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Understanding Success and Failure of Anti-Corruption Initiatives


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This paper focuses on the success and failure of anti-corruption initiatives; focusing mainly on those in developing countries. Through a review of extant evidence, it finds a very mixed picture within which there is widespread failure; albeit sometimes only partial failure. As a result, anti-corruption as a field can struggle to gain attention and resources among competing development initiatives. In reviewing that field we find that, while some progress has been made – for example in integrating risk assessments into programs and in learning from political economy analysis – there is little actual focus on the “missing middle”: the interventions themselves and how they can be made to work better. In analyzing those interventions, we argue that projects mostly fail because of over-large “design-reality gaps”; that is, too great a mismatch between the expectations built into their design as compared to on-the-ground realities in the context of their implementation. Successful initiatives find ways to minimize or close these gaps. Effective design and implementation processes enable gap closure and improve the likelihood of success.
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This is the post-peer-reviewed final draft version of the following article, which
should be used as the citation/reference:
Heeks, R. & Mathisen, H. (2012) Understanding success and failure of anti-corruption
initiatives, Crime, Law and Social Change, 58(5), 533-549
Understanding success and failure of anti-corruption initiatives
Richard Heeks, Director, Centre for Development Informatics, University of
Harald Mathisen, Senior Programme Coordinator, U4 Anti-Corruption Resource
Centre, Chr. Michelsen Institute,
This paper focuses on the success and failure of anti-corruption initiatives; focusing
mainly on those in developing countries. Through a review of extant evidence, it
finds a very mixed picture within which there is widespread failure; albeit sometimes
only partial failure. As a result, anti-corruption as a field can struggle to gain
attention and resources among competing development initiatives.
In reviewing that field we find that, while some progress has been made for example
in integrating risk assessments into programs and in learning from political economy
analysis there is little actual focus on the “missing middle”: the interventions
themselves and how they can be made to work better. In analyzing those
interventions, we argue that projects mostly fail because of over-large “design-reality
gaps”; that is, too great a mismatch between the expectations built into their design as
compared to on-the-ground realities in the context of their implementation. Successful
initiatives find ways to minimize or close these gaps. Effective design and
implementation processes enable gap closure and improve the likelihood of success.
Most anti-corruption initiatives in developing countries fail. This article sets out to
understand why that is, and what might be done about it. Our remedy does not consist
of a generic design approach that if applied will create success; it is precisely this
form of oversimplification and one-size-fits-all approach that lead interventions off
More needs to be done to map and understand the many reasons for failure of
conventional anti-corruption initiatives. While corruption can exist in all countries
and organizations and cannot be eliminated entirely, this article takes as its starting
point that through successful reforms it can be reduced or minimized to a certain
This investigation is inspired by Pritchett et al. [22], who argue of international
development interventions that “implementation remains conspicuously under-
appreciated, under-theorized and under-researched”, and suggest a realignment of our
focus from the theoretical to the practical, “intellectual heavy lifting in development is
thought to center on defining objectives, promoting goals, designing policies and
formulating strategies”. We want to take the focus back to the basics, to create solid
interventions, one by one, and from that scale up success rather then failure. Our
contribution is to suggest a move away from grand designs developed by technocrats
to a focus on interventions that have local fit and strategic fit in direct support of the
governance agenda.
This analysis is developed as follows. In the first sections we discuss the strategic
considerations we make and the tools we use to encourage reform, and we report on
the status of the fight against corruption globally. Our argument is that in the field of
anti-corruption, some progress has been, for example in integrating risk assessments
into programs and in learning from political economy analysis, but there is little actual
focus on the “missing middle”, the interventions themselves and how they can be
made to work better. In the second section we analyze those interventions, and argue
that projects mostly fail because of over-large “design-reality gaps”; that is, too great
a mismatch between the expectations built into their design as compared to on-the-
ground realities in the context of their implementation. Successful initiatives find
ways to minimize or close these gaps. Effective design and implementation processes
enable gap closure and improve the likelihood of success.
In defense of governance
Having worked directly with development agencies and their staff for many years the
authors see growing signs of doubt in the governance and anti-corruption agenda.
might seem overambitious, and too much is promised in terms of delivering aggregate
public goods like economic growth and stable democratic systems. The relative lack
of progress puts strain on practitioners and policy-makers alike and leads to soul
searching and self-flogging so intense that the overall goals of sustainable
development have become blurred. The interest in titles such as “an upside down view
of governance” [16] indicates that the very premise of the current development
paradigm on governance and anti-corruption is being challenged.
The governance reform agenda then, if not seen as an integral component of the
reinvigorated focus on results, outcomes and impact that is sweeping across the field,
might come to be substituted by reform initiatives where results are more easily
measurable. Now if governance; “addresses the very institutional underpinnings of
economic and political development” [10], and if one agrees that no country has
advanced without a functional level of governance, then great efforts should be made
to counter such a trend.
In charting a way forward we are not taking the traditional approach of suggesting the
introduction of new development actors, a greater focus on international aspects of
corruption, or that attending to the demand side of governance reforms will solve
most problems. Nor do we blame lack of political will or capacity constraints. The
The U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre assists donor practitioners in more effectively addressing
corruption challenges through development support utilizing extensive online resources, a helpdesk and
online as well as in-country training on anti-corruption measures. The University of Manchester's
Centre for Development Informatics has worked with government and other agencies on, among other
things, the use of informatics to address issues of corruption, transparency and accountability.
starting point is simple; anti-corruption is competitive: if successful it will create
losers, and the corrupt tend to fight back. But reform will also create winners and
opportunities for rent-seeking; most notably per diem practices and other small frauds,
and multiple opportunities related to contracting of technical assistance projects. What
is needed therefore is a strategic approach; one that creates success from the ground
up, and scales up based on results that all stakeholders can relate to, thus promoting
sustainable interventions.
The challenge then is to find out how we can get a more meaningful return on the
heavy investments made into governance reform.
The fight against corruption a status report
What can we say about the status of anti-corruption initiatives? In some ways, it
seems, relatively little, as far too few resources are spent on learning from
interventions, and little is understood about the factors that make them happen. Very
few careful reviews and evaluations are available, and seldom does their focus go
beyond one locality, thus precluding wide-ranging conclusions. That said, the aim is
not to create a catalogue of intervention that we can superimpose onto any country or
reform process one size does not fit all.
