Cities without Corruption, Cities with Future
Craiova Local Government

The Problem

Corruption harms the economy by distorting incentives; it generates political costs by undermining the trust in democratic institutions and social costs by redistributing wealth and power toward the undeserving and by creating deep inequalities. In the last 20 years of transition in Romania and all CEE/SEE countries, the level of corruption in public life increased, due to the dramatic social and economic changes implemented by weak institutions, themselves under reconstruction. The administrative decentralization braught also the decentralization of corruption. More responsibilities and financial resources were devolved at local level, more vulnerable to corruption local governments became, offering to public officials temptations and opportunities to misuse their position for private gains. Reducing the vulnerability to corruption of the Romanian public institutions and especially of local governments was in the focus of the Romanian National Anticorruption Strategy 2008-2010, elaborated by the Ministry of Interior and Reform, in collaboration with many other central government representatives. A special chapter was dedicated to strategies addressing corruption in local governments. But in 2010 the reality is that few local governments are actively implementing the national strategy measures. Among these few, Craiova Local Government is one of the most effective, because its leadership decided to implement the national strategy by addressing corruption through an innovative and strategic approach, based on the fact that public leaders’ instruments and competencies are those of managers and institutional reformers and not those of prosecutors, judges or policemen.
Addressing corruption through “watch dogs” organizations pressure to behave in an accountable and transparent way is necessary, but not sufficient to produce real changes in local governments’ organizations. For changes to happen - and this is true at personal as well as organizational level, first of all internal will and commitment should be present. The will and commitment may exist; there are mayors who win their mandates on anticorruption electoral platforms. But most of them fail keeping their promises because they start imposing more control, more regulations and more fear of punishment, hunting isolated corrupt individuals or focusing too much on enforcing codes of ethics. Under the siege of fear and fault people build a wall around themselves and are primarily concerned with their own survival.
Public leaders lack a strategic approach to cure and prevent the vulnerability to corruption of their organizations, They do not identify and treat with priority the most dangerous forms of corruption; they do not focus on changing not (only) corrupt individuals but the organization policies and systems that breed corruption; they do not “break the taboo”, which is still present, to start talking openly about the organization vulnerability to corruption and its dangerous effects; they do not involve in the process of change, managers and staff as well as outside affected stakeholders.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
Craiova Local Government implemented a strategic anticorruption participatory process out of which emerged a shared understanding of the vulnerable to corruption activities and a treatment and prevention plan that no outside consultant could better develop. The aim was, beyond treating and preventing corruption, to enhance organization integrity, transparency, accountability and efficiency in 6 main areas: Issuing building permits, Control of discipline in construction works, Public assets management, Public procurement, Properties registration and Human Resources Management. Craiova Local Government has now an anticorruption strategic plan and an implementation action plan, for 2010-2012, that has 5 main objectives: (1) Improve the responsible management of public funds and assets (2) Consolidate the Quality Management System (3) Increase activities transparency (4) Implement a modern Human Resource Management system (5) Improve internal control mechanisms. The identified vulnerable to corruption areas as well as the proposed objectives/solutions may not be surprising new ideas for anticorruption or public administration experts. The initiative novelty and benefits rely in the process itself: through the participation of public leaders, managers and employees trust and commitment were created for the planned changes implementation; collaboration occurred and people connected to each other as human beings with real concerns and issues; relationships improved between departments, between elected and appointed officials, between same department members; envisioning a positive future encouraged them to take action and brought energy in the organization, even in a difficult period of austerity measures imposed from central level; every meeting, due to the way people listened, spoke and communicated meanings, became a model of the future they wanted to create; discussions focused on what they can do to create the future they want and not on what others can or need to do for them. The initiative impact was measured during the process but also through a final survey conducted in November 2010. Two main groups were involved: decision makers involved directly in the process and employees who were not directly involved. The aim was to evaluate and compare the two groups perceptions about the effectiveness of the process and proposed solutions. Among the survey findings are: most important changes were perceived the increase of activities transparency, a more effective collaboration between departments and the emergence of a team spirit. The human resources management and the public procurement activities were appreciated as having the bigest benefits from the anticorruption strategies implementation. People identified also as most useful: „The strategic plan was elaborated by us, civil servants and councilors; we identified our organization problems and vulnerabilities; we identified solutions to address them; the strategic plan started to be implemented - the work procedures improved, transparency increased as well as staff accountability”. After 4 months since the action plan finalization the most important implemented actions are perecived as being: the city digital map finalization, the implementation of an integrated monitoring system for public investments from contracting to realization, the increase of transparency toward citizens and local council concerning public acquisitions, the elaboration of new performance indicators.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
