Backsliding on Good Governance: the Venezuelan case

During the last ten years, Venezuela has experienced a stark regression on its road to good governance, performing negatively in most indicators. Such backsliding can be attributed to the poor governance the country has undergone during its current administration, as well as due to falling oil prices worldwide which has severely damaged the country’s single-commodity-centered economy. A number of corrupt and anti‐democratic processes have also led to this negative transition, that instead of pushing forward the once regional leader, has only pushed it backward. Across this essay, we aim to analyze, through a historical summary of the past twenty years using a process-tracing methodology, the main events in Venezuela that have led to the deterioration of the country’s good governance indicators.

Red tape, bribery and government favouritism: evidence from Europe

Red tape has long been identified as a major cause of corruption, hence deregulation was advocated as an effective anticorruption tool, an advice which many country followed. However, we lack robust systematic evidence on whether deregulation actually lowers corruption. This is partially due to the difficulty of defining what is good regulation, but also to the lack of theoretical clarity about which type of corruption regulations impact on and to the deficient measurement of different types of corruption. In order to address the latter two gaps, we differentiate petty corruption from government favouritism and propose novel measurement of the latter by developing two objective proxy measures of favouritism in public procurement: single bidding in competitive markets and a composite score of tendering ‘red flags’. Using publicly available official electronic records of over 2.5 million government contracts in 27 EU member states and two European Economic Area countries in 2009–2014, we directly operationalize a common definition of favouritism: unjustified restriction of access to public contracts to favour a certain bidder. Petty corruption is measured using business surveys while the extent of business regulation is measured by Doing Business expert assessment of precise regulatory costs. Using country-level panel regression analysis, we find that deregulation has a heterogeneous impact on both low and high level corruption. It is largely ineffective in tackling government favouritism, with business start-up deregulation even facilitating such corruption. Whereas deregulating the various channels through which governments and businesses interact (e.g. obtaining construction permits) often decreases the perception of bribery and petty corruption. Policy consequences are profound and point at a more targeted and context-dependent promotion of the deregulation agenda. Full public procurement database is available at http://digiwhist.eu/resources/data/

Questions and Answers on Romania’s Anti-Corruption Implosion – Updated

In this brief report, Alina Mungiu-Pippidi answers key questions on the recent events in Romania regarding the passing of Ordinance 13/2017. This report covers questions on the ordinance itself, the protests which were triggered by it and the fight against corruption in Romania. The report was updated on 13 February 2017.

An Objective Corruption Risk Index Using Public Procurement Data

In order to address the lack of reliable indicators of corruption, this article develops a composite indicator of high-level institutionalised corruption through a novel ‘Big Data’ approach. Using publicly available electronic public procurement records in Hungary, we identify “red flags” in the public procurement process and link them to restricted competition and recurrent contract award to the same company. We use this method to create a corruption indicator at contract level that can be aggregated to the level of individual organisations, sectors, regions and countries. Because electronic public procurement data is available in virtually all developed countries from about the mid-2000s, this method can generate a corruption index based on objective data that is consistent over time and across countries. We demonstrate the validity of the corruption risk index by showing that firms with higher corruption risk score had relatively higher profitability, higher ratio of contract value to initial estimated price, greater likelihood of politicians managing or owning them and greater likelihood of registration in tax havens, than firms with lower scores on the index. In the conclusion we discuss the uses of this data for academic research, investigative journalists, civil society groups and small and medium business.

Uncovering High-Level Corruption: Cross-National Corruption Proxies Using Government Contracting Data

Measuring high-level corruption and government favouritism has been the object of extensive scholarly and policy interest with relatively little progress in the last decade. In order to address the lack of reliable indicators, this article develops two objective proxy measures of high-level corruption in public procurement: single bidding in competitive markets and a composite score of tendering ‘red flags’. Using publicly available official electronic records of over 2.8 million government contracts in 27 EU member states plus Norway in 2009-2014, it directly operationalizes a common definition of corruption: unjustified restriction of access to public contracts to favour a certain bidder. Corruption indicators are calculated at the level of contracts, but produce aggregate indices consistent with well-established country-level corruption indicators. Due to the common EU regulatory framework, indicators are consistent over time and across countries, while WTO regulations underpin global generalisability. Indicator validity is supported by correlations with well-established perception-based corruption indicators, and novel micro-indicators such as prices and supplier registration in tax havens. The utility of the novel indicators is demonstrated by using them to explain the effect of deregulation on corruption risks at the country level. In order to facilitate wide use of the data and indicators by researchers, journalists, NGOs, and governments, they are made publicly available at digiwhist.eu.