Even the most basic M&E practices are not adhered to; such as collecting meaningful
baseline data that would enable us to track progress over time. As a result there is a
tendency to measure processes in the form of the functional effectiveness of the
initiatives themselves, and never their impact on governance overall. Moving to check
for intended results is obviously more costly and complicated,
but as it stands the
suspicion is that such an exercise is avoided as it may document outright failure [21].
Another set of arguments may stand in defense of current interventions, i.e. a
recognition that reform processes may take decades to take hold, as they are chipping
away at the margins of a major societal problem hence calls for timelines and
expectations to be adjusted so that capacities can be built and transformed.
The limited research that has been carried out has a typical chronology: initial claims
of success for initiatives are later scaled-back to tell a less positive story. From the
early optimism of the Independent Hong Kong Anti Corruption Commission a
number of shortcomings are now evident with the formal oversight institutions. While
Anti-Corruption Agencies are the most prominent area for support, they have, “with
one or two exceptions, been a disappointment” [31]. The same pattern emerges from
an overview of the literature on Rule of Law-based initiatives: they are quite simply
lamented [25].
Claims about the support for anti-corruption offered by civil society and the media
should also be handled with caution. In the 1990s, such support was seen as an
essential means to boost demand for good governance. But latterly, this type of
support is itself seen to often face serious integrity challenges [28]. Its impact is now
more contested and some research warns us that such a focus can backfire, especially
On transparency and accountability initiatives alone thousands of projects are in operation [18].
Anti-corruption measures are seldom amendable to impact evaluation with randomized control
where state capacities and legitimacy are contested [27]. Some claim that attempts to
create demand for good governance from below have fared better, i.e. when people
are given the tools to provide oversight over the processes that affect their livelihoods.
For example, Reinikka and Svensson [23] report the positive experience of doing
public expenditure tracking surveys and providing access to information in Uganda
Yet here, too, there are concerns, with others reporting that the progress was made
due to better control and management from the center [14], or that results are not so
positive in other contexts [26]. McGee & Gaventa’s [18] very comprehensive review
of the impact and effectiveness of accountability projects gives a mixed picture,
where evidence on impact is uneven, and “still remarkably sparse”.
Within the governance field most resources are used to improve the key functions of
the state: effective public sector management and public financial management. While
faring better than most other reform areas, such nationwide reforms are often
embedded in large national anti-corruption plans which are weakly coordinated, have
no matching resource base, and lack credible implementation strategies. Often
progress slides back and overall most analysts conclude that anti-corruption policies
in most countries “have not been overly successful” [15]. The World Bank IEG’s
evaluation notes: “Indirect measures to reduce public sector corruption, such as
simplifying procedures and regulations, moving to e-government, and rationalizing
and improving human resources management, were more successful. Even in these
latter areas, however, there were weaknesses related to lack of diagnostic tools, poor
tailoring of proposals to the specific situation on the ground, and therefore a lack of
realism in terms of sequencing, speed and comprehensiveness of reform proposals:
they tended to be too ambitious and thus exceeded the governments’ capacities to
implement.” [34].
At the aggregated level a recent analysis funded by key aid providers on the impact of
their interventions, covering five countries, reports mixed success and questions
whether donor efforts have made a positive overall impact in reducing corruption. The
report goes on to speculate on the degree to which donors have fuelled rather the
reduced corruption given the large sums of money being poured into sector work [17].
In line with these findings Mutebi [19] concludes “there is mounting evidence that
anti-corruption policies and mechanisms … often fail, and at times fail miserably.” In
Africa international anti-corruption efforts, are deemed to be “a failure” [7]. For other
regions the Control of Corruption Indicator
, which is included in the World Bank
global survey of governance, shows that the same pattern is true for most regions. A
time series from 1996-2010, shows overall stagnation, and puts Sub-Saharan Africa at
the bottom, which underlines the failure given that most resources have been invested
in this region.
Capitation grants reaching schools went up from 22% to 80% as a result from a nationwide
transparency and local engagement program.
Bad news travels fast but some sporadic success stories do exist, mostly in working
with specific sectors, e.g. health and business, education, and financial management
And in defense of current anti-corruption interventions progress has been made
in the following ways:
Awareness and knowledge has deepened, and diagnostic tools have improved,
thus making conversations about corruption a taboo only in a handful of cases.
International and national legal frameworks (conventions) have been
International and transnational aspects of corruption such as illicit capital
flight and money laundering are more in the limelight.
Promising long-term reforms of public institutions are underway in a great
number of countries.
An understanding has developed that the demand side of reforms in general
and in civil society in particular can play a vital role if linked to supply side
But we still lack solid knowledge and understanding on how to mainstream anti-corruption into sector
There is greater recognition of the importance of collaborations and
partnerships (Paris & Accra).
Overall, then, we can say that there is a mixed picture, but with widespread (though
sometimes only partial) failure. Unfortunately, these past anecdotes of success and
failure seem contradictory, and the many contested notions lead to endless and indeed
fruitless discussions and take our focus away from learning how to create successful
interventions. A first step will be diagnosis understanding some of the key causes of
implementation problems.
We have a problem - do we have an agreed way forward?
Within rather limited and mixed evidence, then, we see a fairly consistent pattern of
shortcomings in anti-corruption initiatives. This perceived weakness is causing great
difficulties for those who work on anti-corruption within development agencies. They
have to justify the resources used for “soft” interventions and compete for funds with
high-profile campaigns that promote hardware like bed nets and vaccines, or advocate
revolutionary solutions like property rights for all. The donor community’s
preoccupation with results and reporting thus reinforces the competitive disadvantage
of anti-corruption work. Not being able to show short-term impact of interventions is
likely to make the advocates for long-term governance reform expendable.
Anti-corruption is also highly controversial among those who offer support in this
area, with tensions arising between the prevention and enforcement communities. The
lack of measurable results from preventive-type activities has pushed the enforcement
community into the limelight. They are being given more resources and media
coverage, and have been encouraged to develop alternative strategies that more
aggressively pursue a global enforcement agenda focused on issues like illicit capital
flight, asset forfeiture and recovery all expected by the World Bank [33] to “yield
higher-end results”.
We welcome these new additions to the toolbox in the fight against corruption, but
want to reform the way in which the more traditional measures of technical assistance,
capacity building and demand-side interventions for governance can be made to work
better. The lack of results achieved thus far should spur better engagement, not less.