Craiova Local Government applied and was selected to participate in the international program „Cities without Corruption –Cities with Future” initiated by FPDL (Foundation Partners for Local Development – a Romanian NGO), in order to promote in Romania and other CEE/SEE countries, the practical, innovative approach to treat and prevent corruption in local governments and communities. FPDL anticorruption practitioners’ have been responsible for the quality of the strategic plan elaboration process. The process design and facilitation was based on the assumption that the involved local government public leaders (the Secretary and elected councilors), managers (departments directors) and staff (chiefs of services, public experts) are intelligent, capable, motivated human beings, well informed and knowledgeable about their organization problems, vision and goals. That is why Craiova local government representatives have been responsible with the quality of the content and end products being the ones who (1) identifyed and analyzed the most vulnerable to corruption activities that have the biggest impact on citizens’ lives and city’s future (2) elaborated the strategies and implementation action plans in order to lower vulnerability to corruption by promoting transparency/accountability and competition, limiting discretion in taking decisions and motivating staff. The process coordinator was Nicoleta Miulescu, Secretary and the group responsible inside the Craiova local government, the contact persons for FPDL experts/facilitators, was Elvira Stancu, Public Relations Department Director together with her team, Claudiu Popescu and Alina Gheorghe. Outside stakeholders, clients of the vulnerable to corruption activities/services (construction and design companies, civil society organizations, professional associations’ members) were also involved in the diagnosis and solutions elaboration steps. They confirmed the internal diagnosis results and proposed solutions. FPDL Experts were involved in certain moments to offer a new perspective and information about the possible solutions. Central government representatives (Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Regional Development and Tourism) were invited to address the causes of vulnerability to corruption that could not be solved only at local level and at the same time many other municipalities in Romania are confronted with. Citizens - local consultative committees’ members and local youth organizations were informed and invited to support the implemention of the action plan. In November 2010, the National Agency for Civil Servants recognized Craiova Local Government initiative as a best practice, awarding it the 1st prize in the annual competition “Innovation and quality in the public sector” under the category “Strenghtening public service integrity, transparency and accountability”. Last, but not least, Ronald MacLean Abaroa working for WBI offered his feedback, encouragements and advises to the anticorruption practitioners team. He is the former Mayor of La Paz, funding member and first president of Transparency International in Latin America, and his approach and experience in addressing corruption in his city and local government inspired FPDL efforts focused on replicating it in Romania and other CEE/SEE countries.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
Who we are is determined not only by our inherent traits but also by the context. Malcom Gladwell in his book “The Tipping Point – How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference” demonstrates that specific situations can influence in a radical way our behavior, many times overwhelming our inherent predispositions. He demonstrates convincingly that the context, in which we live, plays an important role and has a powerful effect on shaping our behavior, including our “honesty”. The conclusion that follows logically is that by shaping an appropriate context we should be able to influence dishonest behavior and prevent it. That is also the main message of the book “Corrupt Cities – a practical guide to cure and prevent” by Robert Klitgaard, Ronald MacLean Abaroa and Lindsey Parris: the anticorruption strategies should focus on changing the context in which individuals live and work, not as most strategies exclusively do and fail, on changing individuals’ behavior through legalistic or moralistic pressures. They argue that corruption is a crime determined by the context not (only) by personal inherent traits, is a crime of rational economic calculation, not a crime of irrational passion. People tend to engage in corrupt behavior when they think they will gain more than they will loose, when the rewards are great and the risks of being caught are low, and even if caught, the penalties are mild. People tend to engage in corrupt activities when they work in organizations that give them Monopoly power over a good or service delivery, Discretion to decide whether someone gets that good or service or how much it gets, and do not have Accountability and Transparency rules, so that others can see when and how they take their decisions. This is the Context that breeds corruption. Robert Klitgaard proposes a metaphorical formula in order to determine the potentially corrupt areas of an organization: C = M+D-T (A) Corruption equals Monopoly power plus Discretion by officials minus Accountability/Transparency. The formula can be applied to public, private or civil society organizations, in poor or rich countries, in Europe, Asia or Africa. It is true that different individuals may react differently to the temptations offered by the context, and that many public or private officials do not engage in corrupt activities even if the temptations are present. But the important idea is that more temptations a context provide, higher the probability we encounter corrupt activities. Based on Robert Klitgaard formula, solutions would include making changes in the organization context by lowering the Monopoly of public services and goods delivery, limiting the Discretion in the decision making process, increasing the Accountability and Transparency, toward Clients and Principal(s). Many of these strategies have been successfully implemented in Craiova local government, due to the efforts of the local government Secretary, councilors – members of the municipal council, managers and staff, supported by their consultants, FPDL anticorruption practitioners, Ana Vasilache and Nicole Rata.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
