Interrogating the Double Standards of Accountability Standards in Global Development: The Cases of Malawi and the United Kingdom
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Corruption is seen as major hindrance to development, and anti-corruption measures form a significant part of international development strategies. In 2013, the United Kingdom (UK)’s Department of International Development (DFID) suspended all general budgetary support to Malawi following the exposure of government corruption in the “Cashgate” scandal. This MA thesis examines the role accountability for corruption – as part of the good governance rhetoric – plays in the post-Washington Consensus (PWC) approach to development and asks what the UK’s suspension of aid to Malawi can tell us about the conceptualisation and application of accountability for corruption in contemporary aid relations. By undertaking an historical analysis of the development of the PWC’s focus on good governance and of the nature of accountability and then surveying contemporary documents addressing the UK-Malawi aid relationship, this research demonstrates that corruption serves a central role in the PWC as explaining why countries fail to develop and that a fundamental element of accountability within the good governance framework is that it is retroactive – that is, accountability mechanisms are triggered after wrongdoing. Cashgate and DFID’s response is then compared to the understanding of accountability for corruption DFID demonstrated in its documents and to the 2009 UK parliamentary expenses scandal. The MA thesis concludes that there are two significant inconsistencies in the theory and practical application of accountability for corruption: an internal inconsistency in that an application of the retroactive element of accountability contradicts the PWC’s use of corruption as the explanation for failed development; and an external inconsistency in that the retroactive element was adopted in the UK parliamentary expenses scandal but not in Cashgate. This contributes to the literature on the inherent shortcomings of the PWC’s approach to development and the impossible governance standards to which aid-recipient countries are held that donors do not themselves attain, and poses questions for how accountability should be applied in order to achieve true social justice, equality and prosperity.