Process-tracing report on Uruguay

This paper describes and analyzes the transformation of Uruguayan governance institutions with particular regard to corruption and particularism. Uruguay substantively improved its levels of universalism in the last fifteen years. This improvement is due to a prolonged process of transformation in Uruguayan politics from competitive particularism to an open access regime. We claim that the change in the way that parties compete for votes – from clientelistic to programmatic strategy – since 1985 is the cause of this transformation. An economic and fiscal crisis during the sixties weakened the clientelistic strategy of the traditional parties and enabled the entrance of a new party that built their electoral support based on programmatic claims instead of the distribution of clientelism. In that context, clientelism became nor fiscally sustainable neither electorally effective. The traditional parties –after an authoritarian period- had to adapt to programmatic competition and leave aside clientelism. Institutional transformations are the consequences of the strategies that parties took for electoral survival and they are functional to the new political equilibrium and help to maintain it. This paper traces the process of institutional reforms and elite behavioral changes that lead to that outcome. Data from a variety of sources is used- ranging from official figures and elite interviews, to public opinion and elite surveys or media reports – to provide descriptive evidence of the main features of this governance regime transformation, and proposes an analytic framework to explain it.

Process-tracing report on Taiwan

Since Taiwan became democratic in 1992 and especially after the change in ruling parties in 2000, the passage of new laws and the reform of existing ones have defined more clearly than ever what constitutes “corrupt” behavior and legal changes have followed international norms. Moreover, since the change in ruling parties, judicial independence has been guaranteed and anti-corruption agencies have been strengthened considerably. Despite the fact that there is still corruption and that the institutional configuration of Taiwan’s anti-corruption agencies is far from optimum, these are major achievements.The present report explains these achievements by analyzing the impact of two turning points in Taiwan’s history, democratization and the change in ruling parties, on agency in Taiwan’s anti-corruption reforms. It does so by applying the methodology of process-tracing which investigates the historical developments around these two “critical junctures” in Taiwan’s history while taking into consideration enabling and constraining factors “inherited” from the authoritarian era. The analysis primarily draws on interviews conducted with former and present officials, judges, and investigators in October 2014.

Process-tracing report on South Korea

Various indicators of corruption show that South Korea has been relatively successful in control of corruption, compared to other Asian countries. Since its independence, South Korea has been transitioning, if not completed a transition, from particularism of the limited access order to ethical universalism of the open access order. How did this happen?  This paper first compare the political, economic and social bases of contemporary control of corruption in South Korea with those in the early period of post-independence, focusing on the norms of ethical universalism vs. particularism. Then, the process-tracing analysis finds four periods with different equilibria of norms of particularism and universalism. Each period is defined by major political events such as the establishment of two divided countries (1948), Student Democratic Revolution (1960) followed by the military coup led by Park Chung-hee a year later, democratic transition (1987), and the financial crisis and the first peaceful change of government (1997). This paper also identifies several critical reforms that have contributed to the change of governance norms. The dissolution of the landed aristocracy, relatively equal distribution of wealth and rapid expansion of education due to sweeping land reform (1948 and 1950) laid the structural foundations for the growth of ethical universalism. Gradual expansion of civil service examinations (1950s-1990s), democratization (1960 and 1987), good governance reforms (1988- ) and post-financial crisis economic reform (1998-9) promoted norms of ethical universalism. This paper also explores how these reforms were carried out, who were the main actors, what factors enabled and constrained them, and what impact they made on governance norms.

