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Monday, May 28, 2007

TI - A Comment

A reader of mine, Michel van Hulten, has sent me a comment which I would publish as a posting for all to read. This comment was in response to my posting on Transparency International on Saturday, 26.5.2007.

Mr. Rajahram is not alone in his judgment. I show below the summary and conclusions of my study of Ten Years of Corruption (Perceptions) Indices. You can find the full text as word document on my website: go to The home page mentions 'Artikelen', go to nr. 2 and click.

The problem in TI is that the main office in Berlin is not in favor of even discussing the CPI as made.

Summary and conclusions

Methodologically, the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) is not rigorous enough in its scientific research, which is a pity, as it was over the past ten years an excellent public relations tool that wakened the world over this scourge of our society.One of the peer-reviewers, asked to comment on my earlier draft of this document wrote:‘My short statement is: as a marketing tool is the index in some societies very effective but this is the only excuse of its existence. It cannot be considered by no means as a serious statistical tool for measuring whatsoever.’An outsider was even more rude and honest: ‘TI reinforced stereotypes by depicting African nations as the most corrupt’, (see attachment X).

I agree that the scores calculated per country, and the resulting rank-list of countries, year after year strengthened the general public, governments, international organizations, journalists and donors, mostly in the ‘rich world’, in their views that it is the underdeveloped nations where corruption is most rampant. As I will prove it is the faulty methodology used over so many years that created these scores and rankings in which the richer countries are the ‘cleaner’ ones. The poor not only remain poor but it is ‘their own fault as they are not well governed and not honest’.

The scores, and therefore the resulting rank-order of countries, are built on samples of respondents, particularly working in the Western business-world: country-analysts/experts and journalists, no blue collar-worker is in sight. Why are other categories of respondents missing? Perceptions of corruption held by others do not play a role? Why is it that perceptions of corruption held by women, consumers, the old, the young, the sick, the poor, the powerless, the ones that suffer under corruption, do not play a role? Why are no perceptions portrayed that are held in the trade-unions? Why are there no contributions from investigative journalists?

But even the businessmen alone, willing to answer questions about corruption, constitute already a biased choice. In most countries of the world you better shut up. Remarkably enough, also missing are the elected politicians and the public servants. Is not bribe-giving and -receiving, two-way traffic?

Most of the respondents (maybe the analysts/experts qualify better?), work as individuals in private companies and judge on the basis of their personal experiences (and on hearsay?) in daily life, and in their business relations with politicians and public servants.

If we accept that the perceptions of corruption as held by them, and as they believe do exist among their business-colleagues, why is it that their perceptions are correct and valid for the total of ‘countries’ and populations?

The CPI is a ‘composite index’ based on the work by other researchers. TI cannot possibly monitor the quality of the data-sources and surveys on which the CPI is based. No one contributes directly his or her perceptions to the final TI-results. All perceptions have already been processed and reported by others before they enter the statistical analysis and processing by TI. Methodologically this is unacceptable as in the supporting surveys from which the composite index is constructed, questions asked differ widely. They cover perceptions of corruption, as well as perceptions of fraud, or of a general feeling of uneasiness in the business-world, or of lack of integration in a foreign land or culture. Questions do not only differ between surveys, they also differ within the same survey over the years. They do reflect a variety of definitions for corruption.‘Corruption’, the most essential concept used in the CPI-reports is defined as ‘misuse of public power for private gain’. In later years the word ‘entrusted’ replaces the word ‘public’, an important change, as the focus shifts from solely public corruption to also including private corruption.

Moreover, over the years there is no rigidity in the choice of sources that is used. Should it be only the most recent ones? Or, should all sources be used that originate from the same year as the CPI of that year? Or, should all reports be used in three successive years according to availability (‘roll over’ as is said in some of the CPI-reports?) TI chooses for a variety of ways in various years.

Francophone and lusophone sources are altogether missing. The use made of sources is sometimes discontinued, although they were available. Why? Only two sources have contributed in all the years. Why is in particular years abstained from the use of an earlier used source, also available in following years, is not motivated.

A most remarkable statement is that by making use of ever more sources, the quality of the one composite index will become better. TI/Lambsdorff genuinely believes that the good qualities of one or some of the sources, compensate for eventually lacking qualities of the others. Why not use only those sources that have good qualities? Because nobody knows which ones are good? Undisclosed remains, which sources have been considered but have not been used for inclusion in the composite index, no reasons are given.

The World Bank estimate of the total of bribes paid in the world in 1995 was 50 billion dollars. In 2005, the World Bank estimates (calculates?) a total of 1.000 billion dollars, twenty times more. TI/Lambsdorff agrees with this higher figure, but do not explain how this multiplication could not affect the scores and rank-order countries get assigned in the CPI. Is bribe-paying rising in all countries proportionally with the same rate? This is highly unlikely to be true. All over the years we see that basically the same countries are on top, the same remain in the tail of the rank-order. The CPI has no educational value?

In the ‘What next?’ chapter suggestions are given for improvements.