Transparency defends graft survey

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff Reporter

Sun, Jul 14, 2013 - Page 1

Questioned by the government over the credibility of its latest survey on the public’s perception of corruption in public institutions, Transparency International said it is confident in the Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) released on Tuesday.

“We have full confidence in the results of the GCB survey, including those for Taiwan,” Transparency International Secretariat research director Finn Heinrich said in an e-mail reply to an inquiry from the Taipei Times on Friday night.

“As is standard practice, the GCB survey data underwent a series of internal and external validity checks, including verification by an independent survey methodology expert,” Heinrich added.

Heinrich was replying to a question on how Transparency International would respond to Taiwan’s protest letter against a finding of the survey that suggested 36 percent of respondents in Taiwan said they had bribed contacts within the public sector.

The letter addressed to the Berlin-based organization’s managing director, Cobus de Swardt, was delivered by the nation’s representative office in Germany on Thursday.

The state-owned Central News Agency (CNA) had what it said was a “full text” of the letter in a report from Berlin early on Friday, showing it was a strongly worded protest.

Regarding the “unfair evaluation” of Taiwan in this year’s GCB survey, “we desire to protest in the strongest possible way,” the CNA report said.

One of the reasons for the discrepancy between the survey and a survey conducted by an independent institution in Taiwan last year — which found that 0.8 percent of respondents said they had paid a bribe, 2.5 percent said they had only heard of things like that happening and 96.6 percent said they never paid a bribe — was that the methodology used in the survey was “not scientific enough,” CNA reported.

Transparency International, a civil society organization with 90 chapters worldwide that was founded in Berlin in 1993 to expose corruption, releases its GCB survey annually to assess people’s direct experiences with bribery and detail their views on corruption in the main institutions in their countries.

According to the organization, the report this year draws on a survey of more than 114,000 respondents in 107 countries, with the survey questionnaire translated into local languages and used for face-to-face, computer-assisted telephone interviewing or online interviews depending on the country context.

The government said in its protest letter that the survey result was “subjective” and “arbitrary” and “not an objective comparison” of corruption in the 107 countries because the countries were surveyed by different polling institutions that employed different survey methods, the CNA report said.

“Taiwan is a country governed by rule of law. This is so unfair that Taiwan was placed in the same tier as most-corrupt countries. We demanded that you review the process whereby the survey was conducted and correct the ridiculous survey result about our country,” the CNA report quoted the letter as saying.

According to the GCB survey, countries with a bribery rate of 36 percent included Bolivia, Egypt and Indonesia, in addition to Taiwan.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Anna Kao (高安) would not confirm the CNA report, saying only that the protest letter was written in German.

The survey on Taiwan was conducted by the Cass Research Centre, WIN/Gallup International Association’s China-based partner, using an online method, rather than Shanghai-based WisdomAsia undertaking the survey by telephone as stated in the GCB report, Heinrich confirmed in the e-mail reply.

Heinrich said that the mistake was “a result of miscommunication” between Transparency International Secretariat and WIN/Gallup International Association, which Transparency International works with on the global survey.

“We regret this error and will issue a correction in the online version of the Global Corruption Barometer report as soon as possible,” Heinrich said.

Asked why Transparency International did not have the survey on Taiwan implemented by a Taiwan-based polling company, Heinrich said WIN/Gallup International Association contracted its China-based partner CRC to carry out the survey because it does not have a local partner in Taiwan.

Particularly for online surveys, “this is common practice” and has been done by WIN/Gallup International Association for other surveys as well, including the Global Corruption Barometer 2010, Heinrich said.

The Global Corruption Barometer 2010 found that 7 percent of people in Taiwan who had used any of eight government services — police, judiciary, registry, land, medical, education, tax and utilities — over the past 12 months had paid a bribe.