Kenneth Barden, CFCS, Senior Anticorruption and Good Governance Advisor with the Governance and Rule of Law Team with USAID

Kenneth Barden is a member of the initial group of members who have attained the designation of Certified Financial Crime Specialist (CFCS). Ken has many years of experience working in international development, primarily in the area of public financial integrity, risk management, and anti-corruption.  For over 14 years, Ken worked and lived in various countries in the Pacific, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East, with a number of different development agencies, including the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and others.  Currently, Ken is a Senior Anticorruption and Good Governance Advisor with the Governance and Rule of Law Team with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Can you tell us a little about your career as an attorney, and how you started doing anti-corruption work?

I started my legal career, intending to go into criminal law and becoming a local prosecutor.  I had worked in the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office in Indianapolis, Indiana, during the first part of my law school years and found criminal law interesting and exciting.  During that time, I was fortunate to have assisted in the investigation and prosecution of what was then billed as the world’s largest home robbery-murder in which a grocery store heiress had been found dead in her home.  When police arrived at the home, they found literally trash bags and barrels full of cash, money she had withdrawn from a local bank and kept in her home.  There was so much money, the criminals who had killed her were unable to haul it all away.  I was part of the team that tracked the killers and convicted them.  I personally helped to identify the physical cash found on one of the defendants with the serial numbers of the currency withdrawn from the bank.

After law school, I clerked in federal court and later served as a city attorney for Richmond, Indiana and Dayton, Ohio.  In those positions, I provided legal counsel to public agencies and officers, many of which were responsible for the safety and security of public funds.  That experience led to an offer from the government of the Republic of Palau, a Pacific island that was at the time the newest nation, to serve as legal counsel to its Minister of Finance.  While there I was tasked with leading a team to develop effective banking and anti-money laundering measures for the country.  I helped to form its Financial Intelligence Unit and served for a time as its coordinator.

I was fortunate to participate in official delegations representing Palau in a number of international conferences on corruption and financial crime.  I became a Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist (CAMS) in 2004.  That then led to other work and I became a full-time independent consultant in 2005 on anticorruption issues.  I worked for a few years in Saipan, then Indonesia and later in Palestine to help develop adequate measures to prevent money laundering and fight corruption.

 What are you currently doing in your role as Senior Consultant with USAID?

With USAID, I work with colleagues in developing and implementing strategies to address and prevent corruption in developing countries.  Our work includes conducting assessments to determine the types and levels of corruption and recommend activities or programs that will address those problems.  USAID has a number of field missions which work with government agencies, as well as civil society organizations to develop institutional capacity, as well as awareness of the impact of corruption and what can be done to prevent it.  Several of our programs seek to improve the transparency and accountability of public functions and agencies to their constituents.

How has anti-corruption advocacy and consulting work changed in the years you’ve been involved?

For a long time, the initial focus was on developing the institutions and capabilities to fight corruption, such as anticorruption commissions, specialized investigation units, and court systems.  However, institution building was not enough in most cases.  Public awareness and demand for reforms are crucial to an effective fight against corruption.  Government must be open, transparent and accountable to its citizens.  Now, more focus is given toward developing civil society organizations to bring about many of these changes.

What are the current trends in the anti-corruption field?

The use of technology, particularly with respect to increasing transparency and accountability is on the rise.  Services, such as, are increasingly seen as a tool for citizens to monitor and report allegations of corruption, inefficiency and waste.

What led you to get involved with ACFCS?

I had been a Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist for a long period of time and found that designation to be very beneficial, both in terms of developing my career, as well as enhancing my overall knowledge and interest in the subject.  I find that taking the certification to a broader level as a Certified Financial Crime Specialist encompasses much more of the elements that seem to be converging in this new era of crime and corruption.  We are discovering every day the interconnectedness of corruption, crime, and conflict.  I hope to be able to utilize my skills to help the world cope with these problems, and I see that having this designation can add value and credence to my skills in that endeavor.

You travel extensively for your work. Any favorite cities, regions or places you’ve visited over the years?

Each and every place I have visited or worked in has its own unique features and attractions.  My family and I particularly enjoyed Indonesia with its wide array of culture and natural beauty.  While we were in the Middle East, we enjoyed seeing all the historical sites.  I’ve worked at several hardship posts, as well, including South Sudan and most recently Afghanistan and those places make me appreciate our freedoms and what we take for granted.