Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 500 - 519)



Mr Khabra

  500. Could you tell us actually what are the real causes of corruption in these societies? Because it happens at two levels, actually, one is the politicians are involved, in a party political system, it does not matter whether a politician is at a higher level or at a lower level, and the delivery of service, actually, is done by the bureaucrats and at that level as well. What sort of relationship and co-ordination is between these two sections of the community who collaborate to indulge in corruption?
  (Dr Cockcroft) I think that the two do feed off one another. Certainly, I think that, if you have pervasive petty corruption, that sets the climate for grand corruption, I think there is no question that that happens. If you ask ordinary people which kind of corruption they are aware of, it is overwhelmingly petty corruption. Of course, they might be interested to know that so-and-so has run off with so many thousands or so many millions and put it in a Swiss bank account, but really that does not affect them, what affects them is this pervasive petty corruption. But, having said that, when that is the norm, it is not that big a step from that to the grand corruption, it is doing the same thing but because you are in a position to do it at a bigger level you do it at a bigger level. So I think that petty corruption definitely provides the climate for grand corruption to happen.


  501. Can it happen the other way round, when you have governments who are openly corrupt, if their leaders are openly corrupt, or even not openly but rumoured to be corrupt, does this not justify petty corruption?
  (Dr Cockcroft) I am sure that happens as well. If you see famous cases that everybody knows are corrupt and nobody is taking that person to task about it then "Here am I, just with my little amount, why shouldn't I do what I can do, given that he can get away with that."

  502. Has there been any calculation as to the waste of resources, due to such petty corruption, in service delivery?
  (Dr Cockcroft) There have been some, and you come up with quite extraordinary figures; some people say that up to 70 per cent of resources can be wasted through petty corruption. I think, obviously, there are costs both ways, there are costs to the intended service users, who have to pay directly and who also have a cost because they do not get the service, so there is the cost to them of getting the service, and there is the cost to them of not getting the service. And then, of course, there are costs to the service, so that, whatever drugs you put in, if huge proportions of them are leaking out of the service, then you are paying for those drugs but they are not actually becoming part of your service. And if you pay workers to be at their post and those workers are not at their post then that is also you are paying for something that you are not getting.

  503. Yes; a very difficult calculation, I should think?
  (Dr Cockcroft) It is a difficult calculation, you can do it on an individual basis, on a household basis, you can look at how much they are paying in relation to annual incomes, and so on, and, of course, it depends whether they have used the service or not, so it is a slightly difficult calculation. But the amounts sometimes, although they seem small to us, are actually large for households that have a very low income.

  Chairman: Yes; indeed. Barbara Follett is going to lead us in further questions on petty corruption in public services.

Barbara Follett

  504. I really want to have a look at how the public perceive corruption. In one of your reports, you said, "The public may attribute poor service delivery to corruption, even if this is not always the case. Lack of medicines in Bangladesh may be due to inadequate and poorly targeted supplies as well as leakage from the system, but citizens attribute it to corruption." How accurate do you think public perceptions of corruption are, and has it become really a cover for inefficiency?
  (Dr Cockcroft) I think, people certainly know when they are paying when they should not be paying, and I think that people's perceptions of a service are to do with, first, their own experience of that service and then, other people, from where they come from, their experience of the service; so they do tend to be based on local information. But, of course, once a service has got a reputation then you may tend to think, well, that is always the case, even when it is not always the case. It is very difficult to know, it is very difficult to know how much is perception and how much is experience; but I would say a lot of it is experience, because when you ask them about individual contacts with the service then, yes, they are reporting high levels of problems.

  505. What is the public's attitude, are they irritated, angry, or just accepting, resigned?
  (Dr Cockcroft) They are very angry about it, when you get down to it; on the other hand, they feel hopeless about it. They do have some ideas about what is wrong and what should be changed, but they say, "Well, what can I do, I'm a poor person, why would anybody listen to what my view is? I don't have any say about this."

  506. What do they think might be the solutions?
  (Dr Cockcroft) They think that there should be more control and monitoring of services, tends to be one of the things that they come out with. Often they simply say, "We want to have more drugs available," and they say, "You should prevent people from selling the drugs." They do not necessarily have a clear idea about how that might happen, but they do say that you should monitor the service providers. Sometimes people come up with fairly detailed suggestions, that at local level you might have, for example, one case in Uganda, where we were talking about agricultural extension workers, we found that very few households had ever been visited by these workers, although they were reporting that they were visiting more households. And the suggestion there, from some communities, was, "Well, what we need to have is the local community," like the locally-elected person, actually, "should have a way of actually visiting some of those farmers to check whether they have been visited by the extension worker or not." So that they do come up with some solutions that could work locally, which is that, through our elected representatives, we would make a monitoring system to see if these services are actually doing what they say they are doing.