Process-tracing report on Georgia

Georgia represents a remarkable case of transformation from a particularistic regime to ethical universalism even though it remains to be a ‘borderline case. This paper looks at Georgia’s path to reform in 2004-2012. It outlines a timeline of changes, discusses political actors of change and their backgrounds and then looks at internal and external factors which were regarded as significant in bringing about such change. It is argued that the young elite, both ideologically and structurally cohesive, capitalised on the window of opportunity and implemented ‘big bang’ reform in 2004-2008. As time passed the new incumbents developed vested interest that became apparent in 2008-2012 when a state-business nexus re-emerged with the state apparatus becoming increasingly manipulated for the sake of private and group interests. These interests undermined market competition, and elite networks used state power to control economic and political structures during the Saakashvili administration. Even though concerns over particularistic practices have remained, petty bribery has decreased substantially.

Process-tracing report on Estonia

In controlling corruption, Estonia is an obvious top-achiever in comparison with the rest of the post-socialist area countries. Some historical legacies apparently facilitated this state of affairs – Estonia was by and large the wealthiest republic of the Soviet Union with the most developed elements of autonomous civil society and considerable exposure to Western information. The strong anti-communist and nationalist mood of Estonians appear to be a key driving force behind the drastic replacement of the ruling elite, which culminated in the 1992 parliamentary elections. This report explores the replacement of the old Communist nomenclature, provides insights into some of the reforms undertaken and the roles of their proponents.The ruling groups changed again in 1995 but the governments of 1995-1999 were probably too short-lived, too weak and indeed not reactionary enough to reverse many of the positive effects of the reforms of the previous period. New legal guarantees of public access to information and broad access to online public services came after 1999 to serve as another layer of constraints on corruption. It can be surmised that a virtuous circle developed, perpetuated in the interplay between, on the one hand, pressures of public opinion requiring efficient and universalistic governance and, on the other hand, initiatives from government in response to public needs. Episodes of corrupt particularistic acts are still recurrent in Estonia but they do not outweigh the overall success.

Process-tracing report on Costa Rica

This paper track Costa Rica’s long transition from a particularistic to a universal ethical society using a process tracing mythology. It argues that the origins of Costa Rica’s success began in the early 20th century followed by three subsequent tipping points that resulted in limiting opportunities for corruption. Each of these tipping points enhanced corruption-free governance through the devolution of political power across the branches of government, the decoupling of the executive branch’s control over state accountability agencies, the creation of new agencies whose actions expanded the anticorruption capacity of state agencies, and the remove of legal impediments on the media to investigate and publish stories about corrupt officials. It details the central role of the media in the most recent period as a public watchdog investigating and reporting on many cases of apparent corruption by public officials. It also identifies many recent cases where the media (traditional and internet-based) initiated investigations into corruption before the state’s official anti-corruption agencies investigated and prosecuted them. The analysis draws on primary research and interviews with former and current public officials, magistrates, historians, and investigators.

Process-tracing report on Chile

This paper traces the historical roots of Chile’s low tolerance for corruption and analyzes how the country has successfully remained free from significant corruption scandals despite the greater access to information and more demands for transparency that often result in uncovering corruption in areas that were previously inaccessible to the press and civil society. The economic transformations undertaken under military rule (1973-1990) and consolidated once democracy was restored in 1990 have created a stronger civil society, a freer press and have increased demands for transparency. There is growing information on corruption scandals as the number of social and political actors has increased and there is more competition for resources and markets. As power is more widely distributed, there is less opportunity for covert corrupt practices and more pressure to end former common corrupt practices. While opportunities for corrupt practices expand with economic growth—both in per capita and total national GDP—tolerance for corruption has remained low and a stronger civil society has raised probity standards in the public sector.

Anatomy of grand corruption: A composite corruption risk index based on objective data

Although both the academic and policy communities have attached great importance to measuring corruption, most of the currently available measures are biased and too broad totest theory or guide policy. This article proposes a new composite indicator of grand corruption based on a wide range of elementary indicators. These indicators are derivedfrom a rich qualitative evidence on public procurement corruption and a statistical analysis of a public procurement data in Hungary. The composite indicator is constructed by linkingpublic procurement process ‘red flags’ to restrictions of market access. This method utilizes administrative data that is available in practically every developed country and avoids thepitfalls both of perception based indicators and previous ‘objective’ measures of corruption. It creates an estimation of institutionalised grand corruption that is consistent over time and across countries. The composite indicator is validated using company profitability and political connections data.

