This chapter examines recent experiences in combating corruption in customs administration in developing countries. There is no lack of measures, norms, standards or ‘best practices’ to address corruption. Although development practitioners often repeat the mantra of ‘no one size fits all’, guidance on what pace of progress to expect and what to do, given the initial conditions in a country, has yet to be developed. Information and data analytics for assessing integrity problems in customs and monitoring progress of anti-corruption reforms are generally weak. It is therefore not surprising that the record to date has been full of disappointments. We argue that handling corruption in customs requires reformers to address discrepancies between formal rules and entrenched informal practices that often determine the behavior of customs officers. Anti-corruption efforts require an understanding of the norms and incentives of key players, and should therefore be based on a thorough analysis of the customs administration and the environment of which it is a part. Local ownership is essential for the sustainability of the reforms, and it is important to offer political backing to reformers. Quick wins in the form of revenue growth are crucial to establish credibility and trust in the reform process. However, sustainable change demands sustained effort, commitment and leadership over time.

Odd-Helge Fjeldstad

Research Professor, Coordinator: Tax and Public Finance

TaxCapDev-network

Jan 2017 - May 2021

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