As development interventions of all types fail with some regularity, why then expect
more from governance and anti-corruption interventions? The reasons for these
persistent failures are multifaceted, but basic political economics holds the most
salient overall explanation: few if anyone in a position of power and benefiting from
corruption would like to see the opportunities for extraction reduced.
For them
reform and plunder are antithetical [24].
Good execution means better understanding of key context-specific factors that affect
implementation. These include: the degree to which corruption practices are accepted
at the local level; how petty corruption is a part of grand systemic corruption
networks; the interplay of formal and informal institutions; etc.
For a well argued critique of principal agent theory as the dominant paradigm on anti-corruption, see
One example of not understanding local power structures well comes from an
insightful study of the efforts to curb corruption in the Uganda Revenue Authority
(URA), Fjeldstad [9] argues that the technocratic remedies supported by donors have
underplayed the degree to which progress in tax administration depends upon a
thorough ‘cultural change’ in the public service. Fjeldstad shows that the motives of
individual actors are often inextricably tied to the interests of the social groups to
which they belong. In the URA, he argues, patronage runs through networks grounded
on ties of kinship and community origin. As such, people recognize the benefits of
large extended families and strong kinship ties, even as their social and economic
aspirations may be indisputably modern. This implies that such social relations may
undermine formal bureaucratic structures and positions. If these problems, which are
rooted in social norms and patterns of behavior rather than in administrative features,
are overlooked, the result may be to distort incentives. As a consequence, the
government's commitment to reforming the tax administration may also be
undermined. However, such local factors are often overlooked, and there is still a
tendency for anti-corruption programs to be “one-size-fits-all”.
Not understanding local power structures and making prescription without proper
diagnosis is exacerbated by the international development community being at odds
with itself over which key strategic directions to take when proposing interventions,
like whether:
Corruption must be eradicated through in-depth reforms in all sectors <=> A
selective approach that focuses on creating success through discrete
interventions and building from the positive momentum created.
High-level political will is an absolute precondition for success of an anti-
corruption strategy or intervention <=> An analysis of the context, of
competition, and of incentives for reform by key stakeholders, thus finding
entry points at lower levels.
Technical solutions working under the radar of corrupt government officials
have a greater chance of succeeding <=> Corruption is a political problem and
demands political solutions, hence a more confrontational strategy.
The public must be sensitized and convinced that corruption is evil <=> A
focus on building the legitimacy of the state and key institutions through
making real changes in the daily lives of the population.
These tensions over key strategic choices have themselves been problematic, though,
in directing attention away from the nitty-gritty of interventions. More generally, and
for some of the reasons already identified, most discussions in development circles
tend to regress to a common pattern: donors blame the government, governments
blame donors, and non-state actors blame everyone excluding themselves!
Analysis of the critical aid literature, and several SWOT exercises conducted on anti-
corruption initiatives during U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre training sessions
also reflects this pattern.
Table 1: Reasons given for the failure of anti-corruption interventions.
Mistakes typically
attributed to
Mistakes typically
attributed to
Mistakes shared
between donors and
- Reforms reduced to
technical changes in
“governance”, based
on principal-agent
theory, politics of
reform overlooked
- Corruption perceived
as a generic problem
recommendations vary
little from one society
to another
- Approaches imposed
from outside
- Time frames for
change are unrealistic:
focus on immediate
over meaningful
- Incentives to change
are not addressed
- Overambitious
- Lack of context
- Over funding and
pressure to disburse
- Reluctance to
intervene in domestic
[political] affairs
- Weak accountability
of donors to partners,
- Over-reliance on
NGOs - to the
detriment of both state
institutions and
- Too little attention on
the “supply side” –
developed country
- Lack of political will
- Lack of local
- Unrealistic, no
resources attached
- Plans being
laundry list of reforms
- Fragmentation and
depletion of
- Failure to
- Failure to deliver
quick wins
- Too dependent on
law enforcement
- Targeting only
middle ranking
- Inadequate focus on
- Defensiveness and lack of
- Poor supervision of
- Poor coordination
- Tendency to rely on
external experts
- Corruption and
governance seen as a
“sector” and not
- Focus on just one reform
area (like Anti-Corruption
The intensity of the debates and the very different perspectives reflected show more
than anything the deep mutual distrust that lurks beneath pronouncements of
partnership and mutual accountability. It shows how anti-corruption is clearly a
competitive business; it creates winners and losers and is therefore highly political.
The other striking finding is the lack of attention paid to the anatomy of the
interventions themselves: blame appears far more readily attached to stakeholders
than to processes. The weak knowledge base has turned prescriptions into a weak list
of principles for what not to do, or to a factor approach that provides a checklist of
components or actions that should supposedly be included within all anti-corruption
initiatives. The most often repeated recommendation is to avoid a one-size-fits-all
approach (e.g. [5], [15], [32], [35]). But how can we find a way through this
conundrum, taking robust and generic findings into account, yet simultaneously being
sensitive to individual anti-corruption initiatives and to local circumstances?
The remainder of this article is devoted to the core issue that to date seems to have
been ignored the interventions themselves. As noted above, so much attention seems
to have been devoted to the “top and tail” of corruption – to its causes and its effects
and/or has degenerated into a quasi-ideological set of arguments and “blame games”.
What has disappeared from the spotlight and which we wish to bring back is the
heart of anti-corruption: the practical mechanisms for fighting it [35]. It is to these and
their role in implementation that we now turn.
The design-reality gap model
Beyond the rationales and reasons given above, the failure of anti-corruption
initiatives is often seen as “by and large the result of an implementation problem”
[20]. But part of the problem has often begun well before implementation; inscribed
into the design of these initiatives. Anti-corruption reforms are part of a more general
global diffusion of knowledge and ideas, of skills and techniques, of technologies
and tools from perceived epicenters in the industrialized world to transitional and
developing economies. So even though modernization theory with its belief that
development progresses by transferring a cookie-cutter set of institutional reform
models from global North to global South supposedly fell from favor four decades
ago, we find its mentality still very much alive.
Such standardized transfers are problematic because through their designs they
carry with them parts of the world from which they came. All anti-corruption designs
contain within them an inscribed “world-in-miniature” which we may call
requirements or assumptions or expectations about the context into which the
initiative is going to be deployed. This includes inscriptions about the technology that
will be available; about the values that people will have; about organizational culture;
about work processes and structures; and so forth.
