Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 461 - 479)




  461. Good morning, Dr Cockcroft.
  (Dr Cockcroft) Good morning.

  462. Thank you very much indeed for the evidence that your group CIET has given us, both on petty corruption and grand corruption, and thank you very much for coming this morning. We hope that perhaps we may be joined by Professor Andersson, depending upon arrangements being made at Heathrow, I gather?

  (Dr Cockcroft) Yes, that is right.

  463. Can I start off the questions straightaway, on the subject of petty corruption and public services, and which public services are the most affected by petty corruption and why?
  (Dr Cockcroft) I guess, in most countries where we have looked at this, it has been mainly the police and judiciary that has come top, or bottom, depending on which way you look at it, of the ratings for petty corruption, in terms of the most number of interactions with those services that have been accompanied by unofficial payments and other forms of corruption. I think it is probably because there are more opportunities there and not necessarily that there are more corrupt people working in those services. I think it is more to do with the particular kind of interaction that those services tend to have with the public.

  464. Yes; this is the judiciary and the police service?
  (Dr Cockcroft) They tend to come out very highly rated, in terms of the people's perception of corruption in those services, and their experience of corruption when they have contacted the services; that is not to say that other services are free of that, certainly, health services that we have looked at in quite a number of countries are certainly affected by this. And, of course, one of the problems with health services is that you cannot necessarily choose not to use the service; if you have gone to the police and they are demanding a bribe, you may decide, "Well, I'm just not going to use that service," but if you have taken your sick child to the hospital and you are being told, "You have to pay or we don't treat your child," you do not feel you have much choice. So I would not want to say that the police and judiciary are, by any means, the only services that are affected. Of course, one of the problems is that they are also the people perhaps who would be required to investigate these problems; so it is a sort of double whammy, in a way, that they may be corrupt but they would also be the people that you may want to go and report the problem to.

  465. Yes; so that is health, and education?
  (Dr Cockcroft) Education, definitely, in many sorts of forms; for example, in a system where the routine education services are rather poor, and children sit in the class but perhaps the teachers are absent, or the teaching materials are absent, or the teaching is poor, then parents often have to pay for extra tuition, which means, effectively, that they are getting no teaching at all. Or you get things like parents pay for their children to sit at the front of the class, or they pay to have a desk, there are all sorts of ways in which these payments take place; some of them are sort of semi-official, because it may be alright, in some circumstances, to pay for extra tuition, but perhaps not alright if you do not get any other form of teaching.

  466. Yes. And what about services, like electricity service; we heard, for example, in Bangladesh, when we visited, that you actually had to pay a bribe in order to pay your bill early?
  (Dr Cockcroft) Oh, yes. We have a small office in Bangladesh, and my own experience of trying to get a telephone service connected is very much the same, that you can get it without a bribe but it is really quite hard.

  467. And did you give a bribe?
  (Dr Cockcroft) No.

  468. You did not; so you did not get a telephone?
  (Dr Cockcroft) We did get a telephone, eventually, but it got cut off several times, and it turned out that the building supervisor was in league with the telephone supply services and they used to cut off the `phones for a number of places in the building routinely, and he would come round and say, "Well, you know, Mr So-and-so, in this flat, he got his reconnected but he paid 100 taka for that," then I start getting upset and say, "Well, we're not going to pay 100 taka, and we'll make your life too difficult." So it is an everyday part of experience, that is true, and certainly the public services are very much in that situation. It is sometimes difficult to know whether it is corruption or whether it is just inefficiency, and you tend to assume it is corruption because it is so widespread.

