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Understanding the Global Impact of Corruption

  • 09 Pages
  • Published On: 14-12-2023

Why should we measure corruption

Corruption is quite common all over the world, even though its practice is on different levels. Corrupt acts go a long way in undermining trust within institutions, the rule of law concept, distorts competition effectively hampering investments, especially foreign investments (Heywood, 2015). The World Bank points out that one of the biggest obstacles to the social and economic development of countries is corruption (Rohwer, 2009). In 2014, the G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group highlighted the presence of a negative correlation between corruption, and growth (Goyal, 2020). Without a doubt, corruption has multiple negative effects on countrywide systems, and even has the potential of destroying the social fabric. Also, corruption has the potential of jeopardizing economic development, and contributing to lagging development. For these reasons, measuring corruption is necessary for the good of all.

Measuring corruption is key in the identification of trends and illustrates the scope of corruption activities (Sequeira, 2012). The measurements could also be utilized by scholars, analysts, and policymakers for purposes of developing such tools that would effectively reduce corruption. Creating a measurement system on the basis of real, verifiable, identifiable, and objective data is an important precondition for affirming the principle of legality, and the rule of law. When there is better properly developed knowledge of corruption, and when it is properly measured, it becomes possible to develop anti-corruption policies that are more focused to prevent corruption.


To test the exact causes and consequences of corruption, it becomes necessary to measure corruption. These measures come in handy in measuring public sector corruption measures. With the collected data, it becomes possible to create public awareness about corruption, and the develop understanding on corruption levels. For realization of development, combatting corruption is necessary. It is however, worth noting that corruption is relatively elusive which makes measuring the phenomenon hard. For progress to be achieved in the fight against corruption, corruption itself has to be measured. This measurement facilitates the diagnosis of problems and monitoring of results. Measuring corruption also serves different useful purposes including raising awareness of the vice, policy-making, and advocacy (Heinrich and Hodess, 2011). Particularly different corruption measures are able to diagnose corruptions extent and level within the different institutions, different population segments, and sectors. With these measures the profiles and visibilities of the organizations that go about measuring corruption are raised.

Corruption can either be measured through direct or indirect methods. Direct corruption measurement methods are aimed at collection of corruption evidence-based information through the utilization of standardized, and statistical procedures. These measure actual corruption experiences, instead of measuring corruption perceptions, and often include electoral scrutiny finings, conviction figures, reported corruption cases, and also experience-based sample surveys. It is worth noting that corruption leaves behind no paper trail, corruption perceptions on the basis of the actual experiences of individuals are at times the best (Galtung et al. 2013). For instance, in those situations when citizens hold the beliefs that police and courts are corrupt, they tend to avoid their services, regardless of prevailing circumstances. Experience-based sample surveys are effective for collection of data on experiences of given populations from representative samples. Due to the nature of experience-based surveys, they are effective for detection of typical cases of administrative, and petty corruption.

Actual experience surveys come in handy for those individuals who are tasked with the responsibilities of developing national anti-corruption strategies, and that is because they enquire from citizens, their actual experiences with corruption, or ask them what perceptions they hold about corruption (Clark, 2017). For instance, these surveys ask citizens about the frequency with which they pay bribes, and they also have questions with regard to the agencies these bribes were paid to, the amount of money that was paid, and what the bribe was meant for. Through these surveys, data is provided that play the role of a baseline for evaluation purposes and future monitoring. The surveys are a relatively attractive information source on corruption and that is because they provide an increasingly objective, and quantitative measure of different corruption forms. This goes a long way in helping in the fight against corruption.

Corruption measures are also important tools for measuring the attitudes held by members of the public. Through these, it becomes possible to know whether corruption outrages citizens or whether they are just grudgingly tolerant to it (Chabova, 2017). These can also be used in determining the areas of corruption that members of the public are tolerant with. With information on these perceptions, it becomes possible to develop more effective and suitable solutions for dealing with corruption. Also, these measures are utilized in exploring whether there exist differences in how different societal groups, including women, the business community, elected officials, public servants, and the poor feel about the corruption issues. Giving consideration to the ways through which anti-corruption, and politics evolve over time, while also recognizing the fact that the politics that surround these issues are not static but dynamic, and that there are certain policies that have the potential of bringing about dedication to successful strategy implementation, or on the other extreme end, strong opposition.

Measuring corruption also aids identification of the areas where anti-corruption reforms are required (Naidoo, 2017). A good example is seen in Uganda where the Inspectorate Government utilizes administrative data for purposes of tracking corruption trends and further identifying those areas that require reforms to curb corruption. Ugandan`s are through perception surveys observed to rank police consistently and file the most corruption complaints being levelled towards public officials and local government administrators.

