Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 480 - 499)



  480. Right; so exposure, simply exposure could go a long way to eliminating it?
  (Dr Cockcroft) It could help.

  481. Tell me, in countries which are short of cash, how do they pay these bribes, do they pay them in cash, or do they borrow to pay in cash, or do they pay in kind, do they do it overtly, or do they use the famous brown envelope technique; how do they do this?
  (Dr Cockcroft) In lots of ways. People know the language of this sort of thing, so that if you go along and perhaps you ask for a service, the man might say to you, "Come back tomorrow and bring your brother," and if you come back with your brother he says, "No, no, no, come back and bring your brother," which means you come back and you pay a bribe; or "I need a stone to hold down the papers." So there are all sorts of ways of asking for this. And we heard of sort of complicated arrangements, sometimes they say, "You go to a certain bar and you pay some money to the barman," and then later, of course, the person that is taking the bribe later goes and takes the money. So you may not pay directly to the person. And very often you might pay to a broker, a middleman, that is quite common in health services and other services, so that you pay that person, who then pays the health worker. So there are lots of ways it happens. It may not be a money transaction, it could be a chicken, for certain services you pay a chicken, or you pay two chickens. So, yes, it is not only money, there are lots of ways these transactions happen.

  482. How do you know what to pay, how much to pay, how many chickens, or perhaps just chicken pies?
  (Dr Cockcroft) Because you live in the place and the currency is quite clear. In Bangladesh recently, in focus groups we were asking people and they say, "Well, if you pay nothing then you see the doctor, after a long wait, and he sees you for maybe a minute; if you pay 20 taka, you can see him still in the government facility and he will see you in the afternoon but he will see you for longer; if you pay 50 taka then you will see him separately." So there is a—

  483. So, a tariff?
  (Dr Cockcroft) Oh, yes, and quite often people know what the tariffs are. However, having said that, one of the difficulties for people is that there is an uncertainty about it, they do not know, necessarily; in that circumstance they know, but if you are in hospital, say, you do not know what you are going to be asked for, when. We have stories about people, the drug round is taking place in the middle of the night, the last drug round of the day, and suddenly the people coming round with the drugs say, "Well, unless you pay us this amount now, that's it, you don't get the drugs." So those sorts of things happen. So there is a lot of unexpectedness about it, people do not know how much they are supposed to pay, or how often, how many people will ask them to pay.

  Chairman: Terrifying.

Mr Worthington

  484. I am just wondering about how this spreads and just becomes endemic, and the kind of situation where you might not have any money changing hands but where certain people are seen as a threat, because they are wealthy, to the lowly police officer, or health official, and so on, so that, do you get signs that, in fact, you do not get the investigation of crime, where it is known that the people are powerful; can you take us through that?
  (Dr Cockcroft) Yes, I think that can happen as well, that, for example, you have situations, well, you might be arrested for a crime you have not committed. We all know the thing about being stopped by the traffic police, and being in the traffic police is quite a good way to make money, because you stop people, and then you pay them to not take you to court; of course, you might have done a real offence and then you can pay for that not to be taken forward. So, yes, certainly, the perception is that if you are rich and powerful you can buy your way out of anything.

  485. Yes; that is a further stage of the corruption, is it not, where the person does not arrest or does not investigate those who would be a threat to themselves because they could go in higher in the chain?
  (Dr Cockcroft) Yes; or that they may actually be making a direct payment in order to get off.


  486. Does the tariff vary according to who you are, is it lower for women than men, or is it higher for people who earn more, or if you are a Chinese in Malaysia do you have to pay more than a Malay, that sort of thing?
  (Dr Cockcroft) It is interesting; the recent survey we have just been undertaking in Bangladesh, in health services, we looked at that issue, and we were looking at unofficial payments that people made when they had contact with the health services, and what we found was that poor people, people who had a household income below a very poor line, they reported paying less in these additional payments than the less poor people, and women also reported paying less. I am not entirely sure how that works, but there does seem to be some way in which perhaps there is some relationship to what you can pay. Having said that, poor people were less likely to be prescribed medicines, and they were certainly less likely to be satisfied with the way they were treated; so you begin to form an impression that those who are paying less are getting less of a service.

