Anti-Corruption Evidence (ACE)

The Anti-Corruption Evidence (ACE) is a research consortium, led by SOAS, University of London and funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO). ACE is working in the UK, Bangladesh, Nigeria, and Tanzania with 12 partners on around 40 research projects. BIGD is a research partner of ACE in Bangladesh, conducting six research projects on anti-corruption. To learn more about ACE, visit:


Widespread corruption is a common affliction across the developing world. Bangladesh is one of them, consistently performing the worst in the Global Corruption Perception Index. To combat corruption, the Government of Bangladesh (GoB) formed the high-level Anti-Corruption Commission in 2004.

However, anti-corruption strategies like this often remain ineffective in developing countries, because often these strategies involve creating or using “vertical” agencies, e.g. anti-corruption body, tax authority, and public prosecutor to address corruption. These agencies can hardly be functional without “horizontal” support from the actors, particularly the powerful ones, who are affected by the agencies, e.g. businesses, lawmakers, politicians, and public service providers. It can only work if the rules enforced by the vertical agencies are aligned with the self-interests of the horizontal actors. These actors will not participate in enforcement, e.g. reporting a violator, if such enforcement harms their own self-interest. Society-wide vertical enforcement thus requires support and assistance from thousands of powerful actors.

In developing countries—where obeying rules is an exception, not the norm—horizontal actors tend to gain from negotiating their own informal arrangements than supporting the enforcement of rules. ACE aspires to identify feasible and effective anti-corruption strategies in such contexts.


ACE aims to generate evidence on why vertical enforcement efforts, on their own, do not yield good results in countries like Bangladesh and to use these findings to help policymakers, businesses, and civil society adopt anti-corruption strategies that have better chances to work. Specifically, ACE would:

  • Identify feasible and high-impact anti-corruption strategies to be effective in specific economic, political, and social contexts;
  • Use evidence and analysis to find opportunities to form coalitions that have an interest in changing their behaviour in productive ways at the sector-level;
  • Adopt horizontal anti-corruption mechanism focused on changing the behaviour of key players, working along with the more traditional vertical policies of enforcement; and
  • Identify instances of corruption that have a high negative impact on economic development to explore the drivers of corruption and to identify feasible targets for anti-corruption efforts


Horizontal support and enforcement of a general rule of law are typically absent in a developing country. But research indicates that it is possible to find specific sectors where appropriate changes in policies and institutions can achieve sufficient horizontal support, making rule enforcement and anti-corruption drives feasible in the sector.

ACE’s Theory of Change is based on a simple but powerful proposition. Anti-corruption policies can be feasible and have a high impact on delivery in sectors as diverse as power generation, pharmaceuticals, health services, or fertilisers if enforcement rules enable actors to use sustainable business models and operate productively. This entails finding solutions that actors in this sector can use to achieve better outcomes for themselves and better development outcomes, without engaging in corruption.

ACE focuses on five sectors: 1) public goods and infrastructure, 2) productive sectors, 3) health, 4) media, and 5) governance agencies.

The ACE research framework begins with analysing the rend-seeking processes and political settlements—distribution of power between and within organisations, explaining how effectively particular institutions can be enforced, and the ways they are informally modified, which often involves corruption—in different sectors in the focus countries.

Then the focus sector is selected, based on the possible development impact of specific policies and the feasibility of anti-corruption reforms.

In the focus sectors and policy areas, ACE runs research projects to identify a combination of policies and coalitions including locally powerful interests where behaviours may be changed to achieve lower corruption and better development outcomes, using a combination of four different but mutually supportive strategies:

Photo credit: “Red Signal” is copyright (c) 2016 Mashrik Faiyaz and made available under a CC BY-ND 2.0 license

Journal Article

De-risking Private Power in Bangladesh: How Financing Design Can Stop Collusive Contracting

Publisher: Energy Policy

Date: 2022

Author(s): Khan, Mushtaq; Watkins, Mitchell; Zahan, Iffat

Topic(s): Economic Development, Governance and Politics


Effectiveness of Social Accountability Interventions in Low and Middle-Income Countries: An Evidence Gap Map

Publisher: BIGD

Date: 2022

Author(s): Hassan, Mirza M., White, Howard; Zahan, Iffat; Saran, Ashrita; Ahmed, Shamael; Rahman, Semab; Zubaid, Shabnaz 

Topic(s): Governance and Politics

Journal Article

An Adaptive Governance and Health System Response for the COVID-19 Emergency

Publisher: World Development

Date: 2020

Author(s): Khan, Mushtaq; Roy, Pallavi; Matin, Imran; Rabbani, Mehnaz; Chowdhury, Rajiv

Topic(s): COVID-19, Governance and Politics

Working Paper

Cheaper, Cleaner Power: De-risking as an Anti-collusion Strategy in Bangladesh

Publisher: SOAS University of London

Date: 2020

Author(s): Khan, Mushtaq; Matin, Maria; Zahan, Iffat; Ashraf, Zeeshan; Ajefu, Joseph

Topic(s): Governance and Politics

7 June 2020
রায়হান আহমেদ

বাংলাদেশের অর্থনীতির মূল চালিকা শক্তি হচ্ছে তৈরী পোশাক শিল্প। দেশের মোট প্রবৃদ্ধির ছয়-আট শতাংশ আসে এই সেক্টর থেকে। পোশাক শিল্পের প্রধান কাঁচামাল হচ্ছে কাপড় (ফেব্রিক্স)। যখন দেশীয় টেক্সটাইল শিল্প ক্রেতার চাহিদা অনুযায়ী প্রয়োজনীয় কাপড় সরবরাহ করতে পারে না, তখন প্রতিবেশী...

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23 May 2020
Mushtaq Khan and Pallavi Roy

Why the COVID-19 Response is Undermined by Corruption ‘Flattening the curve’ and lockdowns have sadly become part of our new vocabulary. That this is not just about limiting patient numbers temporarily but primarily about using the opportunity to scale up...

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Dec '19

Digital Identities: When Inclusion Excludes and Functions Creep by Pallavi Roy and Mushtaq Khan

4:30 pm BRAC University Auditorium, Dhaka

Digital identity systems are being enthusiastically adopted in Asia and Africa as a response to corruption, poor governance, poor public service delivery, and high costs of doing business. The expectation is that digital identity...