Fighting corruption: are we getting the picture?

In the past decades, efforts to fight corruption have increased across the globe. At a closer look not much evidence can be found to prove these strategies to be successful. We are still facing the same questions: Why is it so difficult to overcome corruption and what measures need to be taken to majorly improve the situation?

On 28 April 2016 Brussels-based economic think tank Bruegel hosted an event titled “Fighting corruption: from headlines to real impact” featuring ANTICORRP and DIGIWHIST researchers Mihaly Fazekas and Alina Mungiu-Pippidi and Transparency International (TI) representative Carl Dolan to talk about these questions. Together, the experts discussed the meaning behind different measurements of corruption and what conclusions they offer to support policy makers in their attempts to design better anti-corruption instruments.

The international flagship measurement for corruption levels is still Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI), a tool to measure the expert perception of the phenomenon of corruption in specific countries and how it changes over time. The index has helped immensely in raising awareness of the topic worldwide. Yet, it leaves open an evaluation of the development and diffusion of corruption in respective countries with more objective indicators. This would help to compare anti-corruption measures taken. The ANTICORRP project, looking into the last 40 years of anti-corruption efforts, could identify only seven countries that have achieved significantly better control of corruption.

In the discussion, Alina Mungiu-Pippidi pointed out the need for better instruments to measure change. Indicators need to be modified in order to have more objective insights into corruption. According to Mihaly Fazekas, the trend towards open and big data helps researchers systematically collect and analyze previously undisclosed data. He highlighted public procurement as a good proxy for uncovering corruption, as its data helps trace preferential treatment. The Horizon2020 DIGIWHIST project puts together data on companies who win many contracts with public funds. This data is then matched with connections between politics and business to identify companies with political ties and the conflict of interest (COI) is measured.

The need for more evidence based reforms is clear – favoritism is still seen as “rule of the game” by many citizens in Europe. Recent findings by the European Research Center for Anti-Corruption and State-Building (ERCAS) show a strong correlation between trust in governments and their efforts to control corruption. New measurements and insights are a first step for these reforms.

A summary of the event can also be found here:

The report on “Public Integrity and Trust in Europe” written in behalf of the Dutch Presidency of the European Union can be found here:

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