The impartial use of government power and resources is essential to public sector integrity. In addition to inefficiently allocating limited resources and enriching individuals at the expense of the public, there is compelling evidence that pervasive corruption can contribute to low levels of democratic participation and declining trust in democratic government. The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) forges rich partnerships that tackle corruption and strengthen a culture of accountability between and among civil society, government and the media – even in difficult environments. Our work is underpinned by expert technical assistance to anti-corruption institutions, election management bodies, oversight bodies, legislatures, judiciaries and civil society.
In addition to a longstanding focus on strengthening transparency; monitoring political funding and spending; and deterring the abuse of state resources in elections, IFES supports government and civil society partners globally to implement international anti-corruption commitments. We also work with institutions to improve their independence and ethics, with investigators to strengthen the inquiries into election crimes such as vote buying and with judiciaries on integrity and transparency measures. IFES believes in a whole-of-society approach to corruption prevention.
As a learning organization, IFES has an internal Knowledge Management Initiative Working Group on Electoral Integrity, Law and Anti-Corruption to help grow the research, tools and technical expertise we offer our partners worldwide.
Strengthening Anti-Corruption Frameworks
Pervasive corruption undermines political, judicial and electoral processes. In turn, corruption within these processes can have political, security and economic implications. IFES partners with domestic stakeholders and influencers to identify, prioritize and create action plans to tackle anti- corruption reform.
Regulation and Oversight of Political and Campaign Finance
Transparent and accountable systems of political finance that enhance the integrity of the political process and ensure a level playing field for parties and candidates are important for emerging, consolidating and established democracies. For decades, IFES has empowered domestic groups to advocate for stricter compliance and regulatory reform. Political finance oversight bodies must also be equipped with the mandate and resources to enforce political finance regulations. IFES’ unique Training in Detection and Enforcement curriculum has been specifically developed for political finance regulators. Other electoral stakeholders, such as civil society and the media, can play an important role in holding political parties and candidates accountable for complying with political finance regulations. IFES has a cutting-edge Parallel Expense Tracking (PET) methodology to monitor campaign expenses and abuse of state resources and is developing a comprehensive Political Finance Toolkit.
Preventing the Abuse of State Resources
The abuse of state resources can derail the provision of government funds and other resources where they are needed most. IFES seeks to promote more effective safeguards to prevent unequal advantages from impacting elections, through training for oversight bodies; rigorous assessments; support to local civil society organizations engaged in monitoring and advocacy; legal and regulatory framework reform; and creating and maintaining partnerships with responsible government agencies.
Autonomy and Accountability of Independent Institutions
Independent governmental institutions established in the constitution or under the law are an essential part of the democratic fabric in many countries. While some – for example, anti-corruption agencies – are created to provide important oversight of government functions, mitigate corruption and increase transparency, others serve to insulate important democratic processes from political manipulation (e.g., election management bodies). When leveraged effectively, these institutions can bolster democratic systems. IFES’ new, evidence-based Autonomy and Accountability Framework emphasizes five dimensions of autonomy necessary for an independent agency to fully engage in its mandate, and three types of accountability measures that enable an institution to achieve public credibility and support.
Investigation and Prosecution of Election-Related Corrupt Practices
Elections are a central component in cycles of systemic corruption. During elections, practices such as vote buying, bribery and abuse of state resources can be used to influence voters. Once they win elections, politicians and their supporters may have nearly unfettered access to the power of the civil service, public contractors, government communications, state media and other means of in-kind support to both enrich themselves and gain an unfair electoral advantage. These politicians then have an incentive to “pay back” the services rendered – through civil service employment, favorable procurement contracts and other means – and prevent reforms that would curtail corrupt practices. Given the unique nature of election investigations, IFES has developed an Election Investigations Guidebook for investigators of both administrative and criminal violations. We also train judges and magistrates globally on election litigation.