10 Aug 2012

U4 Paper Series Examines Corruption Indices

The U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, operated by the Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI), Bergen, Norway, has recently published the first of a series of short reports analysing the strengths and weaknesses of selected corruption indices and surveys. The objective of the series is to provide practitioners in the anti-corruption field with guidance on why, when, and how to use such indicators as reference for their work.

The first paper released, written by CMI researcher Jesper Johnsøn and Transparency International’s Senior Research Coordinator Deborah Hardoon in an interview format, assesses the Global Corruption Barometer (GCB), the largest cross-country survey to collect the general public’s perceptions and experiences of corruption. The GCB is conducted annually by Transparency International since 2003, and in the 2010/2011 round interviewed more than 100,000 people in 100 countries.

According to Ms. Hardoon, one of the main strengths of the GCB, in contrast to other established country-level corruption indices based on expert assessments and businesspeople’s perceptions, is the fact that it reveals general citizens’ views on the state of corruption as it directly affects them. Respondents are asked about their perception of corruption and experience with bribery in different state institutions and services, and their views on the government’s efforts on fighting corruption. They are also asked about their attitudes toward corruption, and their readiness to stand up to it. Moreover, the data gathered by the survey includes information on the demographic profile of respondents, thereby allowing for a detailed analysis of corruption patterns in different contexts and social groups within a single country.

Despite these advantages, this resource is, like many other surveys, not without pitfalls. Difficulties to reach out to rural populations, for instance, reduce the representativeness of samples with respondents more concentrated in urban areas in some countries. A certain level of bias in respondents’ answers can also be expected in countries where political and civil freedoms are curtailed.

Mr. Johnsøn also highlights that the sample size of about 1,000 respondents per country is at times too small to offer a reliable diagnosis of corruption at the disaggregated level of specific government services. When the data collected is reduced to the universe of individuals who have actually had contact with each specific service, for instance, it is often the case that the number of respondents is below 10% of the total country sample. Additionally, although the GCB may offer a good general picture of petty corruption in a country, other types of corruption such as nepotism, procurement fraud and embezzlement are not captured.

In terms of the potential contributions of the GCB to evidence-based policy formulation, Ms. Hardoon stresses that it is a useful tool to support advocacy work by local NGOs engaged in the fight against corruption, as it is also more difficult for politicians to dismiss data from a national public opinion survey. It can also help to identify sectors in the public administration that are particularly vulnerable to corruption and thereby help to tailor more targeted interventions.

As an evaluation tool for specific anti-corruption programmes, however, the GCB is not the most appropriate resource. The impact of anti-corruption efforts can only be captured at a very general level, thus it should be complemented by other more detailed tools at the national level.

More details on the assessment are available in the paper “Why, when and how to use the Global Corruption Barometer” on u4.no.