Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by CIETeurope

  This memorandum addresses several of the points of focus of the inquiry:

    —  the causes, nature and extent of corruption in the public sector in developing countries;

    —  the impact of corruption on development, with particular reference to the provision of services to poor people; and

    —  measures to combat corruption - building the community voice into the fight against corruption.

  Corruption has long been recognised as an issue in development at the macro level, with large amounts of money being stolen by corrupt senior officials and political leaders in developing countries, and large bribes being paid by international concerns in order to secure business opportunities. The everyday corruption that pervades the public services of developing countries has been termed "petty corruption" and has tended to be considered less important than the grand corruption involving much larger individual sums of money. Mirroring this perception about the importance of different levels of corruption, most efforts to combat corruption have been top-down and centralised, with little if any involvement of ordinary citizens.

  The CIET approach to corruption begins from the perspective of ordinary citizens, people who are supposed to receive public services free or at nominal cost. It documents the extent and effects of corruption on the delivery of public services, collects information about what supports corruption and what supports integrity, and most importantly involves the people concerned—the intended service beneficiaries and the service providers - in describing the problem and formulating solutions. In the CIET approach, corruption is one of the many factors that contribute to lack of access to effective public services, especially for the most vulnerable groups in the society, and involving ordinary people in the fight against corruption is a way of supporting good governance and tackling poverty. The intention is to create a push from below to improve services and reduce corruption. This provides a climate conducive to high level actions to root out grand corruption and provide support for local initiatives against corruption.


Corruption does not "oil the wheels" of public services

  It is still argued by some people that corruption "oils the wheels" and helps to keep public services working. The idea is that people are happy to make small payments for services supposed to be free, they get a better service as a result, and everyone benefits. However, CIET social audits of public services in different countries paint a very different picture.

  A national integrity survey in Uganda in 19981 confirmed that the experience of corruption by people attempting to use public services was widespread. Some 40 per cent of service users reported having to pay a bribe to service workers in their most recent contact: the highest rate of bribery was in the police (63 per cent) and judiciary (50 per cent) services. At the same time, experience of the services was not good, with long waits, multiple visits and multiple staff seen in order to complete dealings with a service. People who made payments to service workers did not experience a quicker, better service: they saw more staff, made more visits and took longer to complete their business.

  Similar findings of a more protracted service when a bribe is paid come from the 1998 national integrity survey in Bolivia2. These payments to service providers are better described as extortion rather than bribery, since bribery implies a voluntary payment with a facilitation of service as a result. Most of those who paid in Uganda and Bolivia claimed this was on demand from the service providers.


  It is sometimes suggested that concepts of corruption from developed countries cannot be applied to other countries with different cultural contexts. However, experience of hearing the views of ordinary people in different parts of the world suggests that they are well aware of what constitutes corruption and angry about the effects it has on their lives, while often feeling powerless to do anything about it.

    "Police are too rotten—they will squeeze us until we are left as bones." Male focus group, Uganda

  Despite low expectations of public services, household respondents in many countries rate the services deservedly negatively, and frequently cite issues related to corruption problems with the services. In Uganda, service users who paid a bribe were less satisfied with the service they received than those who did not pay a bribe (34 per cent vs 70 per cent) 1. In Bangladesh, in the baseline service delivery survey in early 19993, users of government health services were less satisfied with their experience if they made an unofficial payment to service workers (more than 20 per cent) or if the required medicines were not available from the facility (in two thirds of cases). Non-availability of medicines is at least in part due to leakage from the system.

  Corruption is not the only cause of poor delivery of public services, but it is an important factor. It includes not only demands for bribes but also absenteeism, diversion of resources, nepotism, cronyism, and the like. The public may attribute poor service delivery to corruption, even if this is not always the case. Lack of medicines in Bangladesh may be due to inadequate and poorly targeted supplies as well as leakage from the system, but citizens attribute it to corruption.

    "They only ever give us prescriptions, never any medicines. The health workers sell the medicines outside." Male focus group, Bangladesh

Poor people suffer especially from the effects of corruption in public services

  One of the worst effects of corruption in public services is that it effectively denies the service to people who cannot afford to pay the bribes entailed in using the service, yet do not have other options. Thus the very poor, most in need of government services, are worst affected by corruption in the delivery of these services. This is starkly demonstrated in the second Bangladesh service delivery survey, recently undertaken4. The poorest 28 per cent of households (defined on the basis of an annual income of less than Tk 23,899) are less likely to use government health services. Focus groups made it clear that this is because they cannot afford the extra and unofficial payments required for these supposedly free services and because poor people are treated very badly by the service providers, who prefer to treat patients who can afford to pay them.

    "A rich man has got power and strength, so he gets health services. The poor have no strength, no power, so they are being deprived of health care." Male focus group, Bangladesh

    "As we are poor they do not give us any treatment here." Female focus group, Bangladesh

  Among service users in the 2000 Bangladesh survey4, there is clear evidence of discrimination against the very poor: they were less likely to be prescribed medicines in government health facilities, less likely to feel they were given an explanation of their health problem, and less likely to be satisfied with the service they received. The payments made in the health facilities by very poor people were lower than those made by less poor people; this may help to explain why the very poor receive a worse service.


