International Anticorruption Day in Asia and the Pacific

As ADB gears up to celebrate International Anticorruption Day on 9 December with “iACT” being launched as the focal theme this year, Peter Pedersen, Office of Anticorruption and Integrity (OAI) Head, shares his thoughts on ADB’s anticorruption efforts.

What does “iACT” mean for ADB staff?

iACT highlights and accentuates the role and personal responsibility of ADB staff in preventing fraud and corruption in ADB-related activities. It begins with raising staff consciousness and aims to develop a fundamental grasp of preventative and corrective measures that each staff member can utilize in their respective roles.

How effective is ADB’s whistleblower program?

In 2009, 33% of complaints came from staff. After the whistleblower protection Administrative Order was passed, the percentage rose to 49%. This indicates that the whistleblower protection, coupled with the staff training on corruption, has been working. Staff are now more aware of it. It’s accepted that, provided they go about it correctly, they won’t get exposed, and that we keep information confidential. That’s why we have separate servers and secured doors and drawers. Our office is also located in a discrete area which helps maintain privacy and confidentiality.

The important thing is to be aware of so-called “red flags” that may indicate corruption, and to know how you can “Act” on it.  Staff awareness and participation is key. ADB used to have a more dominating performance mentality. It was more important for staff to get projects moving, and paying heed to any “red flags of corruption” was probably thought to slow them down.  Fortunately, that mindset has now evolved. Staff are more aware of their responsibility not just to get things done, but to get them done correctly. It is no longer about getting the road built, but getting it built without sacrificing integrity. Certainly, staff should be rewarded for taking the appropriate action to prevent projects tainted with fraudulent or corrupt practices from moving forward.

What do you think is ADB’s biggest challenge in its anticorruption efforts? 

Our biggest challenge is getting our stakeholders on board in our anticorruption efforts. That means changing the mindsets of governments, executing agencies, corporations, and civil societies.  In coordination with supreme audit institutions (SAIs) and executing agencies, we’ve been conducting trainings and project procurement related reviews (PPRR) which have had positive results. This involvement has allowed the borrowing country to take ownership of these anticorruption efforts. For example, Bhutan has requested more support from ADB in its governance efforts after we did a PPRR. We see that as a positive sign showing their readiness to take ownership of anticorruption efforts.

Are you hopeful that corruption can be eliminated in Asia?

I have to be hopeful. The awareness factor has improved. If civil society says it will not tolerate corruption, we will see things change. When I was asked by President Chino to establish a anticorruption unit (now OAI) in 1999, I told him that I wasn’t sure it would work. Today,  I am more hopeful and believe that if we  are all prepared to “Act”, then our member countries, including civil society,  will be encouraged to join in the fight against corruption and  we might, over time, succeed.