Key issues and challenges
One of the major challenges with political corruption assessments relates to the availability and reliability of primary data. The challenge is most apparent with regards to:
- Political finance data: Because requests for information from political parties are often voluntary, this inevitably affects the reliability of the data, although the response rate itself may be an indicator of transparency. Likewise, criteria for which categories of campaign expenditures should be declared are often unclear, making it difficult to compare official declarations with independent monitoring data. As such supplementary tools such as key informant interviews are often required to obtain information on income and expenditure that is not available through other channels19.
- Interviews with officials: Serving members of parliament may be unwilling to participate in a corruption assessment if there is a chance of implicating themselves or colleagues or their party. Compiling responses on an anonymous basis can go some way to encouraging greater openness, although it is still likely that those most willing to participate are also the least likely to engage in corrupt practices, thus creating bias in the results20.
A related consideration is the need to build political support for conducting an assessment, especially to create buy-in for any potential reforms resulting from the assessment:
- Building relationships with former senior politicians can help facilitate communication with the current political establishment. These individuals may also be able to provide valuable and more candid information on corrupt practices21.
- Parliamentary self-assessments can also be a good way of building a sense of ownership and buy-in to the assessment process. However, it is vital to ensure that there is a shared understanding of purpose and that the assessment is non-partisan, involving representatives from both opposition and ruling parties. Inviting external actors to take part in the assessment, such as civil society groups, academics and local representatives of international organisations, can also strengthen the process22.
19 Índice Regional de Transparencia Parlamentaria ▪ Transparency in the Financing of Political Parties (Latvia) ▪ Paying the Public or Caring for Constituents? Preliminary Findings from a Pilot Survey of Seven Volunteer MPs (Kenya) ▪ Monitoring of Campaign Finance of the 2007 and 2008 Elections on Armenia
20 Paying the Public or Caring for Constituents? Preliminary Findings from a Pilot Survey of Seven Volunteer MPs (Kenya) ▪ Money in Politics: A Study of Party Financing Practices in 22 Countries ▪ Parliamentarians and Corruption in Africa: The Challenge of Leadership and the Practice of Politics
21 Monitoring Election Campaign Finance A Handbook for NGOs
22 Evaluating Parliament: A Self-Assessment Toolkit for Parliaments ▪ Preventing Corruption: UNCAC Toolkit for Parliamentarians