Written by Monica Kirya — Senior Adviser at U4, leading the work on basic service sectors and gender and corruption.

The role of anti-corruption law

For some years now, the general consensus in academic and policy circles has been that anti-corruption law and policy have been largely ineffective in reducing corruption. This is especially the case in developing countries where the rule of law is weak, and the state is described as being ‘captured’ by systemic corruption.

As a result, development interventions have moved from focusing on law and policy reform to designing programmes that try to reduce corruption by promoting transparency, accountability and participation. Often, such interventions are not necessarily grounded in law and policy, but on ‘best practice,’ expressed in logframes and theories of change.

Legislation can provide a strong normative and legal basis for a development intervention. Yet the law often seems distant and irrelevant to such interventions. As a result, a common complaint with some popular anti-corruption approaches such as social accountability is that, once identified, it is difficult to take action to correct wrongs or omissions. It is for this reason that we recently published a U4 Issue on how legal empowerment can help to strengthen anti-corruption interventions.

‘I retain a strong belief in the power of written policy guidance to change how we do things’

Despite the perceived failures of anti-corruption law, I retain a strong belief in the emancipatory power of the written law, and by extension, in the power of written policy guidance to change how we do things. Laws and policies are endorsed by a country’s highest authorities — Parliament and Cabinet, respectively — and can be summoned when necessary to lend weight to various decisions, interventions and processes. They are written expressions of a country’s intentions and a concrete expression of its goals, objectives, and plans.

Importance of specific provisions

Countries and peoples need constant reminders of their aspirations. This is why it is important to insert reminders in as many places as possible. So, any government creating a policy on pandemic preparedness and response needs to integrate or mainstream cross-cutting issues of concern such as gender and inclusion or integrity and anti-corruption. When governments fail to ‘mainstream’ these issues, through specific provisions, they can easily be forgotten. This is particularly so when a government is implementing or addressing a policy in an ad hoc and disjointed manner that runs the risk of being ineffective.

We are seeing this play out during the current Covid-19 crisis, as countries grapple to safeguard their resources and processes from those who wish to exploit the crisis and use their public positions to maximise their private gains.

‘Actions to mainstream anti-corruption into national pandemic response plans will safeguard resources from those who wish to exploit a crisis’

This U4 Brief suggests some actions that can be taken to mainstream anti-corruption and integrity into national pandemic response plans and policies. This will, hopefully, reduce the likelihood of corruption in this and future pandemic response efforts.


The U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre at CMI works to identify and communicate informed approaches to partners for reducing the harmful impact of corruption on sustainable and inclusive development.

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All views expressed in this post are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the U4 partner agencies, or CMI/U4.

Monica Kirya

Senior Adviser (U4)