  469. Does petty corruption also affect services funded or supported by donors and non-governmental organisations?
  (Dr Cockcroft) Yes, I think definitely it does, there is no question; if you have large donor-funded projects, sometimes they are prone to corruption by the workers, in the same way as any other service, in fact, sometimes they may be more so, because there may be more funding available. Everybody knows that most of the vehicles that you see driving around the capital cities of developing countries have stamped on the side this project or that project; they are supposed to be out in the periphery, providing a service, but actually they are being used by a senior official, for his transport around the capital city. So, yes, there are all sorts of ways in which donor-funded projects are a problem. One sort of thing that causes a particular problem, we are aware of it, is that, if we want to have discussion groups, let us say, at district level, with district officials, about issues to do with the services, and so on, we are told, "Well, you have to pay them to come to the meeting;" this is a meeting in their own time, in office hours, in the place of work. And it has been started, I have to say, by organisations like the WHO, who have made it a routine that they pay people to come to these meetings, and therefore that becomes the norm, that you get paid to come to these meetings. Now it is official, if you like, but I am not sure that that does not border on some form of corruption, in a way.

  470. We were told, in Uganda, that if you wanted to see a civil servant of any seniority you did have to pay, otherwise they simply did not come?
  (Dr Cockcroft) But, actually, you do not. Our experience is that that is not the case. Recently, in Bangladesh, we have been having some feedback, discussion groups, at local level, to discuss the findings of our recent survey there, we have been discussing it in focus groups in the villages, with ordinary people, of course, they are delighted to come to the meetings, and we have been discussing it at thana/upazila level. And we had a long discussion about whether we should pay those people to come to the meetings, and we decided it was giving the wrong messages; so we have not been paying them, and, yes, they have been coming, and, yes, they have been contributing to the discussion. So I think sometimes it is the perception that you have to pay, and the reality may be different.

  471. Also in Uganda, I came across a medical officer, on DFID's team, who tried to justify to me the fact that DFID-supplied drugs were being sold by the local nurse in a shop established next door to the official government clinic, and he said that he closes a blind eye to this because it is the only way he would be able to keep such skilled people in the countryside. Do you think that that is, in your experience, a common practice, and is it justified?
  (Dr Cockcroft) It is certainly a common practice, it is a very common practice, in many of the countries. For example, in Uganda and Bangladesh, an African country and an Asian country, where we have looked at health services in some detail, it is certainly a very common practice. People report that they do not get drugs when they go to the health service, and this is what they believe to be the reason, if you ask the ordinary people, "People are not getting drugs when they go to the health services, why is that?" they will say, "Well, because the health workers sell the drugs to the local shops." And, in fact, they will tell you, in great detail, we have had people describing to us, "Well, of course, they're stamped DFID, or Government of Uganda," or whatever it is, "and we saw Mr So-and-so loading them from the place, and then he unloaded them into his private clinic;" or "they tell us to go to such-and-such a drug shop and they are there and they are stamped with the Government stamp." So it is not a secret, if you like, it is .

  472. No; it is commonplace?
  (Dr Cockcroft) It is commonplace, yes. But, in terms of, to answer the other part of your question, does that mean that you have to turn a blind eye to that or you will not keep the health workers, that seems to me to be an admission of defeat, it is like saying, "Well, it's fine for them to be corrupt and we will encourage that." I do not think that that is the right attitude to take, if you are going to try to tackle this problem.

  473. That certainly was my view. I did not give him any encouragement, I can assure you. Are all developing countries equally affected by petty corruption of this kind, or does it vary between different countries, and how do you think that this petty corruption takes root, how does it start?
  (Dr Cockcroft) I think petty corruption is around not only in developing countries but has been around, perhaps less so now, in developed countries, but historically it has been around in developed countries, I do not think it is special to developing countries. It is similar in different countries but perhaps takes slightly different forms. The caricature which I am sure people will be aware of is the difference between Africa and Asia, in this respect, that in Africa it is said to be cruder, if you like, the money is taken and the road is not built at all, whereas perhaps in Asia the money is taken and the road is built half the width that it should be. So it can be more subtle. I am speaking now just from experience of working in the two continents. In Asia it tends to be more subtle and perhaps more ingrained in people's expectations. I think, perhaps, by the same token, that may make it more difficult to tackle, simply because people do not have any feeling that it can be changed, they feel entirely hopeless in the face of that, they do not like it but they do not feel there is anything that can be done about it.