Of course, if these design expectations matched the realities of the deployment
context, implementation would run smoothly. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case.
Design expectations do not draw directly, or even predominantly, from the world of
the actors who deploy and use the anti-corruption initiative, but from the world of the
designer, which conditions the perceptions of the designer about the world of the user.
Gaps therefore arise between the design expectations built into anti-corruption
initiatives, and the reality of the context of deployment, as summarized in Figure 1.
We have already noted examples of this in the IEG’s identification of “poor
tailoring of proposals to the specific situation on the ground”, in the failure to
understand local power structures in the case of the URA, and in the lack of realism
noted in a number of issues raised in Table 1.
Figure 1: Design-reality gaps in anti-corruption initiatives
In reviewing these and other initiatives and their outcomes we see that, the larger the
gap between design and reality, the greater the risk of failure [11] [12]. This pattern is
confirmed by an analysis of several capacity-building projects: “project recipients and
other interested parties recognize immediately the difference between a project that
has got to grips with what the problems really are and is genuinely trying to make a
difference and one that completely misses the point, or is simply off-the-shelf, or
going through the motions, or just fashion conscious” [3]. One key question is
therefore; how can the nature of local fit i.e. the gap between design vs. reality be
A variety of checklists could be used. Here we offer a checklist of seven ‘ITPOSMO’
dimensions, which have been developed and tested on a series of cases in developing
countries, including anti-corruption initiatives, and found to cover the key features of
such initiatives [12] [13]. They are: Information (both formal and informal),
Technology (mainly information technology), Processes (from individual tasks to
broader business processes), Objectives and values (covering formal strategies and
personal goals, and the influence of informal institutional forces), Staffing and skills
(the quantitative and qualitative aspects of competencies), Management systems and
structures (the formal aspects of organization), and Other resources (especially time
and money).
For each of the dimensions in turn, either an individual or a group of initiative
stakeholders can analyze two things. First the reality relating to that dimension within
the deployment context. Second, the assumptions and requirements relating to that
dimension that are built into the initiative design. Any differences could be discussed
qualitatively. But it can be helpful to convert the assessed gap between design and
reality on each dimension into a numerical rating. For example, one could use a scale
from zero to ten on which:
Design Context
Initiative Design
Reality of
0 would indicate no discrepancy between design and reality
5 would indicate some degree of difference between design and reality
10 would indicate complete and radical difference between design and reality.
Experience from past projects suggests that adding up the rating numbers for all seven
ITPOSMO dimensions offers an estimate of the likelihood of either total or partial
failure, as shown in Table 2 [12]. (Of course, there is no exact calibration here; hence
the value of moving to inter-subjectivity by use of group ratings and discussion.)
These ratings can be used to guide risk assessment and change management for
individual projects, or used to prioritize between different projects on the basis of risk.
Table 2: Design-reality gap ratings and project risks
Likely Outcome
57 - 70
The anti-corruption initiative will almost certainly fail totally unless action is taken
to close design-reality gaps.
43 - 56
The anti-corruption initiative may well fail totally unless action is taken to close
design-reality gaps.
29 - 42
The anti-corruption initiative might fail totally, or might well be a partial failure
unless action is taken to close design-reality gaps.
15 - 28
The anti-corruption initiative might be a partial failure unless action is taken to close
design-reality gaps.
0 - 14
The anti-corruption initiative may well be successfully implemented.
For example, a democracy initiative was proposed in West Africa with the intention
of reducing fraud and making the electoral process more transparent [4]. The gap
between design and ex-ante reality was analyzed using the ITPOSMO dimensions,
with the result as shown in Table 3.
Table 3: Design-reality gaps analysis example: West African electoral
Inscribed Expectations in Design
Reality of Deployment
Information would consist of the
traditional set of constituency results,
but flowing between different start and
end points
Information content as
per design, but with
different information
The presence of an electronic
scoreboard at national headquarters plus
around 350 networked PCs, one in each
constituency office
No HQ scoreboard; no
PCs in constituency
offices; most have faxes;
a few have no phone or
A new process of decentralized
reporting, by which results could be
Faxing to regional NEC
directors; then fax on to
declared in constituencies, then sent
direct from constituencies to the central
headquarters of the National Election
Commission (NEC). (Voting process
design no different to current reality.)
NEC HQ; constituencies
not allowed to declare
their own results.
Objectives and
Elections should be determined on fair
and rational grounds
Only a few overt hints of
resistance to these values
e.g. from staff at district
level, but attitude of
highest levels unclear
Staffing and
The presence of various technology
installation skills prior to election, and
of data entry skills and network
operation and maintenance skills at
election time
Only half the required
number of IT staff
available; no staff with
data entry skills
systems and
The usual hierarchical management
structures of the National Election
Commission; regional and district
offices administer election but not
As per design except for
results role of
regional/district offices
20 million US$ to be available to cover
total costs; two-year timescale for
Money available; time
not available
The overall gap rating total for the designed project was 36, suggesting according to
Table 2 the possibility of partial or even total failure unless action was taken. In
actual fact, the initiative was a partial failure due to the inability to close gaps by
making the necessary changes to reality (especially the changes to technology, skills
and process redesign) within the available time, so that only small parts of the system
were operational for the election.
The externality of anti-corruption initiative designers
Anti-corruption initiatives can be designed by many different groups, but a common
pattern is for designers to be, in some way, external to the context of deployment and
use. These externalities can take different forms. For example, there may be a
“disciplinary externality” when the designer is drawn from a different work domain to
that of the main implementers, such as a legal rather than public management
background or unit. The designer will characteristically have a different educational
background, a different departmental culture, even a different “language” from those
who are supposed to adopt the new initiative.
As noted above, there is also the “country externality” that arises when the design is
taken from a different national context to that of the users. For example, Doig et al.
[8] speak of Africa being “carpet-bombed” with an anti-corruption commission model
drawn from Hong Kong; a model designed within and for an entirely different set of
resources and an entirely different set of “prevailing political, social and economic
conditions” to the reality found in Africa.
In these situations designers will, wittingly or unwittingly, inscribe aspects of their
design context into the anti-corruption initiatives. They may try to incorporate
elements of local reality into the design as well. However, as Figure 1 indicates, these
are assumptions, and assumptions are not necessarily an accurate reflection of reality.
