Due to the reasons outlined above, the CPI is an unreliable indicator of actual levels of corruption in Iraq. Moreover, there is a danger that rather than contributing to efforts to combat corruption, it may exacerbate perceptions of endemic corruption, which runs the risk of creating a ‘corruption trap’ that poses a serious obstacle to sustainable development in Iraq.
Assessing anti-corruption mechanisms
Rather than focusing solely on attempts to improve the accuracy of measuring corruption, efforts should shift to outlining strengths and weaknesses of institutional frameworks by assessing the effectiveness of anti-corruption mechanisms within the legislative, judicial and executive bodies. This approach would be in line with the World Bank’s Good Governance strategy for tackling corruption, which aims at “reducing the opportunities for corruption while increasing the risk of being caught and severely punished”.
There is growing recognition that corruption indicators need to be more relevant to country stakeholders. Composite indices are generally poor at providing actionable strategies for domestic anti-corruption agencies. Encouraging national ownership of corruption surveys by engaging local stakeholders from civil society, government and the private sector is the key to providing a relevant, legitimate and accurate understanding of corruption in Iraq, and to developing possible solutions. Partnerships with international organisations will confer credibility on their work, in addition to providing technical expertise.
Transparency International has yet to establish an office in Iraq, citing security reasons and the lack of adequate partners as the main obstacles. If it is serious about understanding the nature of corruption in Iraq, it not only needs to reach out to indigenous Iraqi groups that experience the realities of Iraq first hand, but it must also overcome its perception that Iraq is too dangerous a place to work in.
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