Risk Pathways

3. Partnering with host nation defence and security forces (HNDSF)


While corruption in any sector can be costly, it is particularly pernicious when it affects defence and security forces. In fragile states, some of the largest chunks of resources are associated with funding for security forces: in South Sudan in 2015, security spending made up 40% of government expenditure. This makes it a prime target for corruption in the form of kickbacks, diversion of money and resources, theft of equipment, and favouritism toward allies. The defence sector also tends to be far less transparent than others, with secrecy often justified by references to national security, and with limited, if any, independent scrutiny (audit or parliamentary, for example).

Impact of mission activities

Where corruption affects recipients of international assistance, donors risk exacerbating existing problems through providing equipment and training to privileged groups. They also risk strengthening adversaries where equipment and other resources are diverted for private gain. Where they support defence forces involved in breaching human and political rights, donors can strengthen damaging trends. Support for corrupt partner forces can also carry reputational risks for donors, who will be associated with corrupt and criminal networks.

Risk Areas within Risk Pathway 3. Partnering with host nation defence and security forces (HNDSF)

These risk areas provide further information on corruption risks that arise when partnering with HNDSF, including specific guidance how to identify these risks and what measures can be implemented to mitigate them.

3.1 Resource diversion and corruption in the acquisition process

Corruption related to materiel, be that in procurement, logistics, or asset management and disposal, is one of the most frequent forms of illicit activity in the armed forces.

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3.2 Bribery and patronage in recruitment and promotions

Both bribery and patronage in recruitment distort a meritocratic process meant to put the best people in particular posts.

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3.3 Misuse of defence funds: secret expenses

A significant risk can come with any discretionary expenditure that occurs in secret and has little to no oversight. These budget lines are vulnerable to diversion and misuse for private gain.

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3.4 Ghost soldiers

Absence of personnel and inaccurate data waste resources, impede operational planning and execution, and can lead to operational failures.

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3.5 Abuse of civilian populations

Whether subject to extortion or in danger of physical harm, the civilian population begins to see the armed forces as part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

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3.6 Links with criminal, paramilitary and insurgent groups

Where armed forces support or lead operations against criminal and insurgent groups, infiltration by said groups – especially when their resources exceed those of particular units – is a very real risk.

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3.7 Provision of healthcare

The complexity of healthcare-related issues, the power imbalance between practitioner and patient, and the multitude of stakeholders involved are only some of the factors that make healthcare susceptible to corruption risks.

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3.8 Involvement in the country’s economy and politics

With preferential access to state resources – from budgets to communications networks to transportation corridors – and an ability to secure incentives such as tax breaks or conscript labour, armed forces which turn to economic activity enjoy an unfair advantage over civilian actors.

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Mitigations within Risk Pathway 3. Partnering with host nation defence and security forces (HNDSF)

Strong integrity standards among mission troops and their ability to notice and report corruption can help identify corruption problems among partner forces.

When corruption occurs due to lack of resources or inability to meet basic needs, providing assistance can help change incentives and rationales.

Ensuring that financial flows do not exceed the host nation’s absorptive capacity will diminish the risk of diversion by corrupt networks; tying funding and assistance to improvements in governance can help create momentum for reform.

Supporting civilian initiatives such as reform of the judiciary can help create accountability for the defence and security forces, and using a full spectrum to shape incentives could render corruption less attractive at strategic, operational and tactical levels.

Civil society organisations can be valuable allies in the fight against corruption, at a strategy-setting level and when attempting to limit low-level corruption that feeds higher-level networks. Their participation is also key to establishing healthy civil-military relations.

These are specific measures targeted at improving the integrity and effectiveness of defence and security forces. Their utility depends on the type of corrupt practices affecting a particular force.

Stronger oversight of mission resources will help limit opportunities for corrupt networks, and helping develop host nation or civil society oversight mechanisms will help create longer-term accountability of host nation forces.

Ensuring that the international mission is able to receive and process signals of wrongdoing increases the likelihood of detection and diminishes the appeal of corruption.