The participatory strategic planning process, aimed at curing and preventing corruption in Craiova Local Government, included the following steps: The preliminary self-diagnosis was made by a group of public leaders/managers, during a residential workshop (March 2008). A general self-diagnosis followed, involving 315 employees, out of 500. (April-June 2008). They evaluated individually, supported by participants in the preliminary diagnosis workshop, the level of monopoly, discretion and transparency/accountability of 33 activities/services their organization is providing; 15 were identified as vulnerable to corruption; 6 were selected to be the focus of the Strategic Plan, in a management meeting (July 2008). Followed an in-depth diagnosis of each of the 6 activities: individually, leaders, managers and staff answered the questions: What corrupt activities could take place? Who may gain and who may lose if this happens? Why, what are the causes that may allow these corrupt activities to happen? (August, 2008). Working groups were formed around each of the 6 activities, supported by FPDL experts, to analyze the causes of the vulnerability to corruption and elaborate strategies to address them. (September 2008). Based on ideas generated by the working groups’ members, the Strategic Plan 1st draft was elaborated and validated (October 2008-January 2009) and approved by the Municipal Council (March 2009). An Evaluation of the implementation progress and identification of the obstacles encountered took place. (August 2009). In order to reach outside stakeholders quantitative and qualitative researches were conducted, involving target beneficiaries/clients of the activities/services identified as vulnerable to corruption. They confirmed the internal diagnosis results and proposed solutions. (March-June 2010). Councilors have been invited to join the process and improve relations with the executive side of the organization. Training was embedded in the process, to improve and detail strategic plan content and support its implementation by improving managers, staff and councilors understanding, and knowledge on their organization culture, on the use of different managerial styles for staff development, on the process of change management. (March-July 2010). An Implementation Action Plan for 2010-2012 was elaborated, including clear responsibilties, timing and success indicators for the end October 2010 and for the end of 2012. Series of debates and presentations were organized to inform and involve outside stakeholders to support action plan implementation (at local, national and international level): citizens – members of the consultative committees, youth NGOs members, central government representatives, chief architects from other three big municipalities, mayors attending the Association of Romanian Municipalities general assembly, Ronald MacLean Abaroa/WBI, anticorruption practitioners teams from Croatia, Georgia and Poland (July-November 2010). An impact evaluation research inside Craiova Local Government and Final evaluation meeting were organized to identify progress in the action plan implementation, main and most useful lessons learned and what were managers, councilors and employees perceptions about the main changes that happened and they should focus on in 2011 (November 2010). The process of the strategic plan implementation is on-going. The initiative was recognized as a best practice by the National Agency for Civil Servants, which awarded the 1st prize to Craiova Local Government.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
Corruption is a concept loaded with emotion, fear and shame. Many politicians and officials hold complicated, mixed feelings about corruption. They may sincerely wish to eradicate it, while at the same time participating in it or allowing it to occur. Their deffensiveness, their resistance to talk about the vulnerability to corruption in their organization or their perceptions of being powerless in changing the situation, were the main obstacles to overcome during the self-diagnosis process in Craiova local government. In the preliminary self-diagnosis workshop, participants told FPDL facilitators: Explain us why we are invited to attend this workshop! Explain us what does it mean corruption in Local Governments because we do not know! It was obvious they were also thinking: We can’t do anything about it! So, in order to change the way the situation occurred to them, they were helped to find arguments to invalidate the excuses that everyone uses for not fighting corruption. Further, due to skilled facilitation, people were helped to discuss and analyze openly their organization vulnerability to corruption, without fear of reprisal, by using an analytical framework that helped them realize that corruption is not (just) a problem of bad people but of bad systems. People understood that problems can be analyzed and dealt with effectively, and this fact lowered their skeptycism and stimulated their trust in their capacity to act. Considering corruption a symptom of underlying causes that can be identified in the organization disfunctional systems helped people focus their energy in finding solutions to address them. Another obstacle to overcome was the distrust that existed between councilors and local government managers and staff. A special meeting was dedicated to help both sides clarify the areas of misunderstandings and find solutions to improve communication and collaboration. The obstacle generated by the gaps in the councilors, managers and staff knowledge and skills was overcome by the training embedded in the process and by FPDL experts involved in supporting solutions elaboration.