In one South Asian Planning Ministry, for instance, a system was introduced to help
make budgeting decisions more transparent [1]. An overseas consultant led a design
team who inscribed a set of assumptions about the processes and culture of the
Ministry into the system, including the assumption that decision-making about project
and program budgets was formal, open and rational. In reality, decision-making in the
Ministry had quite different qualities it was informal, closed, and highly politicized
and this design-reality mismatch compromised the system being able to function
The image portrayed is that shown in Figure 2; of the “rotten coconut”. On the
outside, the organization appears to adhere to “hard”, rational management norms.
But there was a politicized (and corrupt) inner reality driven by quite different
informal institutional values. The designers stood on the outside, from different
disciplines, from outside the Ministry and led by a foreigner. Where they did engage
with Ministry staff, the interaction was within the public discourse of organizational
rationality, talking only about the “shell” of the coconut not the fruit inside, and thus
designing a fiction that bore little relation to the true functioning of the organization.
Figure 2: The context of deployment as “rotten coconut”
Three design-reality gap outcomes
Using the model offered above, we could classify anti-corruption initiatives as
typically falling into one of three design-reality gap outcomes. Some have a small
design-reality gap right from the start. Because of the small gap, there is a small risk
of failure, and a significant likelihood of successful implementation. However,
because the design is not very different from the pre-existing reality, it makes little
change to that reality, and so has relatively little impact on corruption. For example,
some Indian government e-transparency projects have merely automated a few parts
This is dubbed isomorphic mimicry by Pritchett et al. [22]: the ability of an organisation to sustain
legitimacy through imitation of the forms of modern institutions without their functionality.
of their existing service processes (an approach Michael Hammer refers to as “paving
the cowpaths” and which others, more crudely, call “putting lipstick on the face of a
pig”). Those projects worked – their design was little different to previous reality
but they have made little difference to the number of citizens who must pay a bribe in
order to get service [2].
The converse is a project that starts with a large gap between design and reality. One
outcome is that this gap remains large, and the project therefore fails in some way.
Both the West African and the South Asian examples cited above fall into this
outcome category.
However, anti-corruption initiatives with large initial gaps do not always end in
failure. They may find a way during implementation to close those gaps, and
achieve success. This might mean changing the design to bring it closer to existing
reality; for example by reducing the scope and ambition of the project. It will almost
certainly mean changing the reality to bring it closer to the design: that is what
implementation invariably involves. Or it may mean a combination of these two.
Anti-corruption reforms within Bolivia’s National Tax Service provide an example of
a large design-reality gap successfully handled [35]. These reforms were ambitious,
requiring changes on all of the ITPOSMO dimensions in order to combat widespread
fraud. Steady changes over a number of years gradually closed the gaps by bringing
reality in line with design expectations: different data was gathered on taxpayers; old
and absent information technology was updated; the process for making tax payments
was streamlined; more than 80% of staff were replaced and their skill sets were
expanded; and so on. This steady gap closure created a new system that worked, with
the level of tax evasion and the proportion of tax refunds (a key source of fraud) both
significantly reduced.
Designing successful anti-corruption initiatives
Design of successful anti-corruption initiatives (meaning those which are successfully
implemented: the extent of their success in combating corruption depends on their
design objectives) requires us to pay attention to the “who” and “how” of the design
process. It is by this means that we can try ensure initiative design is more
appropriate to contextual realities; a judgment that can be made during the
implementation process by using the ITPOSMO gap rating approach described above.
One key will be the extent to which designers are truly exposed to the realities of the
deployment context. Good practice approaches to reality diagnostics are varied. For
instance, some projects use soft systems methodologies including tools such as rich
pictures, which map out the true nature of processes and interests. Other projects use
embedding and participation. For example, when the Sri Lankan State Accounts
Department decided to introduce a more transparent approach to publication of
financial statements, enabled by the Web [6], it required the long-term presence of
design consultants working alongside Departmental staff. This enabled the designers
to move beyond the “discourse of rationality” to a closer contextual understanding. It
also enabled greater staff participation in processes of design and implementation,
thus widening the foundation of inter-subjectivity on which to judge the
appropriateness of that design.
The profile of designers and key users also matters. One valuable profile found on
successful anti-corruption initiatives is the “hybrid” who straddles design and reality,
by understanding something of both worlds: understanding both how to design and
how to fit such design to actual experience from the particular reality concerned.
Examples include designers previously employed by the user agency, or users with
experience of consulting on and implementing anti-corruption systems in other
These actions exposing realities, embedding, participation, use of hybrids are all
ways to help ensure that elements far-removed from local realities do not creep into
anti-corruption design. They could usefully be included when drafting ToRs for anti-
corruption projects. However, design-reality gaps may still be large due to the
ambition of the initiative. Factors discussed above like donor politics or government
timescales may prevent this being altered. But in some cases, designers have found
ways to break the project down into more “bite-sized” chunks. While the ambition of
the whole is not lost, within each individual component design-reality gaps are
sufficiently small to make successful implementation more likely.
The Bolivian tax reform cited above did this in two ways [35]. It was incremental:
taking at least five years to make the necessary changes to reality. Had it adopted a
“big bang” approach that sought to make these changes rapidly, failure would have
been likely. It was also modular: designing three smaller, separate initiatives one for
each part of the tax service rather than attempting a single, one-size-fits-all design.
As such we should not make the mistake of saying that implementation processes are
unimportant. Rather the design and implementation processes must be seen in
When addressing design-reality gap closure, all the ITPOSMO dimensions are
important. But six of them ITPSMO are largely technocratic matters. Put another
way, if their design-reality gaps are sufficiently small or can be sufficiently closed,
then they will enable the anti-corruption initiative to be successfully implemented.
But they will not drive the initiative to succeed. For that, the real objectives and
values of key stakeholders must match the design requirements; and a key almost
always implicit design requirement is the one from political economy already
identified: that powerful stakeholders must want corruption to be reduced and have
the personal impetus and political will to make that happen.
The middle “O” dimension of objectives and values which encompasses both
politics and culture is therefore the most important; explaining why so much
attention has recently been paid to the acknowledgement, analysis and handling of
politics and culture in anti-corruption initiatives (e.g. [5], [29]).
