When investigating bribery, payments are often made through intermediaries, through offshore banks, and various other channels which can be hard to follow.?
At the Balkan Investigative Reporters Summer School, Sheila Coronel of Columbia University suggested that instead of focusing on the bribery itself, it is often more effective to use some of the following 5 techniques:
1. Investigate assets
While the payments themselves may be hard to trace, unusual purchases by the recipient can be easier to identify. Have they bought property? Expensive cars? Conspicuous consumption can provide useful evidence of earnings beyond their declared salary or job.
2. Investigate individual acts?
Instead of looking at the bribery itself, speak to the victims, to eyewitnesses. You might also go undercover to record it yourself – but be aware that this is a risky endeavour which also has ethical implications.
3. Prove examples in the field?
Instances of bribery can involve claims on paper (that a project is completed; that there were no other bids) which conflict with reality (the project has been abandoned; there were many other bids). If you can prove the documentation is not true, there will be questions to answer.
4. Investigate processes?
One result of bribery may be that processes (of bidding for contracts, for example) are perverted. Look at those processes and identify areas of interference, unfairness, or illegality (for example, where regulations are not followed).
5. Investigate public behaviour?
Those in charge of awarding contracts may be visibly behaving inappropriately or unethically – inviting those from bidding companies to family occasions, for example, or enjoying unusual hospitality from them. They may make statements that contradict formal policy or indicate they have not followed proper procedure. Social networks can be a useful source of such 'public' behaviour.?