On the other hand, indirect measures are based on the perceived corruption levels, and not on gauging corruption`s actual occurrence. Often, these are used owing to the difficulty of measuring actual corruption occurrences. Indirect methods can be on the basis of either expert assessments or other types of surveys whose focus is on perceived corruption levels and not the actual corruption levels. In expert assessments, questions are asked to select experts with the intention of assessing corruption patterns and trends within groups of countries, and even within single counties. Indirect methods are at times composite measures that combine statistical data into a single indicator (Perumal, 2021). There are other corruption measurement methods and these include public expenditure tracking surveys, focus group discussions between ordinary citizens; the Delphi method that features researcher`s and expert opinions; content analysis of articles published on newspapers; and also, the proxy approach. The proxy approach involves measurement of the efforts that are taken for purposes of combatting corruption and not actual corruption (Lense, 2017).

All these measures provide information on the weaknesses and gaps in country`s institutions, policies, and anti-corruption laws. They also provide important information on the nature, an extent of corruption. This information could be used by governments as a starting point for reform. Strategy drafters often rely on corruption measures to get a general sense of the corruption problem in a country. This is used as a key measure for quality of governance within a country. Particularly, strategy drafters could have interest in their countries ranking against other countries and also those countries whose economic development compares to theirs.

There is another emerging technique for measuring corruption which involves the comparison of different quantitative data sources which are expected to provide similar results when there is no corruption and to utilize the differences that exist between them as corruption evidence. It is also possible to compare actual data with the predictions of economic models, a method that is useful in the identification of collusion within public procurement (Machova et al. 2018). These methods are a useful measure of corruption, and their use is becoming widespread with the data required mostly being readily available. However, they have a disadvantage in that they only measure narrow forms of corruption.

It is worth noting that just like with any other sources of data and information, the data that is collected from corruption measures has to be verified to establish its accuracy. That is because, there are instances in which the agencies collecting the data could falsify in a bid to hide performance problems, increase budgets, and even meet performance targets. These measurements should also be continuous and done regularly to provide continuous information on the state of affairs. For instance, in the event there are some agencies that do not publish data on their operations on a regular basis, that absence of data could be interpreted as a corruption indicator. Even the data that gets generated by government agencies has to be scrutinized an interpreted carefully, and that is because most of it is open to multiple interpretations (Naidoo, 2017).

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After these measures have been carried out, what follows next is drafting effective anti-corruption strategies, either within agencies, and also at the national level. Such strategies should include anti-corruption policy goals, and the practical ways through which they can be achieved. Foreseen steps could possibly involve combining organizational changes, new legislation, and other types of legislation, necessary organizational changes, and all other necessary reforms that would have to be pursued for corruption to be effectively combated.

Total wordcount – 1,505


Chabova, K., 2017. Measuring corruption in Europe: public opinion surveys and composite indices. Quality & Quantity, 51(4), pp.1877-1900.

Clark, A.K., 2017. Measuring corruption: transparency international’s “corruption perceptions index”. In Corruption, Accountability and Discretion. Emerald Publishing Limited.

Galtung, F., Shacklock, A., Connors, M.C. and Sampford, C. eds., 2013. Measuring corruption. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.

Goyal, T.M., 2020. Anti-Corruption Agenda of the G20: Bringing Order without Law.

Heinrich, F. and Hodess, R., 2011. Measuring corruption. Handbook of global research and practice in corruption, pp.18-33.

Heywood, P.M., 2015. Measuring Corruption: perspectives, critiques, and limits. Routledge handbook of political corruption, pp.137-153.

Máchová, R., Volejníková, J. and Lněnička, M., 2018. Impact of e-government development on the level of corruption: Measuring the effects of related indices in time and dimensions. Review of Economic Perspectives, 18(2), pp.99-121.

Naidoo, V., 2017. Measuring corruption risk in the South African public service-an institutional analysis. African Journal of Public Affairs, 9(6), pp.73-87.

Perumal, K., 2021. Corruption Measurements: Caught Between Conceptualizing the Phenomenon and Promoting New Governance Agenda? Vision, p.0972262920983946.

Rohwer, A., 2009. Measuring corruption: a comparison between the transparency international's corruption perceptions index and the World Bank's worldwide governance indicators. CESifo DICE Report, 7(3), pp.42-52.

Sequeira, S., 2012. Advances in measuring corruption in the field. New advances in experimental research on corruption.

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