‘New’ CPI-2012 is not new at all, it is fake


121205-3, Eng. ‘new’ CPI is fake-new

Dr. Michel van Hulten, Lelystad, www.corruptie.org

[This paper reflects more or less what is written in the Dutch-language contribution on this website about the CPI-2012.] Addition: the 2013 edition is not better!

‘New’ CPI-2012 is not new at all, it is fake

(go to: http://www.transparency.org/cpi2012/results)

9 December is the UN international anti-corruption day. A few days earlier, on 5 December 2012, the Transparency International (TI) Secretariat in Berlin launches the latest CPI, Corruption Perceptions Index 2012.

This ‘product’ of the global NGO that is leading in the fight against corruption played a useful role in 1995 when it was first launched as a wake-up call to the world that failed to see one of the major dangers to our society and economy.

Over the years since that launch, criticism of its methodology and research techniques to make this ranking of countries perceived as more or less corrupt was growing. Regretfully, the ‘TI-product’ could not stand scientific criticism, and the criticism that was published, among others by me[i], in serious contributions to the scientific debate were never answered by TI. The main producer of the CPIs from 1995 till 2010, Professor Dr Johann Graf Lambsdorff of Passau University in Germany, withdrew his collaboration in 2011. The message was widely spread by TI-Berlin that an overhaul of work on this ranking effort could be expected that would improve its quality and that realization would begin with the 2012-edition.

As announced, the CPI-2012 was published on 5 December 2012. The complete ranking begins with Denmark as number 1 (with Finland and New Zealand, all three the same score of 90 points on a scale of 100) and Somalia as number 176, the last one, also with a similar score of 8 out of 100 points for North Korea and Afghanistan.

The Netherlands scored 8.9 (on a scale of 1 to 10) in 2011 en got ranked nr. 7. This year the Netherlands score 84/100 and ranks nr. 10 (Canada scores also 84/100 but ranks as nr. 9 because the ‘C’ preceeds the ‘N’).

The change from a decimal system with scores from 0.0 to 10.0 is replaced by scores from 1 to 100. Indeed a renewal, but not really big! The effort to make one scale in use for all results from all sources instead of qualifying per source the results on separate scales, is laudable. The number of sources used for the ranking effort is diminished from 17 in 2011 to 13 in 2012. Indeed this is an improvement as three sources are eliminated that doubled with earlier editions in the same series for successive years. And it is announced that the results as given in the CPI-2012 will now be the benchmark against which future results of the ranking exercises will be measured. Why the Asian Development Bank Assessment is omitted in the CPI-2012, although it had been used in the CPI-2011, is not clearly explained. As renewals, that is it.

I regret that this is all. There is no ‘new’ CPI! Most important criticism from earlier years is not honored, it is not even mentioned as reporting says ‘we want to look forward not into the past’.

Strangely enough is not explained in the CPI-2012 report how it is possible that Germany scores in the CPI-2012 with 79 points (rank 13) among the top-best countries, as a few weeks earlier the TI-president in her keynote address in the International Anti-Corruption Conference held in Brasilia, mentions that the German economy is plagued in 2012 by corruption-related losses of 250 billion (nine zero’s) euros. I asked the Berlin Secretariat an explanation, which could not be provided.

The new CPI-methodology continues to use ‘perceptions’ of observers, businessmen and scientists/researchers. Of course, those involved and used as informants or respondents know what is going on in the world. It is most likely that they are experts in corruption-affairs. Most of them probably live in the shit that corruption is. It is all around them, if they are not at the paying and giving end of a lot of the corruption.

Every day, news about corruption among the high and mighty in the world reaches our media. Hundreds of researchers report their findings wherever they are asked to delve into corruption affairs. Numerous courts deal with corruption cases. Why then is TI continuing to use ‘perceptions’, ‘thoughts’, ‘images’ if you wish, instead of facts to establish a ranking order of corruptness of countries (or companies, or persons, or groups)? The world knows now more than in 1995 and in the early years of the CPI (and of TI). The organization should have matured as many of the researchers in this field are now uncovering more of the secrets of corruption than ever before.

Moreover, the perceptions that are used come from biased sources. Most informants and respondents are white, have a business background, are board room types, Anglophone, well-educated, well-earning, expatriate men. Among the informants and respondents are few,  if at all the colored, blue collar workers, lower ranking in their companies or administrations, poor, handicapped, sick, women. In short the ‘perceptions’ come from those in power, not from the powerless that might have totally different perceptions of the reality of the world around them.

I emphasize that it is not racism that forms the dividing line. It is power, class. The CPI is based on persons’ views that come (nearly) all from the same socio-economic background. Maybe there is a reason to work this way as it is more than likely that among those that were allowed to give their perceptions of corruption, perpetrators of corrupt behavior are numerous? If so why not mentioned? Do these perpetrators have the knowledge we need as corruption-fighters, but have too much power and influence? They are better served if corruption remains unknown?

Just have a look at the reports and the investigations that are used and mentioned as the sources of the CPI. It is inescapable that those delivering information are one-sidedly lined up with the powerful. And as we all know: power creates corruption.

On the sideline I remark that francophone, lusophone and Chinese studies have not been used. Why not?

I do not understand why the two scientists mentioned (from Columbia University and from LSE), that gave advice how to improve the CPI methodology, are ‘content with the sources’ as they have been used for this CPI-2012. I do not understand this as a year earlier they explicitly mentioned in their report with proposals that the CPI would win credibility and strength, if it also used the knowledge of reliable facts, at least added to the perceptions-approach, an advice that is not followed by TI.

I also wonder why TI does not report which other rankings in the world have been studied before choosing these 13 as the baseline studies to make the CPI?

I assume that TI-staff has scanned tens of options before deciding which ones to be used and which ones not to be used for the resulting composite index called the CPI-2012. As reviewers of the final result we could win more insight if we knew.

I doubt whether it is good for TI to be co-financed for nearly one hundred percent by governments. The TI-budget was paid by the Dutch in 2010 for €750,000 and in 2011 for €1.2 million. Financing came also from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden,  Switzerland, Thailand, UK, and USA. Their collective contribution of over €21 million stands against not even a million from foundations, companies and others (some private persons). Against all trends, the Dutch government pays now more than in earlier years and guaranteed already to continue to do so till 2014. Another global player, Amnesty International, refuses to accept governmental money, it relies on members. Why is TI so close to governments? Does this closeness help the fight against corruption?


[i] Ten years of Corruption (Perceptions) Indices. METHODS – RESULTS – WHAT NEXT? An analysis. 31 January 2007, ISBN 978-90-811048-2-1 (go to www.corruptie.org→Publications→Michel van Hulten, 86 pages.

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