I have been involved in many different sorts of anti-corruption efforts since 1985. First  as an oil industry executive for Shell in West Africa and in China, then leading a civil society programme tackling military and security corruption with Transparency International, then as an International Commissioner on anti-corruption in Afghanistan; and now as the founder of a large website on practical ways for reform-minded individuals to tackle corruption.

My personal involvement almost parallels the timeline of the modern anti-corruption movement. That started with the US Financial Corrupt Practices Act of 1978/1986, the founding of Transparency International in 1993, the conversion of the World Bank to the importance of corruption in 1996, the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention in 1999, the UN Convention Against Corruption in 2003, and onwards from there with a multiplicity of new laws, new international initiatives and the professionalisation of compliance.

So, what have I learnt regarding corruption?

Lessons from working in Afghanistan

From 2015 through 2017, I was one of three International Committee Members on the Afghanistan independent Anti-Corruption Monitoring and Evaluation Committee. Established by the President of Afghanistan, the Committee – known as the ‘MEC’ – comprises 6 people, three well-respected Afghans and three internationally known anti-corruption experts, supported by a supporting secretariat of 25 professionals in Kabul. They monitor what is going right and wrong in anti-corruption efforts in the country, carry out detailed analyses of the corruption issues, and press for change. More detail on MEC can be found here.

Here are the things that I learnt:

  1. World class solutions can come out of tough places like Afghanistan

  2. Corruption is very different from one sector to another

  3. International sector-specific knowledge on corruption reform is awful

  4. Huge hunger among officials for sharing positive impact

  5. Immense scope for better independent monitoring

  6. Reformist ministers really need help on reform strategy

Lessons from working with military & police forces

From 2004 to 2015, I founded and then led the global Defence and Security programme at the NGO Transparency International. This large, ground-breaking programme works on tackling the ways that corruption undermines security and military forces in countries. I led the team’s field work in over 30 countries, including Afghanistan, Bulgaria, Burundi, Colombia, Georgia, Kenya, Latvia, Lebanon, Norway, Palestine, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, UK and the USA. This work was instrumental in shaping the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (2013), in influencing NATO policy and operations in respect of counter-corruption, in shaping the military doctrine of several countries, and in policy forums such as the Munich Security Conference.

Here is what I learnt:

1. Military officers can be in a deeply corrupt system but still keen for reform

2. Defence is impenetrable unless you can speak the jargon and have a credible colleague

3. Pride is a powerful motivator of reform

4. National quantitative comparisons are immensely powerful

5. Corruption inside police forces is a massive issue, remarkably little explored

Lessons from working at global oil company Shell

From 1985 to 2003, I was a senior executive at Shell International. In those 18 years I did 6 jobs: Manager of an internal Shell consultancy, Manager of Shell’s investor relations with the City of London,  Chief Financial Officer of Shell International in Gabon (West Africa), Chief Financial Officer for Shell in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea, Programme Director for reform of Shell Products across Europe and Chief Financial Officer for Shell’s global IT operations.

Shell prides itself on its business principles, including non-involvement in corruption, and I was on the ‘front line’ of this issue in most of these jobs. Here’s what I learnt in relation to corruption:

  1. Large corporations really can deeply support a guiding value

  2. But conflicts still need fighting over, one by one

  3. And parts of the company can remain non-compliant

  4. The desire to 'belong' is so powerful, so sometimes scrutiny would go only to a certain depth

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