Analysis of data to point to interventions

  Documenting the extent of corruption in public services in many cases merely confirms what was already known, although the act of quantifying, documenting and publicizing the information can be helpful for advocacy. But modern epidemiological techniques can be applied to tease out the factors related to corruption in delivery of services, in a way that quantifies the potential gains from different interventions. This can be used to help plan programmes to build integrity at both national and local levels. This risk and resilience analysis is a key part of the general CIET approach5 to supporting development, producing results in a form that can help planners with limited resources to decide which courses of action might have the greatest effect.

  In Uganda1, for example, analysis showed that the proportion of service users paying bribes could be reduced by 7 per cent if they were given helpful information about how to use the service, taking into account the other factors related to the risk of paying a bribe (like making more visits to complete the business, and seeing more service workers). In Bangladesh3, the rating of the service by users could be particularly improved if medicines were available and if extra payments to service providers were stopped, taking into account other factors.

Amplifying the community voice

  The top-down approach to tackling corruption in public services has not worked any more than it has worked in development generally. The need to increase participation of citizens in the planning, delivery and management of services is especially acute when tackling corruption. Community members are well aware of the way corruption erodes their access to effective services, they know the local problems only too well, they have ideas about what sort of services they want, but individually they have no means of influencing the situation. The CIET social audit process systematizes their experiences, views and suggestions and puts them next to information from facilities and service providers. This dialogue between planners, service providers and community members, based on relevant, up to date facts about delivery of services increases transparency and helps to make services accountable to the population they are meant to serve. It is a concrete contribution to good governance.

Involving public services in finding solutions

  Government buy-in and involvement of services themselves is crucial to success of this approach to tackling corruption. It is too easy to point a finger at individuals; poorly and irregularly paid service workers may be tempted into corruption in a system that fosters it. The social audit process focuses rather on system flaws, examining factors conducive to corruption or integrity, and holding up examples of good practice. In South Africa, the police in Johannesburg have worked in collaboration with CIET to respond to the findings of a survey6 showing the poor performance of many police stations in dealing with cases of sexual violence reported to them, some of this poor performance being due to corruption as well as other forms of inefficiency in the system. In Uganda, the 1998 integrity survey1 was undertaken at the request of the Inspector General of Government. IGG personnel were involved in the process, and the IGG and Ministry of Ethics and Integrity have since used the findings to initiate integrity plans at district level throughout the country, working with local administrators and political leaders.

Local solutions

  Decentralisation is not a guarantee of reduced corruption; it may simply add another level of bureaucracy where corruption can flourish. However, effective accountability of services seems easier to achieve at local level and it is easier to plan and implement actions resulting from dialogue between service providers and civil society at local level. In Uganda, for example, the Ministry of Agriculture was loath to accept findings of a service delivery survey that showed only 10 per cent of farming households had ever been visited by an agricultural extension worker, but the finding was agreed more readily at district level, where it was known that reduction in staffing had led to lack of supervision of workers. The effective decentralization of service provision to district level in Uganda means that individual districts can act on the findings. In Nepal, where control of provision of public services remains centralised, it was difficult to get agreement to study corruption in services directly and there has been no response to similar findings about agricultural services.

Closing the loop; building confidence

  Corruption is a complex, ingrained process with no "quick-fix" solutions, no magic bullet. However, using evidence and bringing together service providers and communities, especially at local levels, local solutions can be formulated. Repeat audits can then measure the implementation of the interventions and their impact on corruption in the services and delivery of services to the public. Evidence from these repeat audits can be used to show which interventions really work in practice and hold up examples that can be applied elsewhere. Evidence of progress encourages further participation in a continuing cyclical process of measurement, planning and implementing interventions so that bit by bit a culture of transparency and accountability of services is built up.

  In South Johannesburg, for example, there has been measurable improvement in the way the police handle reported cases of rape as a result of interventions made by the police in response to the results of the initial survey in 1998. It is hoped to repeat the integrity survey in Uganda in 2001, to assess what interventions have been made in different districts, and relate this to repeat measures of corruption in public services.


  Grand corruption has an adverse effect on development because it damages the economic status of countries and discourages investment. However, it is pervasive petty corruption that has a disproportionately severe impact on the poorest members of society. Efforts towards poverty alleviation will always be ineffective so long as resources continue to leak from the system and do not reach the most needy. By the same token, successfully tackling petty corruption could make a very important contribution to improving the lot of the very poor; arguably this could be the single most important way of reducing poverty in many countries. A coherent, concerted approach to petty corruption could have far reaching effects, creating a less favourable climate for grand corruption and specifically helping the situation of the very poor.

Dr Anne Cockcroft and Professor Neil Andersson


December 2000


  1  CIETinternational and Inspector General of Government. Uganda national integrity survey 1998. Kampala, 1998.

  2  Villegas A, Morales A, Andersson N. Popular perceptions of corruption in the public services: key findings of the first national integrity survey in Bolivia, 1998. CIETinternational, 1998.

  3  Cockcroft A, Monasta L, Onishi J, Karim E. Baseline service delivery survey, Health and Population Sector Programme 1998-2003. CIETcanada and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Bangladesh, June 1999.

  4  CIETcanada. Bangladesh service delivery survey second cycle 2000. Preliminary key findings. Bangladesh, November 2000.

  5  Andersson N. Evidence-based planning: the philosophy and methods of sentinel community surveillance. CIETinternational and EDI World Bank. Washington, 1996.

  6  Andersson N, Mhatre S, Naidoo S, Mayet N, Mqotsi N, Penderis M, Onishi J, Myburg M, Merhi S. Beyond victims and villains; the culture of sexual violence in South Johannesburg. CIETafrica-SMLC. Johannesburg, 2000.

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