Evidence-based Research on Corruption Impacts Supports Policy Reforms

Vietnam-Anti-Corruption-Research-Symposium-370x298 MSI’s three-year anti-corruption project in Vietnam has supported rigorous quantitative research into the costs of corruption with the goal of influencing policy reform by the government. The research – undertaken by Vietnamese think tanks and university – has stimulated public debate and helped government policymakers target corruption risks through new regulations to reduce corruption’s negative impacts on economic and social development. The project was funded by the UK’s Department for International Development.

Researchers produced seven peer-reviewed papers. These focused on the detrimental effect of corruption on national economic growth and on private sector investment, employment, and per capita income at the provincial level. They also included research into corruption risks in Vietnam’s large household business sector and into the effects of petty corruption on innovation.

The last study analyzed the problem in a different way, by examining the benefits of anti-corruption programming for development, especially for low and low-to-middle income countries. Rather than exploring the costs of corruption, this paper looks at the inverse relationship: the benefits that a country can accrue by effectively implementing anti-corruption programming. The study finds that strong implementation of anti-corruption initiatives is more important to achieving social, political, economic and human development benefits for society than merely establishing a good legal-institutional framework to fight corruption. Most interestingly, the study finds that a country’s level of development and wealth has little to do with its level of anti-corruption programming. Thus, it is not a good excuse for Vietnam or other developing countries to point to their level of development or wealth as a reason for why they are lagging behind in implementing anti-corruption reforms effectively. A country’s wealth is not a predictor of progress or success in this area.

All of these papers are included in a thematic issue of a major international academic journal on corruption issues, Crime, Law and Social Change (Vol. 65, no. 4-5, June 2016). The articles are available on the publisher’s website.


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TARABOT NEWS BULLETIN: Tugboat Captains Steer New Course

IraqTugboatThe bridge of the tugboat is silent, save for a terse radio conversation between the Iraqi river pilot and the captain.

“Maintain pull, steady as she goes…”

Filling the window in front of the captain is the stern of a rust-streaked oil tanker. To the side there is a glimpse of the Basra Oil Terminal, and the waters of the Arabian Gulf glitter below.

The tanker is almost moored when with the filp of a switch, the sky darkens and the sea transforms into a threatening two meter swell, snapping the towrope and sending the 70,000 ton tanker out of control…

At this point the lights go on, the gulf disappears, and the state-of-the-art simulator comes to a halt.

In partnership with the Ministry of Oil, and the General Company for Ports of Iraq, USAID-Tarabot recently brought 11 tugboat captains and pilots from Iraq’s Basra oil terminals to Hamburg, Germany’s largest port, for advanced tugboat handling training.

The group spent six days on simulators and real-life tugboats in the North Sea with instructors from the marine training institution, Nautitec.

Rough weather halts Iraqi oil export operations for around ten days a year, costing a staggering billion dollars in lost export potential. Enabling tugboat captains to work safely in high winds and rough seas will help Iraq’s oil sector to maintain consistent exports, and provide the government with much needed revenue for public services.

Iraq Tugboat1USAID-Tarabot is working with the Government of Iraq to lay a foundation of international standards and practices throughout the Ministry of Oil, and its state owned oil companies. The tugboat training is part of a series of interlinked ‘quick win’ initiatives designed to kick-start stalled projects, solve technical problems and boost export and refinery production.

“When the towrope broke I was frightened,” said Captain Mudher, one of the senior captains on the course. “I felt like it had happened in real life. The simulators allowed us to practice the same procedures over and over again until we got it right.”

Iraqi oil terminals sit in a shallow sea, strewn with shipwrecks from various conflicts. The channels are narrow, and winds can produce waves of up to three meters. With an increasing output of crude from the Iraqi oil fields, and rock bottom oil prices, it is a national priority to ensure that the export systems are as efficient as possible.

Captain Rocco, a Nautitec instructor, explained how they had prepared the program for the trainees. “We simulated the actual Iraqi terminals and tankers in 3D so that the captains could work in an environment they were used to. Though they are experienced, many of their methods are unorthodox. When we increased the wind velocity the gaps in their technique showed.”

Iraq Tugboat2“Most of us began work as apprentices, and have little formal training, and no international certification, “ said Captain Al-Maliki, a river pilot from Basra. “The training was a chance to access new technology, techniques, and ideas and put it into practice.”