In this study we have taken the pulse on the fight against corruption. After two
decades of trial and error the pressure is on the reformers to show results and positive
impact. Our contribution is a call for a return to the basics, the level of
implementation. Closing design-reality gaps will, above all, unlock the door to
success. So to get the focus back on positive outcomes and sustainable interventions
the status of those who design and manage interventions every day must be lifted to
match the star status of those who think big on policy and overall strategy.
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... Literature suggests that there is an association between corruption risk and the concentration level of suppliers of goods and services regarding the provision to the state (Heeks, 2011;Open Government Partnership, 2020;Søreide, 2002;Telles, 2017). Thus, it is expected that State figures (Central, Regional, or Local), which are more dependent on certain suppliers, tend to be more likely to generate 'political rents' (which are excessive amounts of expenditure in relation to the derived social utility). ...
... This section presents the results obtained with the MAD methodology on corruption risk. The methodology is suitable when the number of observations is limited and it is consistent with other relevant literature (Heeks, 2011;Søreide, 2002;Telles, 2017). Table 4 depicts the relevance of minor contracts in the four deputations in 2018-2021. ...
... To measure the corruption risk in local public procurement, this paper proposes several indicators of concentration concerning minor contracts, such as of the number of contracts, amount, and suppliers. The link between concentration and higher corruption risk is suggested by literature (Heeks, 2011;Søreide, 2002;Telles, 2017). ...
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Corruption and inefficiency of public funds pose a risk in public administrations. This paper analyses the corruption risk at the local level by analysing indicators of public procurement contracts in four deputations of Galicia (Spain). In addition, the pandemic has created opportunities to increase this risk and the misuse of public funds given the need to act quickly. Therefore, the study analyses whether the Covid crisis led to significant changes in expenditure in the four deputations and whether it involves a higher use of minor contracts, an award procedure without publicity or bidding, which has been found as increasing corruption risk.
... Masyarakat dapat membangun suatu paradigma mandiri dalam rangka membela dan mengadvokasi hak-haknya yang terlanggar akibat praktik korupsi bersama dengan paralegal melalui akronim ITPOSMO, yang merupakan singkatan dari: I yang kaitannya dengan "informasi" atas praktik korupsi yang dilakukan dan dampkanya terhadap masyarakat; T yang berarti "teknologi", di mana masyarakat dapat memanfaatkan berbagai macam kanal media sosial dan media massa untuk mempelajari ilmu hukum yang tidak pernah dipelajari sebelumnya ; P yang berarti "proses", menunjukkan adanya derivasi isu dari individu terhadap kelompokkelompok yang sadar dan termobilisasi secara alamiah untuk mengadvokasi hak masyarakat; O yang berarti "objektif ", mengumpulkan banyak data secara aktual, dengan pendekatan kajian dan eksaminasi atas informasi tersebut sehingga tujuan dari pengawalan dari proses kebijakan publik dan penggunaan anggaran tidak terjebak praktik korptif; S yang berarti "skill", dibutuhkan kemampuan dan teknik serta kompetensi dalam rangka pengawasan praktik koruptif; M yang berarti "manajemen", perlu membuat struktur organisasi secara mandiri sehingga gerakkan yang dilakukan rapi dan terarah; dan O yang terakhir adalah "olah sumber daya lain", khususnya meningkatkan kesadaran masyarakat sipil secara swadaya dalam membiayai proses perjuangan dan pengawalan dari praktik koruptif dengan sungguh-sungguh (Richard, 2012). ...
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Masyarakat mitra adalah Warga RT 07, RW 04, Kel. Morokrembangan, Kec. Krembangan, Kota Surabaya. Pengurus RT setempat menghadapi ancaman dan tantangan terhadap praktik korupsi dan nir-akuntabilitas yang terjadi di sekitar mereka, salah satunya terkait dengan praktik pencaloan dan administrasi kependudukan. Program pengabdian kepada masyarakat ini berusaha memberi bekal bagi masyarakat mitra untuk memiliki kemampuan paralegal yang memperkenalkan konteks UU Tindak Pidana Korupsi, UU Administrasi Kependudukan, serta Peraturan Daerah yang membahas terkait administrasi kependudukan serta potensi korupsi dan maladministrasi kebijakan publik lainnya. Program pengabdian kepada masyarakat ini dimaksudkan untuk memahami peran pemberantasan korupsi sebagai entitas masyarakat sipil untuk pola pengawasan praktik maladministrasi kependudukan. Pendekatan yang dilakukan dalam implementasi program paralegal adalah penyusunan kurikulum sesuai kebutuhan masyarakat mitra, analisis dan observasi, pendidikan paralegal, live in/ kegiatan monitoring, dan evaluasi. Luaran dari penelitian ini adalah Jurnal Terakreditasi Sinta-2, artikel pada media massa cetak/elektronik, video kegiatan, dan laporan pengabdian masyarakat. Pelatihan paralegal diharapkan mampu meningkatkan partisipasi masyarakat untuk menjadi pengawal (watchdog) agar pengawasan dan bahkan pelaporan terjadinya korupsi masyarakat di Kota Surabaya semakin meningkat, serta terwujudnya komitmen anti-korupsi berbasis komunitas.
... Law enforcement cooperation in international relations has proven to be very decisive for the success of national law enforcement against the potential for corruption of international aid funds as part of international crimes [25]. The success of these law enforcers in general will not be a reality if there are no bilateral or multilateral agreements in the surrender of criminals or cooperation in investigations, prosecutions and trials [19]. ...
... Consequently, a lot of efforts have been invested in developing ICT-based anti-corruption measures in different countries as a means of minimising corruption by increasing access to information (Lodge & Stirton, 2001). Although there has been considerable success, there have also been several failed attempts to use ICTs in fighting public sector corruption (Heeks, 2003;Heeks & Mathisen, 2012;Nawi et al., 2011). Examples of failed attempts include the computer-aided Administration of Registration Department (CARD), a registration system in the state of Andhra Pradesh (Prakash & De', 2007); Pancha Tantra online in Karnataka, India (Bhatnagar, 2014); and "Not in My Country" (NIMC) project, in Ugandan universities (Hellström & Bocast, 2013). ...
