerstone of accountability, effective oversight of public expenditure is an essential component of national anti-corruption strategies and programs. These propositions have been well tested and proven at the global and regional levels, including by this project’s research team but until now, little research had been undertaken at the country level on how parliamentary oversight is undertaken, which oversight mechanisms are effective or on how national parliaments interact with other anti-corruption stakeholders.

The objective of our research under the British Academy/DFID Anti-Corruption Evidence program is to address the gap in existing knowledge regarding the role of parliament in curbing corruption, and to develop practical policy advice for parliaments themselves and for anti-corruption assistance agencies such as the World Bank and DFID.

To date we have made very considerable progress regarding project implementation. Ethics clearance – not easy, given the subject matter! – has been received from l’universite Laval and is expected shortly from the University of Westminster.

A survey instrument, comprising approximately 40 open-ended and closed questions has been developed. It looks at issues relating to executive-legislative relations, the use and effectiveness of oversight tools and mechanisms (review of appointments; censure/confidence; veto power; dedicated oversight committees; question period/interpellations; supreme audit institutions; anti-corruption agencies; and ombuds offices);  the influence of partisan politics;  support services (research staff, libraries); interaction between civil society/think tanks and parliament; and ‘informal politics’. Protocols for focus groups were also developed.

Field work is near completion in two of the six target countries (Ghana and Nigeria) and is planned for December in Kenya. In each country, some 48 key informant interviews have taken place/are planned (12 with Members of Parliament (both governing and opposition parties)), parliamentary staff, civil society representatives and journalists. Data is currently being encoded and tabulated; thereafter, country case studies will be written.

It is too early to give even preliminary results, but a cursory view of the data suggests that while journalists and civil society in Ghana have at least some confidence in the role that the Ghanaian Parliament is playing in helping curb corruption, their counterparts in Nigeria have much lower levels of confidence in the National Assembly and seem to consider that the legislature is more part of the problem of corruption,

rather than as an effective part of the solution. In Ghana, the emerging results seem to point to a growing convergence between Parliament and Civil Society to increase the pressure on government to fight corruption.  While the parliamentary front is led mainly by elements from the opposition, there are some majority MPs who have joined hands with the opposition in this effort.  Interestingly, opposition MPs recently petitioned the Speaker of Parliament to recall Parliament to consider a motion to start impeachment proceedings against the President in an alleged bribery scandal.  The Speaker was compelled to recall Parliament from recess and even though he dismissed the motion in the early hours of the sitting, this was a 'first' in Ghana's democratic history.  The opposition has called on all MPs not to shirk their constitutional oversight responsibilities and to continue to pursue this matter once Parliament reconvenes in October.

(In parallel, as part of another research project (funded by the Canadian government) that some members of this research team are working on, an index of oversight is being developed. There is some synergy between the two projects, and most especially the results of the other project will allow the triangulation of data to help ensure validity of results of this project). 

In the first half of 2017, the field work in the remaining three countries (Tanzania, Myanmar and the Caribbean) will be undertaken and cross-country analysis undertaken. We expect testing of preliminary results to commence in the second half of the year; we are targeting the Wroxton Conference of Parliamentary Scholars and Practitioners, as the principal venue for feedback from legislative researchers and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Annual Meeting for feedback from MPs themselves.

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Initial thoughts

May 2016

As Ghana heads into a general election later this year, the media is increasingly focusing on the socio-economic problems facing Ghana, including the problem of corruption; indeed, barely a day goes by without the television broadcast of the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee holding public hearings.

Two of the team members (Rick Stapenhurst (Laval University) and Rasheed Draman (African Centre for Parliamentary Affairs) examining "How to Combat Corruption at the National Level" are currently in Ghana doing field research. To date, they have held nearly 50 key informant interviews, with Members of Parliament (MPs), parliamentary staff, civil society leaders and journalists. A de-brief meeting was also held with Nic Lee (DFID Governance Advisor) and members of the DFID-funded SAAC anti-corruption program in Ghana.

The research team's assistants are currently crunching the numbers - and, following analyses by the research team, a preliminary "zero draft" paper summarizing key findings will be sent to stakeholders for review and comment.

Earlier this year, Rick Stapenhurst made a presentation on parliamentary oversight in Trinidad & Tobago, another target country for this project; it can be seen on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrpRgKpgj-Y

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