IILJ Working Paper 2020/3

Coordinating the Enforcement of Anti-Corruption Law: South American Experiences

Kevin Davis
Guillermo Jorge
Maíra Machado

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Is there a single best way to regulate political corruption? There is a strong consensus around the idea that an anti-corruption regime should include legal prohibitions on bribery, embezzlement and money laundering in relation to public officials. There is no equivalent consensus around how to organize enforcement of those prohibitions. Inspired by the Brazilian experience, an emerging view favors dividing responsibility for enforcement among multiple institutions that are able, but not required, to coordinate their activities. The authors refer to this as the “modular” approach to anti-corruption enforcement. The proposal that other countries–and especially other developing countries—should adopt this model is appealing because it avoids traditional concerns about borrowing formal legal arrangements from the Global North that might function very differently in the context of the Global South. Accordingly, the authors examine the extent to which the modular approach to anti-corruption enforcement has taken hold in six South American countries. Their findings suggest that its viability is context-specific, meaning that whether the model has been implemented in any given country is explained by a range of political, intellectual and institutional factors. (This paper was written in 2015 but not published. Due to recent interest in reading its theoretical argument on institutional modularity, it is being made available in 2020 as an IILJ Working Paper, unchanged from the 2015 text.)