  507. Do they ever say why they think officials resort to corruption and bribery?
  (Dr Cockcroft) Yes. We have asked about this in a number of places where we have looked at this question, and they come up with a number of things. Some of them say it is just because people are greedy and bad, and they say, "Well, yes, you know, the service workers will tell you it's because they're poorly paid, but look at how much their pay is compared with how much I make as a farmer; they're already making a lot more than I am, so it's not right that it's due to their poor pay." Having said that, there is, I think, a recognition on the part of the public that service workers are poorly paid, and not only poorly paid but irregularly paid, it is not necessarily that your pay is poor but that you do not get paid for six months; so they do understand that people have to feed their families. And those are the sorts of things that they tend to come up with, either sort of individual bad behaviour, or greed, if you like, and the business that people are poorly paid; and they also come up with the fact that nobody takes any notice of whether the services do what they say they do, or not, they are not monitored or supervised.

  508. Do they ever talk about heavier sanctions against those who are found to be corrupt?
  (Dr Cockcroft) Yes, they do, they talk about the fact that people who are corrupt ought to be punished, they ought to be put in gaol, they ought actually to be punished.

  509. Is there ever any indication from people that there should be leading by example from the top, as there has been in some of the HIV/AIDS work in Africa, like presidents, or kings, or monarchs coming out against bribery and corruption?
  (Dr Cockcroft) Yes. They will say things like, almost the other side of that, what they will say is that, "Because there is so much corruption, we've lost faith in the Government, we think the Government isn't interested in us and so the Government does need to take strong action." So they will say that sort of thing, so I suppose that is getting at what you are sort of saying, if you like.

  510. You have not known of any examples of a head of state coming out and saying, "This is something that must be rooted out"?
  (Dr Cockcroft) Oh, yes. President Mkapa said that, and President Museveni says that, and that has made a difference to people's perceptions, I think, although the honeymoon period does not last that long. They say, "Well, it's good that they want to do something about it, but now let's see if anything actually happens."

  511. Just to move on to other forms of corruption besides, say, bribery, "absenteeism, diversion of resources, nepotism, cronyism, and the like," again, quoting from your report, can you give examples from your surveys of these other forms of corruption and how they affect public services and the poor?
  (Dr Cockcroft) Yes. For example, in education and health services, people may be employed to do the job, but they do not do it, they are employed to give a service, for the Government service, but they spend their time doing private work, if you like, so that, very frequently, if you go to a health facility you do not find a health worker there, and when you send your children to school there are not teachers to teach the classes. So those sorts of things, yes, they are quite commonplace, that absenteeism is there.

  512. How do people perceive those forms of corruption, do they see them as bad as, say, extortion, or just something that happens?
  (Dr Cockcroft) They do not necessarily describe them as corruption, but they describe them as a problem, they see it as a problem, that the teachers should be there and they are not there; so it is seen as a problem.

  513. Do you have any examples of good practice, where procurement, employment and auditing practices are being improved, in developing countries?
  (Dr Cockcroft) Examples of success, or examples of ...

  514. Yes, success, not failure. I am looking for models which could be transferred, perhaps?
  (Dr Cockcroft) It is not exactly audit, in practice, that is why I am hesitating, and I do not know if it has worked yet, but in Uganda, when we did the National Integrity Survey, it was deliberately done in every district so that there would be results that each district could use. And, since doing that, the Ministry of Ethics and Integrity and the Inspector General of Government are going round, working with each district, and they are coming up with local integrity plans, and I think that is a useful thing to come from that; whether it will have actually made a difference to the level of corruption, I think it is a moot question. There is a proposal to re-evaluate the situation, possibly this year or next year, to see whether, in fact, first, which districts have actually implemented the plans, and then to see, in those that have, what difference did it make. Those plans were sort of formulated quite democratically, I suppose you could say, in the sense that you would have a wide variety of people there, you would have the political leaders, you would have the administrators, and you would have representatives of the different groups of society, sitting around, talking about the problem, looking at their evidence, and then coming up with a plan on the basis of that.

  515. If you could think of one thing, just one, that would make a difference to corruption, would it be what I am going to say, which is, it always seems to me that good management is what prevents corruption, that is regular payment, overseeing and auditing; what would you say it would be?
  (Dr Cockcroft) I think, yes, good management, but crucially involving the people who are supposed to be getting the service. I think one of the problems with service reform is that it has tended to be internal, and the reform of the service has tended to look at the way the service works internally, and that is good, in the sense that there are lots of things that need to be put right internally. But you should not lose track of the fact that what the service is there for is to provide a service to the public, so you need to have that sort of downstream measurement about, well, how good is the service to the public that is being provided. So I think I agree with you that good management is crucially important, good management and monitoring, so that people know that somebody cares whether they do a corrupt act or not, it does matter; they will not necessarily get punished, in that way, but somebody might pull them up about it.

