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$50,000 funding win for anti-corruption team

Prof Liz David-Barrett

A Sussex anti-corruption expert is part of a team which has won first place, and a $50,000 funding boost, in a competition held by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).   

Professor Liz David Barrett, the director of the university’s Centre for the Study of Corruption, and her team mates won the prize for their innovative way of using big data to tackle corruption.   

The “IMF Anti-corruption Challenge” saw eight teams shortlisted in February this year and commissioned to develop pilot projects which would promote good governance and tackle corruption in the public sector. 

The winning project was named “Public Procurement Corruption Risks: Harnessing Big Data for Better Fiscal Growth”. The team, led by Mihaly Fazekas (Central European University and Government Transparency Institute), created an intelligence tool which uses big data to spot corruption risks in public procurement processes. Most innovatively, the tool also calculates how much corruption is costing governments. For the competition, they applied their techniqueto data from Indonesia, Georgia, Romania, Paraguay and Uganda, and created an interactive website that can be used to estimate the impact of reducing corruption

The final was held on Wednesday 7 October when the eight shortlisted teams pitched their work to twelve expert judges, with a thirteenth judge comprising the votes of online viewers. 

Liz David-Barrett, a professor of governance and integrity at the University of Sussex, said: 

“Winning the competition means we’re now able to extend our project further to analyse corruption risks and the costs of corruption for 50 different countries. The IMF will be able to show countries how much they could save by introducing anti-corruption reforms.  We believe the evidence will be a powerful incentive for nations around the world to step up their anti-corruption efforts. 

“Our project shows the power of big data. In anti-corruption work, it’s often challenging to find evidence, so it’s significant that we’ve been able to use data in this way. 

“I’d like to thank the team at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office who have supported our ‘Red Flags’ project for five years, not just with funding but also in helping to make sure our research is seen and used by policy-makers. We’re thrilled to win the competition, especially as the other shortlisted projects were really exciting and innovative as well.” 

Dr Peter Evans is the Team Leader for FCDO’s commissioning team for governance, conflict inclusion and humanitarian research.  Within his remit is anti-corruption. He said:

"We try and support research that can have a big, real world impact – and in our governance portfolio, the 'Red Flags' research stands out.  I’ve seen the team in action at a hackathon with activists and students in Ghana; with procurement agencies in Uganda; with the World Bank, and now winning at the IMF.  As well as the super smart ‘Big Data’ tools, the team’s ability to articulate ‘why this matters’ is also key.  Tackling corruption in procurement is for everyone (not just procurement experts) and the IMF prize takes us one step closer to big, real world impact."

The team was led by Dr. Mihály Fazekas from the Central European University and, as well as Professor Liz David-Barrett, included Bence Toth from the Government Transparency Institute, Ágnes Czibik from the Corvinus University of Budapest, Alan Whitworth from the FCDO, Johannes Wachs from Vienna University of Economics and Business, and Olivier Basdevant, an IMF team member.  

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By: Anna Ford
Last updated: Tuesday, 20 October 2020

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