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Many digital anti-corruption tools have not performed well in practice due to their non-alignment with forms of corruption they are supposed to fight against, the persistence of corruption-enabling conditions, activities, and procedures where it occurs, public sector areas where it occurs, anti-corruption principles and conceptual aspects of corruption. This paper aims to fill this gap with an alternative typology of digital anti-corruption in the public sector that helps to decide what digital measures to apply to fight against specific forms of corruption or address specific corruption-enabling conditions within given areas, activities and procedures in the public sector. The main objective of this paper was to highlight anti-corruption typologies and propose an alternative typology for digital anti-corruption. The proposed typology integrates theoretical constructs from the typology of anti-corruption policies and the TASP framework augmented with digital technologies. It includes six main components: categories of digital technologies, forms of corruption, activities and procedures, public sector areas, anti-corruption principles, and conceptual aspects of corruption. The study developed a typology by adhering to the “good” typology blueprint, which involves limiting the scope, defining concepts, and synthesising findings. By scoping review methods, the study identified various digital anti-corruption technologies relevant to the public sector’s corruption and anti-corruption measures. The paper contributes to existing anti-corruption typologies by proposing a multi-dimensional typology focusing on digital anti-corruption that enhances anti-corruption measures. The typology prescribes effective digital anti-corruption solutions for different corruption scenarios like job appointment and promotion based on connections and inflating public payroll with names of non-existent workers. The typology will provide policymakers, adopters of technical solutions and managers of adopting organisations with information to improve the development, design, adoption, and use of digital anti-corruption in the public sector. The typology is grounded in research and policy literature and validated using real-life examples.
... Considering the specifics of Canadian cyber legislation and the peculiarities of public administration in this area, most scientists agree that the Canadian public authorities are making great efforts to change the law, modernize the powers of law enforcement agencies and ensure such an order that makes it impossible to evade legislation by criminal actions in cyberspace [11,12]. ...
... Daar word baie klem geplaas op politieke wil 1 en voldoende ondersteuning sodat teenkorrupsiestrategieë doeltreffend kan wees en 'n verskil kan maak (NBK 2012:448). Talle navorsers het beklemtoon dat politieke wil deurslaggewend is vir hervorming (Heeks 2011;Wathne 2021). Ondanks die feit dat dit in 2012 een van die hoofdoelwitte van die NOP was om die multi-agentskapbenadering te versterk, is die afwesigheid van politieke wil in Suid-Afrika egter duidelik (Lekubu 2019:85 Die fondse is aan verskeie individue en maatskappye betaal, insluitend Composite Trade (Mather se maatskappy) en Strategeewhizz (Mitha se maatskappy) (SOE 2021:77). ...
Een van die Nasionale Ontwikkelingsplan 2030 (NOP) se doelwitte is om ’n veerkragtige teenkorrupsiestelsel daar te stel deur die huidige multi-agentskapbenadering te versterk. Die doel van hierdie artikel is om te bepaal of hierdie doelwit teen 2030 bereik sal word en of om bloot die huidige benadering te versterk bevredigend is om die doelwit teen 2030 te bereik. Hierdie dokumentanalise sal bydra tot die bestaande literatuur aangesien min inligting rakende die haalbaarheid van die NOP se teikens met betrekking tot teenkorrupsiestrategieë gevind kon word. Die NOP weerspieël die toekoms van teenkorrupsiestrategieë en moet noukeurig oorweeg word, en teikens om dit te bereik moet voortdurend hersien word. Die ontleding van die onderliggende teikens om die hoofdoelwit te bereik, is van kardinale belang in die proses om ’n veerkragtige teenkorrupsiestrategie te vestig. Hierdie literatuurstudie ondersoek vier sekondêre doelwitte om die huidige benadering te versterk. Hierdie dokumentanalise het bevind dat die enigste aangeleentheid wat vordering toon, die bewusmaking van die publiek oor korrupsie en die daarstel van korrupsie-aanmeldkanale is. Ironies genoeg is hierdie funksie doeltreffend bestuur deur ’n nieregeringsorganisasie, Corruption Watch. Daar is ook bevind dat slegs minimale vordering gemaak is en dat die blote versterking van die multi-agentskapbenadering nie daartoe sal bydra om die NOP se teikens teen 2030 te bereik nie. Daarom moet Suid-Afrika eerder alternatiewe, soos die daarstel van ’n gesentraliseerde eenheid, oorweeg in plaas van volgehoue pogings om ’n gebrekkige teenkorrupsiestelsel te versterk. Die Zondo-kommissie kan moontlik as ’n nuttige voorbeeld dien om hierdie doelwitte te bereik en korrupsie doeltreffend teen te staan. Trefwoorde: enkelagentskapbenadering; kundigheid; multi-agentskapbenadering; onafhanklikheid; openbare bewusmaking; politieke wil; teenkorrupsiestrategieë
... The most general and logical reason for failure to implement robust treatments for corrupt practices is the design and implementation problems, but some scholars have suggested that there are other deeper issues. Heeks and Mathisen (2012) add that failed anti-corruption initiatives have a wide gap between design and reality, and a wide gap leads to unsuccessful implementation. But most importantly, they argue, is the political situation that determines the success or failure of any initiative. ...
How can a typology of stakeholders be established to truly illuminate the pathways of action for companies? The simple perspective regarding their classification arises out of aspects related to Business Ethics and the philosophical nature of the need to establish relations with stakeholders beyond those necessary for business survival. Although this chapter does not answer the baseline ethical position, it does propose a way to establish the taxonomic axes to do the exercise so companies can approach the issue with better outlooks. In this theoretical approach, aimed at achieving greater order in the analysis and selection of the stakeholder census, we shall propose criteria for inclusion by means of a taxonomy that may be able to reflect the weight of each stakeholder.