An unexpected obstacle appeared in March 2010 when Craiova Mayor was arrested under the allegation of taking a bribe for issuing a building permit, the very activity that managers and employees identified as vulnerable to corruption one and a half year before. The trial is not finished and judges did not convicted or exonarated the mayor. But Craiova local government councilors, leaders, managers were able to see this obstacle as an opportunity that showed them how important is what they are doing: elaborating and implementing their organization anticorruption strategies and actions. Last, but not least, central government austerity measures (including cuts in the salaries and firing personel) created obstacles in local government leaders and managers’ motivation and commitment for their organization improvement. They overcame them by creating alternative motivation systems and by using the situation as an opportunity to restructure their organization in order to improve its functioning.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
As financial resources, the strategic and participatory planning process through which Craiova local government elaborated its strategic anticorruption plan used more than one source of funding: in the period 2008-2009 the financial support came from Local Government Initiative of the Open Society Institute, FPDL and Craiova local government contribution, its amount was 50,000 USD. In 2010 the financial support came from EU Transition Facility 2007, FPDL and Craiova local government contribution, and its total amount was 70,000 Euro. As technical resources for the process theoretical foundation, participants used the following materials, provided by FPDL: the Romanian translation of the book “Corrupt Cities, a practical guide to cure and prevention” by Robert Klitgaard, Ronald MacLean Abaroa; the Romanian translation of the manual “Restore the health of your organization, a practical guide to cure and prevent corruption in local governments and communities” by Fred Fisher, Ana Vasilache and Nicole Rata; the Romanian translation of the manuals “The manager and the organizational culture” and “The manager and staff development” by Fred Fisher. The financial and technical resources were mobilized in partnership, by Craiova local government and FPDL. As human resources in the initiative were involved in the strategic planning process: (1) From Craiova a total 620 persons as follows: 88 local government representatives – secretary, directors, chiefs of services, among which 20 participated in the training and planning workshops, 81 participated in the information collection and dissemination meetings; 318 local government employees, among which 80% having decision making positions, participated in the different surveys; 15 local councilors, among which 10 participated in the training and planning workshops; 30 clients/beneficiaries of the activities/services identified as vulnerable to corruption participated in interviews and focus groups; 44 citizens and NGOs representatives, among which 27 members of the consultative committees and 17 youth NGOs representatives participated in the debates and strategic plan presentations; 25 persons representing local architecture and urban planning design companies, professional associations participated in the debates and strategic plan presentations (2) From outside Craiova: 10 persons, representatives of other public institutions (Cadaster Central and County offices, Ministry of Regional Development and Tourism, Ministry of Interior and Public Administration, Craiova University, Bucharest University of Architecture and Urban Planning) (3) From FPDL, a total of 14 persons participated among which, 2 anticorruption practitioners responsible for the process design and facilitation, 2 co-facilitators and 10 experts involved in the different steps of the process (experts in urban planning, discipline in construction, human resources management, public procurement, properties registration, sociologists for qualitiave and quantitative researches) (4) From WBI, a total of 3 persons, Ronald MacLean Abaroa and 2 members of his team organized and participated in the two video conferences aimed at measuring progress and supporting experience exchange among anticorruption practitioners teams from Romania, Croatia, Georgia and Poland

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
The initiative is sustainable due to the participatory process through which those responsible with the changes implementation were those that decided about what are the necessary changes. Craiova local government has an anticorruption strategic plan and an implementation action plan including clear responsibilities, timing and success indicators; the progress can be monitored and evaluated. Councilors who participated in the strategic plan/action plan elaboration will approve for the next year budget the necessary financial resources or legal decisions. The initiative is transferable, at national and international levels. At national level the following actions supported/will support the initiative replication and dissemination: (1) the booklet “Healthy organizations – curing and preventing corruption in local governments” was printed including the detailed description of the anticorruption approach and the process through which Craiova local government elaborated its anticorruption strategic plan. The booklet was provided to more than 100 mayors attending the Association of Romanian Municipalities general assembly (October 2010). (2) Craiova local government and FPDL representatives will present this initiative, that received 1st prize in the national best practices