  474. But I expect, like me, you are confronted with the argument, by people from this country, generally speaking, or developed countries, that this is the culture, this is the tradition, this is the way that business, everyday life, is expected to be done, and therefore there is nothing we can do about it, and we will participate in it. Do you think that is an adequate .

  (Dr Cockcroft) No, I do not. People have said, "Well, you know, there's a different culture, you should be culturally sensitive, and it's alright to be corrupt because that's the culture." If you ask ordinary people, the bottom of the pile, poor people, living in villages, they do not think it is alright to be corrupt, it affects them very disastrously in their everyday lives, they are very unhappy about it but they do not feel there is very much they can do about it. If you ask them, "Well, why do you pay the bribes?" they give some quite interesting answers, they do not feel they have any choice.

  475. They do not have a choice?
  (Dr Cockcroft) No.

  476. Particularly, with the non-provision of health services, that you have illustrated?
  (Dr Cockcroft) That is right.

Mr Rowe

  477. When you told us that the judiciary was one of the most sensitive, or most vulnerable areas, do you have evidence that it actually affected verdicts? Bacon said, in James I's time, "I'm happy to take bribe, from whatever source, but it has never affected my judgements." Do you feel that people, when they pay money to a judge, get value for their money, or do you think the judge just pockets the money and then just gives them the brush-off?
  (Dr Cockcroft) The first thing, it may not be the judge that they actually pay, they may think they are paying the judge but very often actually they are paying the court clerk, or somebody, who tells them that they are paying the judge; so actually it may not be the judge, is the first thing to say. Secondly, what tends to happen is that it is almost like an auction, if you like, it might go to the highest bidder; so if the complainant is paying a certain amount and the accused is paying a certain amount then it may depend on who pays more. So I think it probably does affect judgments; it is certainly the perception of people who have experienced the problem that it does affect judgments. So, yes, I think they may be taking bribes from both sides, but perhaps the one that pays more is going to be the one that gets the judgment. The other thing, of course, that happens, it is not so much that the judgment goes in the other direction, it may never come to court; that is one of the difficulties, you have to pay to get the thing moved along actually to get your case ever to come to court, and people wait months, years, to try to get their case to come to court, and then eventually they give up, having paid a lot of bribes along the way.

  Mr Rowe: Jarndyce and Jarndyce, yes.


  478. That, actually, is interesting, because you say, in your evidence, that, in fact, paying bribes does not result in better service; in a sense, your answer to Mr Rowe suggested it does provide a better service, in terms, if it comes to court, of getting a judgment which you wish to get. But you say that people do not get a better service, and especially those who can least afford it do not get a better service?
  (Dr Cockcroft) That is right. What we found was, when we looked at people's reported experience of services and we looked at how many people they had seen, how many visits they had had to make, how long their business had taken, people who had paid bribes had seen more members of staff, they had had to make more visits and it had taken longer. So, in effect, this really is not bribery, it is extortion. The more runaround you get the more opportunity there is for each person to take a bribe; so not only does seeing a lot of people make the service inefficient, also it means that there is more opportunity at each stage for somebody else to ask for money. So it is certainly the case, and we found this in a number of different countries, in Bolivia, in Uganda, we found that the people who paid bribes did not get their money's worth, if you like; in general, that was the case.

  479. In that case, it would seem that it ought to die out, should it not, because if you do not get your money's worth, obviously it occurs to the person, why pay the bribe?
  (Dr Cockcroft) That is one of the things that we felt was important to publicise, because people do not necessarily know that that is the case. One of the reasons people are vulnerable, if you like, to this system is that they do not know how the system works, and I think this is one of the reasons why judiciary is particularly bad; because it is a complicated system, nobody understands it, they do not know what their rights are, they do not know their way through the system, they are frightened of what might happen, and, therefore, they do tend to pay up. So if you can actually tell people what to expect, what they need to pay for, what they do not need to pay for, and the fact that paying did not actually buy a better service, then that might help to reduce people's vulnerability towards paying bribes, I think that is an important point, and it is not something that people are aware of.

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