The COVID-19 & Corruption Webinar Series

As the wide-ranging effects of COVID-19 continue to be felt around around the globe, the Anti-Corruption & Governance Center (ACGC) team at the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) has explored the intersection of corruption and the pandemic through a series of public webinars. To date, the COVID-19 & Corruption series has featured 13 installments, bringing together experts from around the globe to discuss topics ranging from healthcare to illicit financial flows to regional challenges facing Africa, South Asia, and Latin America. We briefly recap each of these events below, beginning with our most recent event on trade-based money laundering. Links to event recordings are included where available (Latest update: October 14, 2020).

September 30th – Trade-Based Money Laundering

The Trade-Based Money Laundering webinar featured a panel of veteran law enforcement officials including former U.S. Intelligence Officer and Treasury Special Agent John Cassara and former Director of OIG Special Operations at the EPA Michael Loughnane. Together, they discussed the impact COVID-19 has had on international law enforcement responses and how restrictions to enforcement actions and investigations due to the pandemic have led to increased criminal activity worldwide. Some well-reported issues discussed included the importing of counterfeit medical supplies and new forms of international smuggling of contraband. Lastly, Ana Linda Solano, a former official in Colombia’s Prosecutor General’s Office, shared a recent case-study about how COVID-19 has affected trade-based money laundering operations in Colombia.

September 23rd – Procurement Reform and Monitoring Emergency Spending in Africa

Following a brief hiatus, the series resumed with a webinar on Procurement Reform and Monitoring Emergency Spending in Africa. Carey Kluttz from Open Contracting Partnership, Professor Sope Williams-Elegbe from Stellenbosch University, and Francois Naude from MarketSqr discussed the role that business and civil society must undertake both now and in the aftermath of the COVID-19 emergency. Each panelist discussed their respective work to support broader oversight efforts in public procurement. This included research on the political influences undermining transparency and accountability in public procurement systems and a project aimed at limiting procurement-related corruption in SMEs by consolidating, filtering, and sharing tender information to increase overall transparency. These ongoing projects illustrate some of the meaningful procurement reforms that are being proposed in Africa to better monitor emergency funds during the pandemic.

July 15th – The IMF and World Bank Responses to COVID-19

With over 6,000 viewers, The IMF and World Bank Responses to COVID-19 lived up to its billing as one of our most highly anticipated sessions. The event featured Director of the World Bank’s Governance Global Practice Ed Olowo-Okere, International Monetary Fund (IMF) General Counsel and Director of the Legal Department Rhoda Weeks-Brown, and CIPE’s own Katya Lysova. Together they discussed the need for increased accountability for the billions of dollars in COVID-19-related assistance pouring out from international financial institutions to support countries affected by lockdowns and depressed economic activity. In particular, they addressed how the Bank’s and the IMF’s respective responses are taking corruption and other leakage risks into account and how their actions will affect the people, governments, and businesses of the world’s most economically challenged countries. The panelists also addressed the impact that COVID-19-related interventions will have on the private sector. 

June 24th – The Rapid Responders 

The Rapid Responders featured a discussion with some of the frontline actors that have been fighting corruption since the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. It included a panel consisting of Deputy CEO of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Joe Powell, CIPE’s Africa Anti-Corruption lead Lola Adekanye, and Chief Executive of Connected Development (CODE) Hamzat Lawal. This event explored the OGP’s Open Response + Open Recovery campaign, as well as many of the grassroots-level efforts to combat corruption across Africa.

June 10th – After the Pandemic: Rebuilding Global Supply Chains in ASEAN

Rebuilding Global Supply Chains in ASEAN was co-hosted with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) initiative Promoting a Fair Business Environment in ASEAN (FairBiz). It featured a panel that included John Bray from Control Risks Singapore, Aira Azhari from the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS), and Vu Tu Thanh from the US-ASEAN Business Council in Hanoi. The panelists focused their discussion on rebuilding global supply chains in the ASEAN region with integrity and resilience post-coronavirus. They focused on practical measures that multinational companies, business associations, investors, and NGOS can take to help the region’s economies and companies respond to the crisis and stay in business while upholding ethical standards.

