Political will and government anti‐corruption efforts: What does the evidence say?

Published date01 February 2018
AuthorS M Manzoor E Khoda,Samuel Siebie Ankamah
Date01 February 2018
Political will and government anticorruption efforts: What
does the evidence say?
Samuel Siebie Ankamah
|S M Manzoor E Khoda
Griffith University, Australia
Transparency International Bangladesh,
Samuel Siebie Ankamah, Centre for
Governance and Public Policy, Griffith
University, 170 Kessels Road, Nathan,
Brisbane, Australia.
Email: samuel.ankamah@griffithuni.edu.au
Funding information
Australian Political Studies Association (APSA),
Grant/Award Number: Conference Travel
Grant; Griffith University, Grant/Award Num-
ber: Postgraduate Research Fund
Political willis oftcited as the major obstacle to government's anticorruption efforts. Notwith-
standing, there is remarkably little systematic analysis of the concept, with some scholars describ-
ing it as the slipperiest concept in the policy lexicon,whereas others are calling for its empirical
relevance. This paper tries to unpack the black boxof political will by making it an empirically
relevant concept drawing on evidence from two Asian countries; Singapore and Bangladesh. Four
key indicators based on the works of earlier scholars are used including origin of the initiative;
comprehension and extent of analysis; credible sanctions; and resource dedication and suste-
nance are used. The paper also uses Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index,
World Bank's World Governance Indicators (Control of Corruption and Government Effective-
ness), and Political, Economic and Risk Consultancy's annual survey in Asia, as outcome measures.
Based on the empirical evidence from the two countries, the paper shows that political will
indeed has a positive influence on government's anticorruption efforts. Although political will
may not be sufficient, it is a necessary condition to fight corruption, and that the difference
between the positions of Singapore and Bangladesh on various global corruption league tables
may be attributed to political will.
anticorruptionreform, Asia, political will, public policy
The success of anticorruption measures and efforts as well as devel-
opment policies may depend on the political will(see Ankamah,
2016; Brinkerhoff, 2000, p. 240; DFID, 2004, p. 1; Hammergren,
1998; Quah, 2010a, 2015a; Robinson, 1998, p. 10; YeboahAssiamah
& AlesuDordzi, 2016) of government actors. In their paper the
Calculus of Corruption,YeboahAssiamah and AlesuDordzi (2016)
recommended the need for strong political will to fight corruption.
Understanding government attitude towards anticorruption mea-
sures is therefore crucial in holding power to account and to fight
corruption (Schacter, 2005). When there is no firm support and
strong leadership from bureaucratic and political elites with regard
to matters concerning accountability and corruption, then there is a
constraint on the effective functioning of accounting institutions
(Schacter, 2005). Schedler for instance argues that there is no way
to ignore or bypass the centres of state power,stating further that
unless they consent to institutionalize selfrestraintthe road to
[anticorruption] is blocked(Schedler, 1999, pp. 338339).
Although political will being oftcited as a major obstacle to good
governance and anticorruption efforts, it is surprisingly understudied,
and when it is, demonstrates a poorly understood term. Indeed, the
remarkably little systematic analysis of political will and its determi-
nants have been acknowledged in scholarship (see e.g., Malena,
2009a; Woocher, 2001). Hammergren (1998, p. 12) for instance
describes political will as the slipperiest concept in the policy lexicon.
Similarly, Evans (2000) concludes that the difficulty with most
discussions of political will is that scholars and policy makers spend
more time lamenting its absence than analysing what it means and
how it can be enhanced to fight corruption. Consequently, McGee
and Gaventa (2011, p. 25) advise that the black box of political will
that so often bars way between [anticorruption efforts] and their
sought impacts requires empirical unpacking.Thus a pragmatic,
systematic definitional approach focused on outcomes could be
Received: 19 January 2017 Revised: 1 October 2017 Accepted: 2 November 2017
DOI: 10.1002/pad.1815
Public Admin Dev. 2018;38:314. Copyright © 2017 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/pad 3

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