Bank notes from different countries in the world.
Photo: Helena Landstedt
U4 – a centre for corruption issues
Aled Williams, who is in charge of the helpdesk at U4, says: “We provide tailor-made and detailed answers within 10 working days of receiving a question and we can respond within 48 hours in emergency situations.”
However, emergency situations are uncommon. The work usually involves public officials at one of the development assistance authorities needing to gain an insight into corruption risks in a particular country.
The helpdesk usually receives between two and three questions per month and a detailed response is sent to the person who posed the question, and is also published on the website.
The questions usually concern the scale of corruption within a particular sector, such as the oil industry or health care, and it could sometimes concern someone who wants knowledge about a particular country.
Corruption risks in non-governmental organizations
One question that the resource centre has received several times concerns the corruption risks within non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
The centre has received a question about whether development assistance money has a better chance of reaching recipients through NGOs than through countries’ own governments. Another question has centred on ethical guidelines for NGOs.
The basic answer is that every contribution must be viewed in its own context. Many organizations have become more professional and are co-operating with government authorities and trade and industry on governance issues. At the same time, it is also important to raise awareness that corrupt environments often foster counterfeit organizations that attempt to benefit from the situation.
Ethical guidelines important
Williams says that ethical guidelines are an issue that require more attention. Every organization must create its own code of conduct based on the environment in which it operates.
“All organizations should have ethical guidelines,” he says.
It is important to ensure that ethical guidelines are produced, but just as important to ensure that they are followed, Williams says.
Corruption in Zambia
“We received a question about Zambia from someone who wanted to be updated on the sort of corruption that exists in the country and how common it is,” he says. “The person also wanted an assessment of what the Zambian government is doing to combat corruption.”
From your perspective, is corruption in the world increasing or decreasing?
“It’s impossible to answer that question. It’s such a complex area."
U4 – facts
U4 is run by the Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI), in Bergen, Norway. It is an independent centre that works with research on issues concerning development and human rights. U4’s helpdesk is run in co-operation with Berlin-based organization Transparency International.