  487. Now what happens to the delivery and quality of services if petty corruption is left unchecked; they just go downhill, do they?
  (Dr Cockcroft) I guess, certainly in some of the places where we work, you might think that is already the situation; effectively, there is not a service, people do not use it. In Tanzania, for example, this was back in 1995, it was noted that in quite a lot of communities people did not use the police at all, because of the problems that they perceived with corruption in the police. And what has happened is that vigilantes have grown up, which are sort of groups of local people that take the law into their own hands, and that may be alright, you know, well, this is community action, and so on; on the other hand, they are quite fierce, if they catch somebody for stealing, or whatever, they might beat them to death. So there are difficulties of that. So, yes, effectively, you get a situation where people, when you go to a village to discuss the service, they will laugh in your face, they will say, "Well, what service? We don't have access to that service, it's a private business, there is no government health service." So, effectively, that is what you end up with.

  488. Yes; that is what you end up with, you end up with lawlessness, in fact. So it is very serious, is it not?
  (Dr Cockcroft) Yes. It means that the people who most need the services cannot get them.

Ms Kingham

  489. I have just been looking down the list of countries that you work in, and they are all very developing world-based, obviously, from the nature of the work you are doing, but you are working with community organisations, as you put it, to enable people to find their own solutions. Now, presumably, you are coming from some kind of point of view about what appropriate solutions are; so what models are you basing those on, where are you getting this information from? And do you actually look at corruption in European countries, too, because, obviously, a lot of the donors and the NGOs that you are working with will be European-based, and we are by no means, in Europe, free of corruption ourselves. I have been reading up recently about some of the Tangentopoli corruption scandals in Italy, and some of the activities that have been going on in Britain. So how can you be sure that you are not coming at it through a Euro-centric viewpoint, and where are you getting your models of this good development from?
  (Dr Cockcroft) The first thing to say is that, just sort of to clarify the people that we work with and whose views we seek, it is not so much, if you like, representatives of civil society, or civil society groups, and so on, it is actual people. We go house to house, so that in communities we would survey every household in those communities, which are selected to be representative of areas of the country, and so on, and then we would have focus group discussions, with ordinary community members, not with civil society groups. Civil society groups are fine, and many of them are very good and do very good work, but you cannot necessarily assume that they will be representative of the whole community, they do not necessarily represent the views of the most disadvantaged groups. So, in terms of what do we come with, in terms of what we think are solutions, I would not say that we do, what we are looking for is to get the views of the people on the ground in that country, and in that part of the country, about what solutions might work for them.

  490. So do you never come up with recommendations, or do you never come up with a suggested programme? Because somebody will be interpreting that data, that is got from those households, so why do you feel that what you are doing is in any way more representative, even though you are discussing those people, you are still filtering the information, than the civil society groups?
  (Dr Cockcroft) What we tend to do is take the findings from the household survey and we take those back to be discussed with focus groups, with service providers, so that we get their interpretation of the data; so that recommendations do come, yes, but primarily they are recommendations that arise from what the people are telling us.

  491. And that is done on a majority basis, is it, of how many people would agree an outcome?
  (Dr Cockcroft) For focus groups, that is difficult to say, because, obviously, you are taking fairly small groups. But what we can do, on the basis of the numbers, if you like, is that you can look at, okay, this number of people did this thing, and you can relate it to different risk factors, if you like, and you can look at corruption. If you look at it as a disease, let us say, you can use epidemiological techniques to say, in people who are in this situation, they were more or less likely to pay a bribe compared with others in another situation. So, for example, we were able to say that people who had been given helpful information about how to use the service were less likely to have paid a bribe than people who had not been given that sort of information. Therefore, we can say, and you obviously have to take into account all the other factors that may affect it, but, having taken those into account, you are then able to say, on the basis of the data, not your interpretation, you are able to say, if everybody were to be given helpful information about how to use the service, this is the difference in the rate of bribes that could be achieved, taking into account the other factors that also affect the rate of bribes. So there are two things. First, there is use of epidemiological techniques, and it has to be epidemiologically and methodologically robust, otherwise, of course, people are going to say, "Well, you know, it's just your own view;" so, first, it is based on the data. And, second, then there is the qualitative view, from the people in that place, "Well, what might work here?".

  492. How do you evaluate and monitor your recommendations, do you go back and do an audit, are you audited by anybody to ensure that what you are doing is accurate?
  (Dr Cockcroft) That is the intention; the intention is always that this should not be a one-off process, that you should have a survey and discussion groups, and so on, and then that should lead to some potential interventions, that may help; but, of course, it is crucially important to go back to see, well, what interventions were actually done and did they make a difference.