USAID-Tarabot has already helped put $20 million dollars back into the economy through its assistance in the refining sector, and it is set to do the same on the export side. Its interventions are built on a decade of experience in the reform and implementation of management systems in Iraq.

All 11 captains earned certificates in rough weather tugboat handling, and comprise the first of two waves of trainees that will travel. The next group will go to Germany in early July after Ramadan.

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Modernizing Public Spending in Iraq


Earlier today in Baghdad, Government of Iraq (GoI) officials joined by USAID staff, the USAID-Tarabot project, and MSI celebrated the launch of a system to effectively track the government’s 4000 capital investment projects and significantly speed up the delivery of public services.

The Iraq Development Management System or IDMS is a comprehensive web-based application available in both Arabic and English that manages the entire cycle of government and donor-funded development projects. The system will manage the government’s $25 billion investment budget for the coming year.

In April 2016, the Minister of Planning (MoP) called for its use on all capital investment projects, from schools to roads to bridges.


“We’re extremely honored and pleased to stand side by side with the Ministry of Planning and so many more Ministers and officials to celebrate their newly developed ability to track investment in capital projects,” said Andy Griminger, MSIs Executive Vice President. “Better tracking means faster and more efficient delivery of services by the government for the people. That has been the Iraqi government and USAID’s focus throughout the success of the Tarabot program and we are excited to be a part of that team.”

MSI has worked in partnership with USAID and the GoI for more than a decade to support public procurement reforms, development of capital investment budgets, enhance project management, and improve public services. Twenty-four ministries, governors and provincial leadership have partnered with USAID and MSI on these initiatives.

This assistance has been provided through two successive USAID-funded MSI projects – the Administrative Reform Project, Tarabot, and its predecessor, Tatweer, which began in 2006.

In May 2015, following a historic agreement with MoP, USAID-Tarabot partnered with the American software company Synergy to commission the IDMS.

IDMS is a ‘living’ knowledge base of public spending which monitors, stores and tracks information and allows transactions to be done transparently. Constantly updated, it can isolate a province, a company, a project, or a theme – primary care, for instance – and catalogue all aspects of a project (who, what, where, when, and how).

At its heart it is a performance management tool, designed to provide an overview of projects, with details of budgets, spending patterns, timelines, and efficiency. It will help get public services up and running, repair and replace infrastructure, and boost production in the oil sector.

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Tarabot’s Oil Extension in a Global Context

Iraq Oil

The fall in oil prices has profoundly changed the prospects for national oil industries across the world – Iraq is no different. With prices likely to remain low for a number of years, projects have been put on hold or cancelled entirely, and the government forced to reconsider its strategy for the oil sector.

But the realities of low prices and fierce competition for investment are only part of the problem. Obstructive bureaucracy and corruption are pervasive, often competing with efforts to improve operations.

Oil provides 90% of Iraq’s national wealth. If the country is to overcome both economic and political instability, and provide the services the public demand, it clearly has to optimize oil operations, but also address entrenched attitudes to work practices and the nature of public service.

In the summer of 2015, USAID-Tarabot was tasked to carry out an oil sector assessment, and focus its skills on helping the Ministry of Oil towards greater efficiency. Combined with its predecessor project, USAID-Tarabot has more than a decade of experience in Iraq, helping to strengthen public institutions and improve services. Better management systems make for better governance, and reduce opportunities for waste, inefficiency, and misappropriation of funds.

Tarabot’s oil assessment reflected a sector in crisis, with outdated pipelines, terminals, and loading systems; inadequate storage; and refineries with technical and environmental flaws. Basra Port is just one example of this chronic lack of capacity. Lines of tankers wait for up to10 days to load with oil, longer in bad weather. With tanker costs at tens of thousands of dollars per day and rising, the knock-on effect on cost is substantial. Iraq’s export infrastructure simply does not have the ability to keep up with production. It cannot sell let alone store what it can produce, and is losing opportunities for revenue day in and day out.

Less obvious to the outside world was the dire state of the Oil Ministry’s administration systems, especially the procurement, contracting, and project management departments of its state oil companies. Like other parts of the Iraqi government, they battle a culture of top-down bureaucracy, and debilitating corruption inherited from past administrations.