  516. Somebody cares if they get paid regularly, too, I think is very important?
  (Dr Cockcroft) Yes; those sorts of things, but I do feel that it is not enough unless you have the viewpoint and the input of the people who are supposed to be getting the service. I think that is very important.

  Barbara Follett: Thank you very much.

  Chairman: Now we want to deal with more of tackling corruption, and Andrew Rowe is going to lead us in that.

Mr Rowe

  517. I wondered whether actually you had any examples of sort of the community successfully mobilising itself to tackle corruption; you talked about vigilantes, that is not quite the same thing?
  (Dr Cockcroft) No, I was not really suggesting that as success. It is a pity Professor Andersson still has not arrived, I do not think. Heathrow is even worse than usual. I was hoping that he would be here to describe some of the experiences in South Africa, but I will try to do that, even though I was not involved directly. CIET looked at sexual violence in Johannesburg, which is a major problem there, and one of the problems is, in terms of reporting to the police, that the dockets, and so on, do not get passed forward to be dealt with by the courts, so very few cases come to court; and, certainly, this is at least partly due to corrupt practices. The first survey was done about three years ago and then a repeat survey was done last year, and, working with the police, the police changed their practices and introduced some new practices as a result of the findings. And, I think it is very important to say, they were crucially involved in this, it was not somebody outside, poking the finger, you know, "The police are doing a bad job," the police themselves were involved in the process and getting the data. They have changed their practices, and, in discussion between the service providers, in this case the police, and the local populations, they were able to come up with some new practices, and it has been possible to show that, yes, that did make a difference.

  518. And what examples are there of public sector action, stimulated by audits of social attitude? I think what we are interested in, in a sense, is the kind of work you have done, and other people have done, which is to take an audit of social attitudes; now does that have an effect on public policy? It sounds a little bit as if there had been something of an audit of people's attitude to sexual violence. Is there a link between audits of social attitudes and changes in practice?
  (Dr Cockcroft) I think there can be, but I do not think it is automatic. I think what can tend to happen is, you undertake your survey, your audit, and you present the results at a national seminar, and everybody sits round and nods sagely and says, "Yes, this is a very bad thing, we need to do something about it." It may hit the newspapers, and all that is good, but actually I think that the real hard work probably has to happen at a more local level, and I think that that is why I feel quite optimistic about the situation in Uganda, because things are happening at a local level. I feel much less optimistic about a very centralised country, such as Nepal, for example, where we did some similar things, although nobody really wanted us to look at corruption there, but we did do some similar things, but I do not think there is any chance that anything will happen there, as a result of the audits, because they get filed and that is the end of the story. So I do not think you can really say that just getting the public opinion in itself makes anything change, you have to have a willingness on the part of the service providers and the Government actually to act on the findings.

  519. Do you think that the donors take petty corruption seriously enough? We have just received some evidence, for example, where one of the banks, for instance, appears to be perfectly happy to wink at petty corruption, and we heard about these big companies, but what about the donor community, does the World Bank, and so on, take this seriously enough? Is enough done to prevent petty corruption undermining the intended benefit to the poor, and how would you plan the services provided by donors to minimise corruption?
  (Dr Cockcroft) I think that the donors are increasingly aware of this, as an issue, and are trying to do something about it. I do not know that they necessarily always succeed. I can give you an example of the sort of thing I mean. In Uganda, the World Bank has been funding a large, agricultural extension project in some districts, and, just by chance, actually, because it was not the intention of our survey, some of the districts in our survey had that extension project and some did not, and the intention of that project was to increase the number of farmers who were getting visits from extension workers. There was an internal audit of that service, undertaken by the service, if you like, and they said, "Oh, it's very good, 75 per cent of farmers are visited;" but when, as I say, more or less fortuitously, we undertook the survey that showed that only 10 per cent of farmers were visited, there were not any more visited in those districts that had the project compared with those that did not, and, of course, many millions had gone into this project, so then, obviously, the World Bank needed to ask itself, "Well, what happened to those millions that went into that project, if, in fact, they are not actually changing the situation on the ground?". Now, of course, there were all sorts of challenges, "Well, the farmers didn't know what you meant by the question," and those sorts of things were suggested, but, having said that, that could only really be the explanation of the findings if that was different in the districts with the project and without, and, since at the time nobody knew which district was which, there was no way that that could be the case. So I think it was not just the absolute level but the fact that the districts with the project were not better than those without the project. So I think the donors probably felt quite comfortable, on the basis of the internal evaluation of the projects, but, of course, you could argue, well, perhaps that was always going to be positive, so maybe you need to be, I do not know, a little more sceptical, or maybe they need to be a bit tougher about how well they actually monitor it on the ground. It is difficult, it is very difficult, because it is the easiest thing in the world to put in false receipts.

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