By Ram Kumar Phuyal
For some sectors, there is available data that indicates the prevalence of corruption. This is especially true for the business environment, where World Bank and other data provide indicators of the frequency, cost, and seriousness of corruption (relative to other obstacles to business). The WBI governance indicators, aside from the Control of Corruption indicator, give some information on government integrity factors. Because each of these indicators is a weighted average of more detailed indices, some of the latter may be worth investigating. Similarly, reports on economic, political, and social conditions — published by the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and regional development banks, as well as commercial sources like the Economist Intelligence Unit — often provide valuable background information. Occasionally, a scholarly article may deal with the agency or area to be investigated. In this respect, it is useful to contact local experts (scholars, journalists, businessmen) to see whether any local work has been done on the subject.
This first step can be carried out by the Mission itself, but it may also be part of the work plan of the firm contracted to carry out the expert evaluations.After existing sources of information have been thoroughly reviewed and a target agency selected, an expert firm should be contracted to help the Mission develop a fuller understanding of the agency's administrative structures and how they work in practice. To do this, the firm will visit the country, examine its laws, rules, and procedures, and design and conduct interviews with key stakeholders, including clients, officials, and observers from civil society and the donor community. The interviews are carefully structured to enable a systematic comparison of answers given by interviewees with different experiences and viewpoints.
The processes of reviewing documentation and carrying out structured interviews can be supplemented with focus group discussions, the analysis of relevant data (like price information), forensic audits, and "mystery shopping" (i.e., having anonymous local employees of the assessment team test agency procedures).Conclusion:Local counterparts are invaluable and should be involved at every stage of the expert evaluations. While the expert evaluations give indications of the targeted agency's corruption vulnerabilities, corrupt practices, and integrity strengths and weaknesses, quantitative surveys provide objective confirmation. More importantly, quantitative surveys provide a baseline of that program.Designers can use to monitor program effectiveness (and, if necessary, make crucial mid-point corrections) and evaluate final outcomes. Again, one is on firmer ground if expert evaluation findings can be compared to survey results. Another advantage of a survey is that it can systematically cover an entire country — and potentially uncover substantial regional differences. The only disadvantage is time and cost, which may exceed the Mission's resources.
Surveys can identify and document specific types, mechanisms, frequency, and costs of corruption to clients. Surveys of agency clients are likely to be more informative than those of officials. Officials, however, are better informed than clients about how the factors operate (or don't operate) within their agency. While surveying both clients and officials is ideal, experience shows that clients are more reliable interviewees — they are less "reticent" than officials. If resources are scarce, it is best to only survey clients and rely on a follow-up round of expert evaluations to assess the agency's vulnerabilities. Finally, programs must incorporate monitoring and evaluation criteria. This helps programmers make mid-course corrections, as well as improve the design of future interventions. Benchmarks can, of course, be qualitative — passing a law, computerizing operations, setting up a government body — but quantitative criteria, when correctly specified, can be more credible to the political leadership of donor countries. This attempt will be an additional effort to predict an ultimate way out of the study of the corruption level in the nations.
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Mr. Ram Kumar Phuyal, who is currently a Nepalese Ph.D. scholar in Econometrics at Chonnam National University, S. Korea, serves as a special columnist for The Seoul Times. Mr. Phuyal specializes in writing on economic policy. He earned his master's degree from Tribhuvan University in Nepal.
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