Tarabot’s oil assessment called for rapid intervention as a tactical necessity, with the immediate goal of raising production and increasing revenues. It put forward a variety of interlinked projects in both the export and refining sectors, providing practical and innovative solutions to technical problems, streamlining administrative processes, and modernizing procurement systems. The Ministry of Oil approved, and work began. It was the first success – demonstrating the institutional will for change.

Set in a technically and administratively complex industry, quick wins alone are not enough; the enduring objective of Tarabot’s work in the oil sector had to be the introduction of new ways of working. The civil service lies at the heart of good governance, and bolstered by the checks and balances of modern systems, practices, and technology, it can both fuel national development and stand as watchdog.

In less than a year, Tarabot has helped the Ministry to introduce standard bidding documents to all its departments, and improved the delegation of decision making to engineers and project managers across the country. It has helped arbitrate contractual disputes for major oil projects, reform customs and banking procedures, and solve technical problems such as cutting tanker waiting time, troubleshooting refinery inefficiencies, or rehabilitating pipelines. It also helped to train procurement experts, certify project management, qualify departments for ISO certification, open a public procurement help desk, and get priority contracts moving.

All these steps, some small, others profound, have an impact on the government, the oil sector, and the attitude of the people who run it. The Ministry of Planning Procurement Help Desk is a great example, where Tarabot has helped introduce a system, an entity, and expert staff capable of both running it and training others. The Help Desk deals with dozens of procurement inquiries a month, helping sort out tenders and get projects off the ground; some in the oil sector, others for public services, such as two new hospitals in Najaf and Babil.

It is these civil servants – cost-estimators, project management schedulers, contract personnel, engineers, and administrators – who are reinforcing the veracity of these new work practices; promoting efficiency, tracking, and oversight. They are shedding light, and open Iraq’s doors to the world.

Recent media allegations continue to rightfully point fingers, and demand investigation of corrupt contractors, middle men, and politicians in Iraq and across the world. But this does not detract from, nor should it deny, interventions by development organizations such as USAID-Tarabot, JICA, (the Japan International Cooperation Agency) the UN and others that play their part in indirectly curtailing it.

The current economic environment, brought about by low oil prices, offers an opportunity for the Iraqi government to refocus their efforts on defining a mandate that supports their national vision and priorities. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has pledged this. Quick wins like Tarabot’s initiatives are helping solve an immediate fiscal crisis, but the knowledge and skills that they impart will reinforce the future, one where opportunities are for all, and not the few.

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Helping USAID Engage with Audiences Worldwide

USAID’s Development Outreach and Communications (DOC) Program, under the leadership of the Bureau for Legislative and Public Affairs (LPA), focuses on building the capacity of USAID outreach and communications professionals worldwide to improve their ability to tell the story of U.S. foreign assistance to host country audiences. MSI is proud to have provided communications backstopping to USAID for more than a decade.

A robust, worldwide training program is part of a broader effort to increase awareness of U.S. development and humanitarian assistance activities within host countries and back home. MSI has provided skills-based training through intensive classroom instruction to help Missions communicate development objectives and foreign aid programs, including those that MSI implements.

Most recently, in October 2015, MSI executed a “pilot” training program for a select group of USAID communications professionals. This training focused exclusively on video production and placement.

At computerMSI partnered closely with USAID’s Global Development Lab to develop an agenda that reflected the Agency’s needs. The training included a guest facilitator and technical expert from the Rhode Island Institute of Design (RISD).

Jalaba-SNNPR-Ethiopia-Aug--2010_smallThe training was split into three distinct parts. The first part focused on pre-production elements of visual content creation process, including storyboarding and equipment usage. The second part included two days of intensive field work in the Botanga region near Tamale, Ghana, focusing on the Botanga Irrigation Scheme, which involves improved fertilizer utilization called Urea Deep Placement (UDP). Students were exposed to and learned about an array of fundamental filming techniques. The final part covered the post-production process. Students worked collaboratively using editing software to review and edit the many hours of footage captured while on the field visit.

MSI continues to lend its expertise across a variety of digital and multi-media communications outlets, working hand in hand with USAID. Its ability to stay at the forefront of these areas means that it can help to provide staff with the tools and knowledge necessary to tell the USAID story in a number of dynamic formats.


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