How to define and measure corruption

Mungiu-Pippidi A. and Fazekas M. (2020). How to define and measure Corruption. In Alina Mungiu-Pippidi & Paul M. Heywood (eds.) A Research Agenda for Studies of Corruption. Ch. 2. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham.

The measurement of corruption is an essential part of this policy-driven intellectual endeavour. As a United Nations Development Programme review report stated: ‘To put it plainly, there is little value in a measurement if it does not tell us what needs to be fixed’ (UNDP 2008, p. 8). While scholars are entitled to study corruption and anti-corruption from a variety of angles and to hope they will discover something new, measurement is inherently an actionable endeavour. The incidence of corruption and its evolution over time need to be established if we are to succeed in diagnosing and solving problems of governance or institutional quality. While the obstacles have proved great for obvious reasons, such as the hidden nature of corruption (although that varies greatly according to the prevalence of the phenomenon), such obstacles are also over-estimated because of limited communication across disciplines or simply the reluctance of policy actors to open access to publicly derived data. What this chapter will do is not simply offer yet another review of existing definitions and measurements, for we have offered that elsewhere (Mungiu 2006; Andersson and Heywood 2009; Heywood and Rose 2014; Heywood 2015a; Mungiu-Pippidi 2015a, 2015b; Mungiu-Pippidi and Dadašov 2016; Fazekas, Cingolani and Tóth 2018). Instead we shall propose a framework to assess current ‘measurements’ and a universal method to organize measurements which can be tailored to individual research needs. We have followed the lead of Johnston (2010) who argued that the kind of evidence that we should prioritize should help reformers identify anti-corruption priorities, apply effective countermeasures and track the effects of their efforts. The next sections will therefore first analyse the existing measures at the national level (governance contexts) primarily from the perspective of actionability, before describing the step-by-step approach to more specific measurements.

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