Adm. – Grad.2013 – 
Dir.; Codir.Stéphane Gagnon

Anti-Corruption in International Development Project Management

Harnois, Yanik

International Development Projects (IDPs) have become very complex with greater diversity of delivery actors. These include donor and receiving governments, national bilateral agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), multilateral agencies, and the vast industry of private contractors and suppliers of humanitarian aid, seeking to narrow the gaps between developing countries and developed countries, and to alleviate poverty. As IDPs evolve into more complex endeavours, they require the application of broader programs of projects, transforming the processes and venues sharing a common objective, to improve economic development, alleviate poverty, and empower local populations.

Managing IDPs requires more robust Project Management (PM) methods as many challenges remain to be overcome, especially in the design of new practices for international aid projects. Year after year, statistics show the persistent low efficiency of international development projects. This remains so, even though development aid agencies have implemented state-of-the-art project and program management methods.

Corruption at various levels and in various countries throughout the development aid value chain has often been cited as one of the main factors in this situation. Given the lack of research on this phenomenon, our study attempts to bring a new perspective on the fight against corruption from the angle of the cultural, political, and institutional dimensions contained in PM processes and methods, which can prevent the objectives of projects from being achieved fully. Therefore, the following research question is our focus: Where and How can PM expertise help mitigate the impact of Corruption on IDPs? 

We followed a grounded theory methodology based on thirty (30) interviews with international development experts, balancing representation from donor and receiving countries, as well as project managers from the public and private sectors. Data is analyzed using a qualitative sorting process using the software NVivo, with a set of 96 representative excerpts are reported. Our interpretation is based on four theoretical foundations to connect evidence within a coherent model: Organizational Interests Theory, Principal-Agent Theory, Culturalist Theory, and Institutional Theory. The model emerging from our field research serves to pinpoint the context of IDPs and where and how PM methods can help fight corruption.

Our findings are discussed within the context of three sets of theoretical constructs. First, we explain how our model for IPD context can relate to existing theories in PM for IDPs and Anti-Corruption studies. Second, we relate this context to the emerging literature in international development, namely the Neo-Patrimonialism theoretical framework. Third, we outline a set of factors at the governance level what may impact the effectiveness of Anti-Corruption efforts, including within PM methods.