institutional independence

Enhancing Fairness: Wisconsin Experiments with Nonpartisan Election Administration, 2001 – 2016

Daniel Dennehy
Focus Area(s)
Core Challenge
Country of Reform

In the wake of a 2001 scandal over the use of government employees to assist political campaigns, public interest groups in the US state of Wisconsin pushed for reform of the state ethics and elections boards, which had been slow to respond to complaints about misuse of resources and had declined to refer suspected lawbreakers for prosecution. During the 2002 election period, gubernatorial candidates of both main parties joined the call to insulate election administration from partisan pressure. Five years of negotiation came to fruition in 2007, when the state senate and assembly voted to create a consolidated election and ethics agency directed by retired judges. The first nonpartisan election administration authority of its type in the United States, the new agency, called the Government Accountability Board, replaced a system that had vested governance of elections in a commission made up of members of both major parties. But eight years later, political alignments shifted. Arguing that the board had overreached in its handling of certain sensitive cases, state legislators in 2015 voted to shutter the institution and reverted to the pre-2007 system run by representatives of the two major political parties. This case illuminates both the circumstances that can drive politicians to introduce a nonpartisan election management system and the challenges associated with the design, implementation, and sustainability of the approach. (Note that the lead reformer in this case, Michael G. Ellis, died in 2018.)  

Daniel Dennehy and staff drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in the United States from August through November 2022. Case published February 2023.

Tymon Katlholo

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Focus Area(s)
Ref Batch Number
Critical Tasks
Country of Reform
Gabriel Kuris
Tymon Katlholo
Interviewee's Position
Managing Director
Interviewee's Organization
Tyedo Investments
Date of Interview
Reform Profile

In this interview, Tymon Katlholo explains his experience as the director of Botswana’s Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime. He explains the importance of establishing and adhering to guidelines when pursuing cases in order to remain politically neutral and non-discriminatory as an anti-corruption agency. He further discusses some challenges he had faced in achieving institutional independence, managing interagency cooperation, streamlining investigative procedures and raising awareness in regions that are beyond the reach of the media. From his experience, Katlholo draws the lesson that corruption is about service delivery and productivity. In order to fight corruption, it is crucial to enhance professionalism, transparency, and accountability.


At the time of this interview, Tymon Katlholo was the director of Tyedo Investments, an anti-corruption consulting firm. He retired from his position as the director of Botswana’s Directorate on Corruption and Economic Corruption in 2009

Full Audio File Size
64 MB
Full Audio Title
Tymon Katlholo - Full Interview

Restoring Voters' Trust and Confidence: Albania's Central Election Commission, 2001-2006

Michael Scharff
Country of Reform

When he became head of Albania's Central Election Commission in February 2001, Ilirjan Celibashi faced a difficult task. Three years earlier a new constitution enshrined the commission as a non-political body charged with overseeing Albania's historically troubled elections. The permanent commission aimed to promote bipartisan cooperation and restore trust in the political system after violence gripped Albania's capital, Tirana, in the wake of 1996 national elections that the international community labeled as fraudulent.  During its first three years, the commission failed to achieve substantial reforms largely because of the partisan leadership of its chairman. When Celibashi, a former lawyer and judge, took over as head of the CEC, he had to overcome a highly politicized environment, and he set out to enact reforms to restore confidence in the commission and the electoral process. His reforms concentrated on four priority areas: staffing the CEC with competent people, ensuring transparency for the commission's activities, assembling voter lists and overseeing local election commissioners. In 2008, the political parties removed the commission from the constitution and reinstated it as a political body, erasing most of Celibashi's reforms. The case provides insight into how and why a window of opportunity opened for reform, explores how an individual was able to enact changes in a highly politicized environment and considers reasons why the changes were short-lived.   

Michael Scharff drafted this case study with the help of Amy Mawson on the basis of interviews conducted in Tirana, Albania, in June 2010. 

Associated Interview(s):  Petrit Gjokuta, Kathleen Imholz, Ylli Manjani