Tue, 01 Apr 2008
Most corrupt institutions

The findings of an integrity survey conducted by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in 30 public institutions and state companies providing public services between last August and October in Greater Jakarta simply validated the international perception of Indonesia's government as one of the most corrupt in the world.

Berlin-based Transparency International (TI) last year ranked the Indonesian government 143rd out of 179 countries surveyed for its annual Corruption Perception Index with a score of 2.3 on a scale of one to 10, even lower than Vanuatu, Pakistan and the Philippines.

The average score gained by government offices and state companies in the KPK survey was only 5.33, which KPK said was worse than the integrity levels of public sectors in most other countries.

The survey ranked the civil service administration board with the highest integrity, but it scored only 6.51 on a scale of zero to 10, while the worst institution was the justice and human rights ministry (immigration and the administration of notaries public) with 4.15 and the state land agency and land transportation administration (road worthiness certification) with 4.09 and 3.45 respectively.

The KPK integrity index further confirmed the findings of similar surveys conducted by other national institutions such as the Economic and Social Research Institute of the University of Indonesia which ranked the National Police, customs service, tax office, justice sector (court) as the most corrupt public institutions.

It was a surprise though that the tax office and customs service scored slightly higher than the average in the KPK survey. But since we did not receive detailed data on the composition of the respondents (how many of them were business executives) it was difficult to ascertain whether the better perception was generated by more efficient and cleaner services or if it was because very few of the respondents had ever dealt with the two public institutions.

The KPK integrity survey, similar to the TI annual corruption perception index, could serve as a good tool for building up public opinion pressures against all kinds of corruption.

It is nice to know the KPK will conduct the integrity survey annually, covering 100 government institutions and state companies.

The KPK integrity survey could also become an effective tool for policy makers if the commission continues to improve the methodology of its studies with a wide variety of innovative approaches to gather a wide variety of different indicators of corrupt practices, both subjective and objective. The survey is important to monitor results on the ground, assess the concrete reality of corruption, and develop anticorruption programs.

Public opinion pressures, in addition to strong law enforcement, should be an integrated part of a vigorous anti-corruption campaign, especially because the general public has a high tolerance for corruption. The KPK survey, for example, discovered that the majority of the 3,611 respondents considered rewards for public officials acceptable, and that 20 percent of them admitted offering tips, gifts and rewards, with the highest reward by a respondent recorded at Rp 150 million (US$16,500)

These are unhappy facts. Most within the community, the government and business community remain entrenched in a way of life that accepts corruption as a cost of doing business.

Since corruption usually leaves no paper trail, perceptions of corruption based on individuals' actual experiences are sometimes the best and only information we have. Perceptions also matter directly: When citizens view the courts and police as corrupt, they will not want to use their services, regardless of their 'objective'.

Similarly, firms will pay less taxes if they believe that they will be wasted by corruption, and they will invest less in their country. Further, while social norms might affect what people view as corruption, in practice such cultural bias in perceptions does not appear to be substantial.

Moreover, tracking even quite general perceptions on corruption can also be a useful way, even if not in itself, of monitoring anticorruption programs. In fact, governments in many countries rely on polling data to set policy priorities and track their progress.

Corruption has been cited by almost all international and domestic surveys as a significant impediment to economic growth and political stability. Hence the government and the general public should turn more attention to fighting this disease.

There should be tougher approaches to bringing corrupt officials to justice, efforts to end selectivity in investigations and prosecutions and further civil service reforms to attract capable, responsible people who can understand and enforce the laws.



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