Corruption in Indonesia is an endemic problem. It has been hampering the development, disconnecting hopes of fulfilling the fundamental constitutional rights of citizens, creating a repressive government, and harming the country's finances and economy. This research tries to find the right movement pattern of social control, such as whether in efforts to prevent and eradicate corruption in Indonesia. The conclusion from this legal research is that the movement of social control as an instrument to eradicate corruption in Indonesia has been described both in the aspect of Judicial review, Class Action and Citizen Law Suit (CLS), Court Monitoring, and the Whistleblower System (WbS), as well as non-legal movements (public hearing & advocacy, mass actions) that are not facultative, meaning that all efforts can be undertaken by civil society by being bridged by NGOs and the campus in the corruption eradication agenda in Indonesia Going forward, the challenge of eradicating corruption in Indonesia is increasingly tricky and steep, it requires commitment from all parties to strengthen commitments to eradicate corruption, create integrity zones, and more importantly enhance the KPK as an independent anti-corruption institution, as mandated by UNCAC to maintain the independence of anti-corruption in Indonesia.Keywords:Social-Control Movement, Law Enforcement, Anti-Corruption
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This chapter examines an archetype of anti-corruption reforms — new technology-based ‘e-transparency’ initiatives in developing countries — analysing them as ‘technology transfers’ in the broadest sense of ideas conceived in one context and implemented in another. A model is presented of how transfers are mediated in practice between the two con-texts, which can be applied more broadly to all types of anti-corruption intervention. The chapter examines how a system of tools, processes, values, and resources designed in one context can carry with it inscribed assumptions — values drawn from designers’ backgrounds; assumptions about the skills, values, and resources of the user context; requirements needed for the proper implementation of the initiative — which may undermine its suitability, or which contain elements that may be appropriated by local users.
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The Uganda Revenue Authority, established in 1991, is the oldest integrated revenue authority in sub-Saharan Africa. The revenue authority model aimed to limit direct political interference in day-to-day operations by the Ministry of Finance and to free the tax administration from the constraints of the civil service system, especially by paying salaries above civil service pay scales and to more easily recruit, promote and dismiss staff. Such steps were expected to provide incentives for greater job motivation and less corruption. After marked success in the first years after its creation, revenue has dropped as a share of GDP, and corruption is believed to be pervasive. The paper shows that the establishment of the URA with comparatively generous remuneration packages and substantial budgets has not protected it from political interference. To the contrary, it has made the revenue administration a more attractive target because the authority offers both relatively well paid jobs and considerable rent-seeking opportunities. Further, the paper argues that the motives of individual actors are often inextricably tied to the interest of the social groups to which they belong. Tax officers are often seen by their families and networks as important potential patrons who have access to money, resources, and opportunities that they are morally obliged to share. People in positions of power are expected to use that influence to help their kin and community of origin. Hence, increased salaries may lead to increased social obligations, which again may push tax officers into taking bribes to accommodate the growing expectations around them. This implies that such social relations may rule out the formal bureaucratic structures and positions. Fiscal corruption must therefore, at least to some extent, be understood in the context of a political economy in which access to social resources depends on patron clientilism. If these problems, which are rooted in social norms and patterns of behavior rather than administrative features, are overlooked, the result may be to distort incentives. As a consequence, reforms that otherwise seem consistent with principles of good public administration may be undermined.
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e-Government is a global project of technology transfer taking designs from one context into a different context. Using examples of projects, this paper finds that the context of design inscribed into e-government systems in both explicit and implicit ways can produce a mismatch with the context in which it is deployed. This creates a contextual collision that can often lead to e-government failure. In other cases, there is some form of accommodation between the two contexts: users may appropriate inscribed elements to their own purposes or there may even be a reciprocating accommodation leading to a viable system. Factors that shape either failure or accommodation are identified, as are the networks of interests that determine the design inscription and deployment accommodation processes. Conclusions are drawn about policy on e-government project design and development of e-government capacities; and about the relevance of developing/transitional economy cases for the literature on the sociology of technology.
Section 1, in the course of broadly discussing aims, claims, expected outcomes and assumptions underlying aid transparency and accountability activities, also maps out the range and diversity of these and associates them with particular accountability approaches and agents. Sections 2-4 cases in turn the evidence found, methods used and factors identified in attempts to explore impact in this field. Given the scarcity of impact literature and evidence, they draw on seven key documents that, while focussed to different degrees on our key questions of interest, reflect the breadth of aid T/A Initiatives.
High levels of corruption limit investment and growth and lead to ineffective government. Developing countries and those making a transition from socialism are particularly at risk, but corruption is a worldwide phenomenon. Corruption creates inefficiencies and inequities, but reforms are possible to reduce the material benefits from payoffs. Corruption is not just an economic problem, however; it is also intertwined with politics. Reform may require changes in both constitutional structure and the underlying relationship of the market and the state. No single "blueprint" is possible, but the primary goal should be to reduce the gains from paying and receiving bribes, not simply to remove "bad apples."
Despite the presence of strong anti-corruption policies, state and regulatory capture may persist and thrive in the highest echelons of government. This article explores such a case, that of Thailand under former Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra. The author argues that the primary explanation for this contradiction lies in Thailand's post-1997 anti-corruption framework. Because of the ascendancy of a business–politics nexus more powerful in blocking reform than Thai constitutional drafters had anticipated, and because of the decline in political contestability as a result of Thaksin's control of both the legislature and the executive, the stage was set for a dramatic increase in the levels of state capture. The author suggests that effective control of such political corruption calls for a strategy which extends far beyond the technocratic approaches used by Thai reformers in the mid to late 1990s.
Many countries remain stuck in conditions of low productivity that many call "poverty traps." Economic growth is only one aspect of development; another key dimension of development is the expansion of the administrative capability of the state, the capability of governments to affect the course of events by implementing policies and programs. We use a variety of empirical indicators of administrative capability to show that many countries remain in "state capability traps" in which the implementation capability of the state is both severely limited and improving (if at all) only very slowly. At their current pace of progress countries like Haiti or Afghanistan or Liberia would take hundreds (if not thousands) of years to reach the capability of a country like Singapore and decades to reach even a moderate capability country like India. We explore how this can be so. That is, we do not attempt to explain why countries remain in capability traps; this would require a historical, political and social analysis uniquely applied to each country. Rather, we focus on how countries manage to engage in the domestic and international logics of "development" and yet consistently fail to acquire capability. What are the techniques of failure? Two stand out. First, ‘big development’ encourages progress through importing standard responses to predetermined problems. This encourages isomorphic mimicry as a technique of failure: the adoption of the forms of other functional states and organizations which camouflages a persistent lack of function. Second, an inadequate theory of developmental change reinforces a fundamental mismatch between expectations and the actual capacity of prevailing administrative systems to implement even the most routine administrative tasks. This leads to premature load bearing, in which wishful thinking about the pace of progress and unrealistic expectations about the level and rate of improvement of capability lead to stresses and demands on systems that cause capability to weaken (if not collapse). We conclude with some suggestive directions for sabotaging these techniques of failure.