Changing perceptions of corruption in the EITI countries?

The link between the EITI and the Corruption Perceptions Index isn't straightforward.

It’s that time of the year. Transparency International has once again ranked countries according to how corrupt they are perceived to be. The organisation's 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) was published yesterday. 177 countries were assessed, among them all the 41 countries that currently implement the EITI.

EITI countries are well-represented across the whole spectrum: Norway is ranked fifth, while Afghanistan holds shared last place. The link between the EITI and perceptions of corruption is a complex one.

Transparency International defines corruption as “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain”. The EITI surely plays a role in tackling this phenomenon. Although EITI reports rarely reveal outright fraud, there are many clear cases of the EITI working as a preventive mechanism that encourages better practices.

Transparency of revenue flows, production data and licences reduces the space for corrupt practices. The public in resource-rich countries gets the chance to know what is going on in the extractive sector and can demand better deals and more responsible use of revenues.

Besides increasing public scrutiny, the EITI has a more technical role. It helps identify inefficiencies in tax collection processes. Recognising weaknesses in fiscal regimes and practices is a first step to creating clear and more even rules that don’t leave room for under-the-table deals.

It is, nevertheless, difficult to meaningfully measure how more transparency through EITI could affect CPI rankings.

First of all, it is the Corruption Perceptions Index. Some studies have shown that more transparency can lead to perceptions of corruption worsening. Revealing corrupt practices can give the impression that there is more corruption than before.

Second, in many countries the EITI is part of a larger reformist programme, which aims to curb corruption. The EITI is a tool in a box full of other tools that are just as necessary. Processes and dialogues are intertwined and spin off each other, which makes it impossible to point one as the ultimate trigger for change.

However, some observations can be made when comparing the CPI rankings of the 25 EITI Compliant countries from 2009 and 2013.

Out of this heterogeneous group of countries, roughly two-thirds have improved their ranking significantly, one-third has declined and a few have stagnated. Timor-Leste, Mongolia and Côte d’Ivoire are among the risers, while countries such as Mali, Kazakhstan and Albania have gone in the opposite direction.

But when dispersion is put aside, it shows that on average the countries climbed five positions in four years. It’s an encouraging signal, whichever way you look at it.

 

Lyydia Kilpi is an Intern at the EITI International Secretariat.