Thursday, August 26, 2010

Defining Corruption

In case you missed the discussion at Aid Watch, Till Bruckner asked for some budgeting accountability, got the run around for 14 months, and finally a lot of blacked out information. USAID claims the blacked out stuff was chosen by the NGOs, from which Bruckner suggested the degree of blacked out info could be a measure of transparency. Scott Gillmore retorted that we don't really care about budgeting transparency, but results accountability. World Vision claimed that USAID did the blacking out, not them. In Bruckner's response is this gem on the definition of corruption
The aid industry has created a system that conveniently defines corruption so that expats can live a good life within the rules, whereas locals on far smaller salaries and with larger family commitments frequently get branded as corrupt for breaking these rules. In my experience, Afghan villagers do not share this narrow legalistic definition of corruption. When a project fails to deliver benefits to the poor, and the expat project manager at the same time lives a life of (locally) unimaginable luxury on designated poverty alleviation funds, villagers logically conclude that the project is failing due to corruption: instead of helping them as originally promised, the NGO is only helping itself. NGOs’ arrogant attitude – “we’re accountable by our own standards so we don’t need to tell you where the money goes” – does little to change this perception.
Commenter #1 says this describes Haiti perfectly.

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