competition, in the Association of Romanian Municipalities next general assembly (March 2011) (3) The National Anticorruption Strategy 2011-2013 in its chapter dedicated to local governments will include strategies based on Craiova local government experience (4) FPDL will replicate in Romania its capacity building Program for Anticorruption Practitioners – PAP in order to create a network of competent and committed organizations/persons capable to support more Romanian local governments initiate and implement participatory processes in their organizations, aimed at treating and preventing the vulnerability to corruption through increasing organizations integrity, accountability and transparency. At international level the replication/dissemination of this practical, strategic and participatory anticorruption approach was FPDL goal since 2004, supported financially by LGI/OSI and other sources. FPDL implemented/will implement the following actions to achieve this goal: (1) Elaborated the manual “Restore the Health of Your Organization” (2) Provided grants for the book “Corrupt Cities” and/or manual translation and printing in 10 CEE/SEE countries (available on FPDL website (3) Organized Trainers’ Planning Meeting, in 2007, for 27 trainers selected from 11 countries, in order to build common understanding on the main concepts and elaborate Action Plans for 2008 in order to disseminate and implement the anticorruption approach (4) Provided financial and/or professional support to 9 training organizations/ 9 countries for their Action Plans implementation: Albania, Armenia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania and Slovakia (5) Designed and conducted a comprehensive capacity building Program for Anticorruption Practitioners for CEE/SEE countries - Knowledge Building, Skills Building Components and professional/financial support for in-country initiatives in Croatia, Georgia and Poland (2009-2010) (6) Organized in 2004-2009 and will organize in 2011 annual international meetings, attended by anticorruption practitioners and their clients - local governments representatives, focused on experience exchange, learning from each other and planning the future steps, toward having in CEE/SEE region and beyond, local governments, which being successful in addressing corruption, become more reliable and accountable, effective and just organizations, and at the same time role-models to be followed.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
Our initiative most important impact is that it increased the social capital in Craiova local government organization; it created a new context in which public leaders, managers and staff related to each other and started to act as the creators and owners of the future of their organization. They talked about what is their responsibility in creating the vulnerability to corruption and what they can do to address it (not what others can or need to do for them). They realized that it is an illusion that only through retribution, fear and tough consequences people can be forced to be accountable, to care about the well being of the whole, beyond their own individual interests; that having a vision, action plans and committed top leadership are essential for a successful anticorruption strategic planning process, but that no clear vision, nor detailed plans, nor committed leaders have the power to bring the image of the future into existence without the continued engagement and involvement of the whole organization. That is why building social capital – relatedness, norms of reciprocity, mutual assistance and trustworthiness, is as important as elaborating action plans, time tables and success indicators. The fact that Craiova local government was among the few that implemented the National Anticorruption Strategy demonstrates that changes that begin on a large scale, are imposed from the top and are driven to produce quick impact produce few results. The jurnalist David Bornstein, in his book “How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas” identifyed the social innovations that were able to become successful large movements. His conclusions, trying to understand how successful transformations came into being, overlap with our initiative characteristics and the lessons we learned. All successful examples he identified, similar to our initiative (1) began with little funding, no fanfare; none of the examples he describes in his book began as large and generously sponsored programs (2) had committed leaders willing to make a difference and bring something new into the world, patient enough to give their initiative time to evolve and find their own way of operating (3) braught changes based on the principles that people are accountable and committed to what they have a hand in creating and that they have the collective wisdom to solve their problems and create their future (4) had as impact changes that occured locally, on a small scale, and happened slowly; but it was after the model had evolved and succeeded to be recognized as a best practice, that it began to grow, gain attention and achieve a level of scale that touched a large number or people. Our initiative started and is developing through the same patterns.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Craiova Local Government
Institution Type:   Public Organization  
Contact Person:   Nicoleta Miulescu
Title:   Local Government Secretary  
Telephone/ Fax:   +40251417602/int.26
Institution's / Project's Website:   +40251411561
Address:   Str. A.I. Cuza nr 7
Postal Code:   200585
City:   Craiova
State/Province:   Dolj County
Country:   Romania

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