TT21 Fighting Bribery

Guide to Financial Management

Top Tips 21

Fighting Bribery

This Top Tips sheet outlines advice from our colleagues at Transparency International UK (TI-UK)  on what you could do to fight back against the curse of corruption.

Research by TI-UK suggests that NGOs need to strengthen their anti-bribery procedures.  Due to difficult operating environments, paying a bribe is often seen as the only way to get things done.


However, we must not forget there is strong evidence to link corruption and poverty.  This is a powerful reason for fighting bribery and corruption.

Where to start?

Start the fight against bribery in NGOs by asking these questions in your NGO to get a discussion going: 

  • Is there a bribes policy and are employees aware of it?
  • Have bribes been demanded or paid?
  • How much and how often?
  • Have they been successfully avoided?
  • What do your employees/partners do when they suspect corruption?
  • Are projects designed to prevent bribery?

Avoidance strategies: or how to reduce the risk of paying a bribe

  1. Conduct a risk assessment: where is your organisation exposed to a high risk of bribery – and how effective are your anti-corruption policy and management systems?
  2. Introduce a zero-tolerance policy: put in place a headline policy that recognises the damage that corruption does to your goals and mission; the importance of strong internal anti-bribery systems; and makes it clear that the organisation does not tolerate bribery in any form. Establishing a reputation for not paying bribes is an important start.
  3. Put in place strong anti-bribery systems: Key areas to consider include procurement systems, audit and ‘whistle-blowing’. Transparency International (TI) produces a checklist to assess anti-corruption procedures - although aimed at companies, it is also relevant to NGOs.
  4. ‘Design out’ bribery from future projects or operations: embed anti-corruption measures in project design. For instance, set achievable timescales, train staff and take care in selection of partners and suppliers.
  5. Gather local knowledge and information: it is important to know whether bribes are being paid by your employees, agents or partners – and if so where, how much, and how frequently. Find out which government departments or officials are less corrupt, which ports are corruption-free.
    This sort of information is crucial if your NGO truly wants to implement a zero-tolerance policy and to ‘design out’ bribery. Ask at your local Transparency International (TI) chapter, embassies, local businesses and other NGOs.
  6. Provide training and support: implementing effective anti-bribery systems can be a difficult process, and employees and partners may feel vulnerable and ill-equipped, especially in a transition phase from one way of doing things to another. Proper training and support is a vital part of this process.

Resistance strategies: or what to do when asked for a bribe

  1. To pay or not to pay? Never refuse when your personal security is threatened. Depending on the situation, you could refuse to pay or ‘play ignorant’ and find yourself being waived through or receiving the service anyway.
  2. Seek creative solutions – are there alternative options, eg can you buy equipment in-country rather than having to import and pay “special” customs fees?
  3. Consider collective action – if enough organisations and companies resist paying bribes and share information, some endemic corrupt practices will be forced out. Publicising known regular corrupt practices in the local media – such as the infamous road block on airport roads – could also have a positive impact.
  4. Seek advice - contact the local TI chapter or embassies for advice on local resistance strategies, and to report corrupt practices.

Remember: You do have a choice!  It takes TWO for bribery to occur - someone has to pay as well as receive a bribe.  Many organisations refuse to pay bribes. It may make some operations more difficult to run… BUT saying no to bribes helps create a better society.

Want to learn more?

Transparency International has experts able to assist NGOs in developing anti-bribery systems and publishes a selection of tools for risk.


TI(UK)'s Briefing Note for NGOs about the UK 2010 Bribery Act is relevant for you if you receive funds from UK.  NGO Anti-Bribery Principles and Guidelines July 2011 for the latest guidance and good practice advice. 


TI's Anti Bribery Checklist can help you see how good your organisation's policies and practices are.



View our calendar of courses around the world :


See Mango’s Guide to Financial Management for NGOs,  for free advice and tools, including sections on internal control, procurement and audit.

Mango: All about Money and NGOs
Mango helps NGOs to make more of their money by: running practical training, supporting people in finance roles, advising NGOs and donors, and publishing free tools and guides: