Why was there no bribery incidence data for Russia in Transparency International’s international survey of 2013? Andrey Kamenetsky at Odnako connects the dots to argue that it was simply because the results were too inconvenient to serve as propaganda.
A Crisis of Zombification: How Transparency International failed on The Russia Corruption Rating
Dear Readers! In July there took place two major crashes in Russia. Both of them were very revealing, but only one carried a wide resonance: the “Proton-M”rocket accident. We shall now have a talk about the second crash, which was in its own way also catastrophic.
The puzzle hasn’t been solved
I’m talking about the unexpected failure of the now traditional fun and games ratings that annually “equates Russia with Zimbabwe”. One of the leading international human rights organizations that regularly publishes its corruption ratings, Transparency International, has this time not included Russia in its bribe-taking rating because of a “technical fault” caused by the receipt of research information that had not been verified for its authenticity. Because of this, a whole row of data has been removed from the process, and instead of the usual solid news about how everything is terrible in Russia, there has spilled out into the media a whole pile of claims made against one another by the organizers.
What makes this story piquant is the fact that all the interested parties are organizations of word-wide renown. The research data customer, Transparency International, has come down on its research agent, the international sociological corporation Gallup. Even more interesting is that as the conflict widens, their representatives are beginning to remember things amongst themselves and have even started to talk, which used to be considered quite indecent.
“Judging by the received data, the question was either misunderstood or incorrectly set by the company that undertook the research”, pointed out Transparency International Research Director, Finn Heinrich.
Gallup, in the shape of its legal entity “Romir” – its exclusive representative in Russia and the Ukraine – does not accept this claim. Not to be outdone, “Romir” Communications Director Evgeniya Rubtsova has stated:
“After we had passed on the data, nobody contacted us further and there were no requests for clarifications and amplifications. They (Transparency International) are customers of our research data, so they interpret the data that they receive from us. Unfortunately, we have already experienced precedents in which they decided to show some data while withholding other data, with the result that Russia came out in a non too favourable light compared to other countries.”
However, the accuracy of the answers to other questions suits the research client. Anton Pominov, deputy director of the Russian branch of Transparency International Research, said that: “It is alarming that no one really believes that the anti-corruption strategy, which was begun by President Medvedev in 2008, is effective. Citizens have now completely cast off their rose-tinted spectacles. For example, 74% of people give civil servants the highest score: 5 points: that is to say, they are “very corrupt”.
In general, he thinks that “the barometer still shows a situation of some tension in society”. So while the main news fragmented as does a meteor entering the atmosphere, some fragments of the pre-planned number of mandatory headlines about the deep corruption in Russian still reached Earth.
The explanation is quite simple
Now let’s just see what data is involved. From Transparency’s final report there were omitted two answers given by Russian citizens to two questions.
In question number seven, respondents were asked to answer how often during the past year were they or members of their families in contact with some official agency, including the police, the tax authorities, medical services, educational institutions, and whether they had to pay a bribe to them.
Question number eight specifically asked what the reason for the bribe was. A choice of four answers was given: a gift/gratitude; a service at a lower price; the desire to speed up the solution of a problem; the only way to get the service.
What are the puzzling answers that Russian citizens gave concerning these choices? Largely thanks to Eugeniya Rubtsova and Anton Pominov we can try to guess what kind of “technical failure” Transparency was talking about and what it consists of.
“Corruption is not only a bribe: it involves a lot more concepts, including favouritism”, begins Anton, justifying himself for no apparent reason.
“I do not know how they checked the received data. You need to look at it dynamically. For example, if two years ago a similar study was undertaken, and suddenly, for one question there was a very large and skewed response, the alarms went off. If, for example, people say that the level of corruption has increased, but at the same time the number of people who paid a bribe has gone down, then it is clear that there is a contradiction”, Evgeniya clearly states.
The final piece to the puzzle: there was an almost identical survey made by the “Public opinion” foundation and conducted in 43 subject states of the Russian Federation in April of this year. It was no less extensive, but we are interested in only two key parameters.
Firstly, according to the survey, 79% of Russians are not faced with bribery at all. (This number has grown from 60% in 2008). Only 15% paid bribes. (In 2008 it was 29%).
And secondly, in the opinion of 84% of the respondents, the level of corruption in the country is too high, while 46% believe that it is continuing to rise.
Of course, if 80% of people rated their country as having the highest rate of corruption but say at the same time that they and their families did not give bribes to anyone last year, then there is something wrong there, and that includes the validation systems used by the Transparency International.
And that’s why Anton Pominov interprets indicators concerning bribes as evidence of corruption in general – because such indicators are quantifiable. “They spent time and money, and it turned out that something went wrong during data collection. Of course, for us it is very frustrating because it turns out that some of the work that was done has not given the expected results,” he lamented last week.
The bottom line is that we have a completely crazy situation here, where a reputable rating organization has hammered its ratings so much into its respondents’ brains that it is getting these ratings back as answers that are completely uncritical, have no connection with reality, and do not pass any logical test; they are motivated by the answers of people who have read the news and know about previous ratings. This circus can continue for a long time, especially when you consider their habit of organizing themselves to interpret the data and downplaying their part in creating the “expected result”.
The real question is, how much longer are we seriously going to interpret our unspeakably terrible problems from the point of view of outsiders, and how effective will be the measures for dealing with the naive ignorance of the population?