June 3rd – What Cheap Oil Means for Corruption and Governance

What Cheap Oil Means for Corruption and Governance provided a closer look at the negative impact of COVID-19 on the international oil sector. The panel of speakers included Alexandra Gillies from the National Resource Governance Institute, Ariel Cohen from Atlantic Council, and CIPE Program Officer Mohammed Al Saeedi. The discussion covered countries from multiple regions, from Nigeria to Eurasia to Iraq, and painted a vivid picture of how deeply embedded corruption is in the global oil sector. In the wake of plunging oil prices, the panelists spoke about how regimes are responding to falling revenues that have helped sustain their hold on power. The panelists discussed populist spending, elite bargains, and attempts by corrupt actors to find new revenue streams while global leaders are distracted by the global health crisis. 

May 27th – Exploring Corruption Risks in the Health Sector

Exploring Corruption Risks in the Health Sector focused on exploring corruption risks in the health sector and featured the participation of international experts Mostafa Hunter from the UNDP, global health consultant Sarah Steingrüber, and Professor Timothy Mackey from UC San Diego. These global health experts discussed how COVID-19 is affecting corruption risks within the health sector, what has worked in the past to mitigate risks during similar viral outbreaks, and what new innovations are needed moving forward.

May 20th – Corruption and Government Responses to COVID-19 in Latin America

Corruption and Government Responses to COVID-19 in Latin America was co-hosted by the International Republican Institute and explored the theme of corruption and government responses in Latin America. The panelists for this webinar included experts from some of the region’s most high-profile civil society organizations, including Demien González Chmielewski of the Center for the Implementation of Public Policies for Equity and Growth (CIPPEC), Ana Lilia Moreno of México Evalúa, and Enrique Naveda of Plaza Pública, who focused their discussions on the cases of Argentina, Mexico, and Guatemala, respectively. The presenters provided an up-to-date briefing on COVID-19 outbreaks and government responses in each country and evaluated potential challenges as the pandemic’s epicenter has begun to shift to the region. 

May 14th – Business Integrity in Emerging Markets

Business Integrity in Emerging Markets explored the role of business integrity in emerging markets as companies worldwide struggle to survive during and following lockdown. The panelists included CIPE Program Officers Michele Crymes and Lola Adekanye, and Pana Ratanabanangkoon from the Collective Action Against Corruption in Thailand. The discussion centered on the concern that many companies are deprioritizing issues such as anti-corruption compliance and business ethics as they emerge from COVID-19 lockdowns and talked through ways to combat this trend and strengthen ethics and anti-corruption efforts during the pandemic.. 

May 6th – Corruption, Global Trade & COVID-19

Corruption, Global Trade & COVID-19 featured Dr. Louise Shelley from George Mason University and Dr. Nikos Passas from Northeastern University. These two academics explored how COVID-19 is affecting legal and illegal asset flows worldwide. Their presentations focused on current methods for uncovering illicit trade and the policy options available to mitigate these risks. They also briefed attendees on the ways COVID-19 pandemic may create opportunities for nefarious actors to trade illegal goods, especially in the aftermath of the pandemic when concerns about restarting economies may trump oversight and enforcement. 

April 29th – COVID-19 & Corruption: The View From South Asia

The View From South Asia, co-hosted with Accountability Lab, focused on the dramatic steps South Asian countries have taken to counter the outbreak of COVID-19 while simultaneously dealing with the economic fallout stemming from national lockdowns. The panel included Dr. Ali Riaz from Illinois State University, Fayyaz Yaseen from Transparency Maldives, and Ashmita Sharma from Accountability Lab Nepal. Together, they provided expert insight into how to mitigate the risk of corruption and ensure accountability and effectiveness in the collective response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

April 23rd – Upholding Integrity in Eastern Europe’s Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises

Upholding Integrity in Eastern Europe’s Small- and Medium-Sized Businesses addressed best practices for upholding integrity in Eastern Europe’s SMEs. This event was headlined by small business owner and President of Alliance of Small Enterprises (Moldova) David Smith and CEO of the Union of Ukrainian Entrepreneurs Kateryna Glazkova, as well as CIPE’s own Katya Lysova. The panelists discussed how to best mitigate the risk of corruption and ensure accountability and effectiveness in the region’s overall response to the COVID-19 crisis. 

April 15th – Accountability During the COVID-19 Emergency in Africa

ACGC kicked off the COVID-19 & Corruption webinar series with a discussion on accountability in Africa’s response to the pandemic. Held on April 15th, it featured CIPE’s Africa Program Officer Lola Adekanye and Gyude Moore, a former Liberian official who helped mount that country’s Ebola response. The two discussed how to respond collaboratively to mitigate the risk of corruption and ensure accountability and effectiveness in the collective response to the ongoing crisis.