Corruption manual for beginners: “Corruption techniques” in public procurement with examples from Hungary

This paper develops 30 novel quantitative indicators of grand corruption that operationalize 20 distinct techniques of corruption in the context of public procurement. Each indicator rests on a thorough qualitative understanding of rent extraction from public contracts by corrupt networks as evidenced by academic literature, interviews and media content analysis. Feasibility and usefulness of the proposed indicators are demonstrated using micro-level public procurement data from Hungary in 2009-2012. While the prime value of this broad set of indicators is the possibility of combining them into a robust composite indicator of high-level corruption, the high degree of detail also reveals that many regulatory interventions have succeeded in changing the form of corruption, but not its overall incidence.

Background paper on Uruguay

This report describes and analyzes the transformation of Uruguayan governance institutions with particular regard to corruption and particularism. Uruguay substantively improved its levels of universalism in the last fifteen years. This improvement is due to a prolonged process of transformation in Uruguayan politics from competitive particularism to an open access regime. We claim that the change in the way that parties compete for votes – from clientelistic to programmatic strategy – since 1985 is the cause of this transformation. An economic and fiscal crisis during the sixties weakened the clientelistic strategy of the traditional parties and enabled the entrance of a new party that built their electoral support based on programmatic claims instead of the distribution of clientelism. In that context clientelism became neither fiscally sustainable nor electorally effective. The traditional parties –after an authoritarian period- had to adapt to programmatic competition and leave aside clientelism. Institutional transformations regarding corruption are in this context the effects rather than causes of universalism. Nevertheless, these new institutions are not irrelevant because they are functional to the new political equilibrium and help to maintain it. This document uses data from a variety of sources – ranging from official figures to public opinion and elite surveys or media reports – to provide descriptive evidence of the main features of this governance regime transformation, and proposes an analytic framework to explain it.

Background paper on Georgia

Georgia had a terrible reputation for corruption, both in Soviet times and under the presidency of Eduard Shevardnadze (1992-2003). After the ‘Rose Revolution’ that led to Shevardnadze’s early resignation, many proclaimed that the government of new President Mikheil Saakashvili was a success story because of its apparent rapid progress in fighting corruption and promoting neo-liberal market reforms. His critics, however, saw only a façade of reform and a heavy hand in other areas, even before the war with Russia in 2008. Saakashvili’s second term (2008-13) was much more controversial – his supporters saw continued reform under difficult circumstances, his opponents only the consolidation of power.Under Saakashvili Georgia does indeed deserve credit for its innovative reforms that were highly successful in reducing ‘low-level’ corruption. At the top, however, many UNM officials saw themselves as exempt: ‘high-level’ corruption continued and even expanded as the economy grew. Georgian Dream has not restored the ancien régime, but has allowed some patronage and clientelism to creep back into the system. The new Georgia has gained a reputation for ‘selective prosecution’; but some of this is dealing with causes célèbres from the Saakashvili era, while some is clearly persecution of the UNM.

Are EU funds a corruption risk? The impact of EU funds on grand corruption in Central and Eastern Europe

Fazekas et al explore the impact of EU structural funds on institutionalised grand corruption in three countries where corruption is systemic – Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia – between 2009-2012. They examine whether EU funds have contributed to weakening institutional quality in terms of wasteful public spending and increased ‘legal’ corruption conducted through public procurement. By exploiting a unique pooled database containing contract-level public procurement information for all three countries they are able to systematically examine corruption risks associated with EU funding at the micro-level. The authors also develop a composite corruption risks indicator based on the incidence and logical structure of ‘irregularities’ in individual public procurement transactions.

Fazekas et al. ultimately claim that EU funding impacts institutionalised grand corruption in CEE in two ways: first, by providing additional public resources available for corrupt rent extraction; second, by increasing the controls of corruption for the additionally allocated funding. Their preliminary calculations indicate that the first effect increases the value of particularistic resource allocation in the three countries up to 1.21% of their GDPs, while the second effect decreases the value of particularistic resource allocation by up to 0.03% of GDP. However, the latter beneficial effect is entirely driven by Slovakia, which has a high national corruption risk level; while in Czech Republic and Hungary this impact is even negative. The authors conclude with several policy recommendations calling for a radical improvement of the monitoring and controlling framework.