Corruption survey triggers questions in aid modalities

An anti-corruption sign in Nairobi, Kenya. Transparency International's 2013 Global Corruption Barometer showed that the public sector is viewed as the most corrupt institution by the survey's respondents. Photo by: Erlend Aasland / CC BY-NC-SA

A recently released corruption survey has found troubling results that may affect the way aid money is being channeled from donors to their recipients.

Transparency International’s 2013 Global Corruption Barometer, the world’s largest public opinion survey on corruption, shows unscrupulousness in the public sector is perceived as a serious problem globally. Corruption in the public sector — which Transparency International defines as “all institutions and services which are owned and/or run by the government” — is deemed most serious in Afghanistan and Albania.

While the share of budget support as modality for official development assistance has steadily decreased over the past three years, preliminary 2012 data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development show total ODA given as general and sectoral budget support exceeded $1.3 billion.

In addition, the donor community has been increasingly using country systems in delivering aid. But this requires recipient countries to not only have strong public financial management systems in order to manage donor-funded budget support and aid-financed programs, but also effective implementation of anti-corruption policies.

In contrast, corruption among nongovernmental organizations and within the private sector — which are often tasked to manage and administer donor projects on the ground — is not generally seen as a big problem among respondents. But they are still seen as very corrupt institutions in some countries. Respondents in Sudan — a nation with a very hostile environment for humanitarian work — believe these two sectors are among the most corrupt in their country. Further, it is the only country where NGOs scored 4 in a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being “extremely corrupt.”

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In a period when the aid programming of austerity-pressured donors is driven by achievement of results and value for money, Transparency International’s corruption findings trigger questions about the effectiveness of channeling aid through country systems and aid implementers. On a positive note, however, analysts hope the findings would push the development community to continue devising better and more innovative aid delivery mechanisms in developing countries with poor governance and weak public financial management systems.

The 2013 corruption barometer surveyed 114,720 respondents in 107 countries around the world. Overall, respondents from 83 countries believed corruption has increased in their nations during the past 24 months.

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About the author

  • Juan Carlos Concepcion

    Juan Carlos is a former analyst at the Devex Manila Office. A strong advocate of civic education, he also teaches undergraduate courses on Philippine politics and governance.