  493. And you always do that, as a matter of course, do you?
  (Dr Cockcroft) We want to do that; it is not necessarily within our control. Because, obviously, we tend to be contracted to do this work by different groups, it may be funded by different international groups, like UNICEF, UNDP, World Bank, and so on, and perhaps the actual contract may be with the Government, so they may or may not wish us to go back; it is much better if they do because then we are able to follow up to see what happened and what difference did it make.

Mr Colman

  494. I want to ask you about the difference between the delivery and quality of services, those that are centrally government-run, as opposed to those that are locally government-run, and, in a sense, police and judiciary tend to be more centrally government-run. Are you finding, as local government seems to be taking root in many developing countries, with locally-elected, accountable politicians, that is helping, in terms of removing this sort of level of petty corruption from a number of areas of local government-run public services, or is there such an endemic level of corruption that the individuals who are locally being elected are almost having two tariffs, one for those who vote for them and one for those who do not?
  (Dr Cockcroft) I think that decentralisation certainly offers opportunities for improving local accountability, local transparency, because at a local level it is small enough that somebody actually can go and thump on the desk of the chap and say, "Well, what happened to this money?" and you can publish in the local papers, "This is the amount of money that's gone to the schools for books," and so if the books do not turn up you can be in a position to say, "Where are the books?". So I think that decentralisation of services does offer an opportunity for more local control. Having said it offers an opportunity, it does not mean it is necessarily going to be an opportunity that is taken; and it could be, and I think sometimes it does happen, that you simply add another layer of bureaucracy, another opportunity for corrupt practices.

  495. These are not corrupt, these are locally-elected politicians?
  (Dr Cockcroft) I know, but vote-buying is still a common practice, prior to elections it is a very common practice, that people go around and they will give you, whatever it might be, "if you vote for me". So I do not think you can say that because a politician is locally elected that means necessarily that they are going to be locally accountable.

  496. So there is no differentiation, you feel, in terms of countries where there is a vibrant local government and countries where there is not, in terms of the level of corruption in the delivery of local public services?
  (Dr Cockcroft) I am not sure that I would say that. I think that, in countries where there is more decentralised power in that way and people are locally elected, I do not know if it has actually come to fruition yet, necessarily, but I think the opportunity is there for more accountability locally, and I think that local politicians are more likely to take the results of the sorts of survey that we are doing here and act on them, they are more interested to do something about it, because they—

  497. Have you got any examples of success, in terms of doing this?
  (Dr Cockcroft) No, not as yet.

Mr Rowe

  498. We had a somewhat dispiriting session with some of the UK's largest companies, in which very senior managers explained that, where the local culture made it inevitable, although they would not approve of it, it was normal to pay hurry-up money, and so on and so forth. And, I just wondered, you have hinted once or twice that some people are entirely open about the fact that they or their colleagues will take money for various purposes, how open, in your experience, is it that this level of a small amount of corruption is kind of publicly acknowledged by the people who actually benefit, take the money, from it?
  (Dr Cockcroft) It is interesting. We have been having some discussions in a number of countries about just this thing, as I mentioned, taking back the findings of these surveys both to the service users, or intended service users, and to the service providers. And it is quite an interesting experience, when you confront service providers with the information from their district, not from somewhere else but from their district, last month, so, "This is contemporaneous data and this is the number of people who had paid extra payments, let us say, to health service workers," and you usually do that towards the end of the discussion, having talked about other issues, about service provision. And at that point people sort of shuffle around, and there is a bit of sort of, "Oh, well, uh, uh," but people do tend to say, "Well, perhaps people have misunderstood what it was, it wasn't really a bribe," or they will say, "Well, yes, some people do do that, we're trying to tackle it; it has happened but it's very rare." Service providers, in that sort of public forum, will admit it, when confronted with the evidence.

  499. But they will not say, for example, "What do you expect, with wages as low as this?"
  (Dr Cockcroft) Some will, yes, some will, some will say, "Yes, it happens and it's very difficult to prevent it, because of wages," and so on. When you talk to people individually they will tell you that people who go to, let us say, a doctor, who goes to work at a local level, does not start off intending to take money from the patients, they reckon it takes about six months. And it is sort of a slow process, first of all the wife might say, "Well, we haven't got a very good house," and then, "People are looking at us, why aren't you making money so that we have a good wage, you have the right to do that the same as everyone else?". So there is a huge incentive towards doing it, that somehow you are able to look after your family, you are a big man if you are doing it, and you are a fool if you are not doing it; so there is this sort of pervasive attitude about it, that most people crack after about six months, they reckon. So I think it is very easy to blame the individual people concerned, but I think you have to look at it in the context.

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