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Laurence Cockcroft: The Inception of the CPI

Written by Guest on Friday, 27 March 2015

Guest blogger Laurence Cockcroft discusses the inception of the CPI.

Guest blogger Laurence Cockcroft a development economist and author of the recent book Global Corruption: Money Power and Ethics in the Modern World, discusses the inception of the CPI. 


I was struck last week by the heavy criticism of Transparency International by George Monbiot the Guardian’s influential environment columnist. Monbiot had picked up on themes in ‘How Corrupt is Britain’, a volume just published and edited by David Whyte of the University of Liverpool.

The central argument of the book is that corruption in Britain is manifested in many areas – notably the City, the police, and through various forms of privatisation. Broadly speaking this is a theme I would agree with, and is well reflected in TI-UK’s current work programme. However Monbiot has allowed himself to be drawn into the long standing debate as to whether the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) is a valid measurement of corruption especially in ‘developed’ countries such as the UK. I have no intention of reiterating the oft stated arguments for and against this question. However I would like to recapitulate on its genesis, and on TIs original focus on international bribery.

The inception of TI in 1993 was based on a view shared between colleagues from the North and the South that much of the corruption plaguing the developing world was initiated from the North. For this reason the most effective anti-corruption strategy on a global scale would be to seek to launch chapters of TI in both the North and South, and of course in the former Soviet world. The hundred national chapters of TI which exist today reflect this strategy.

It was also necessary, as an advocacy organisation committed to change, to have certain specific targets. The most conspicuous of these early targets was international bribery, which unquestionably characterised corruption around much of world, with its worst impact being on those low income countries who could least afford it. The OECD anti bribery convention of 1997 was largely the product of TI’s intensive lobbying and for the first time outside the U.S., made the payment of a bribe in another jurisdiction a crime. The UK’s Bribery Act of 2010 was the overdue result of this convention and although hardly monumental has certainly changed the way UK companies behave in the South.

In all countries, TI’s concerns are far broader than this. The everyday corruption which characterises the lives of at least 3 billion people is a central concern and is reflected in the work of national chapters. Some chapters, as in France, have pioneered attacks on the arrangements which have enabled corrupt leaders to store their assets in the North. The TI movement as a whole committed itself last October to escalating attacks on the immunity of such stores of corrupt assets. The new report by TI-UK on money laundering through the UK property market reflects this, and is directly relevant to the role of the City which Monbiot mentioned – and which other effective campaigners such as Global Witness, Global Financial Integrity and Tax Justice Network have been addressing very effectively for several years.

I raise these points because the attack on global corruption is not strengthened by  undermining an organisation which has done more in this field than any other (though I am a great admirer if Global Witness, of the same vintage). Those who are supportive of anti-corruption efforts need to exercise care that their disagreement with the merits of one of TI’s many indices should not open the door to a wholesale attack by the many vested interests that would like to see the anti-corruption movement fail.  There is no possibility of rolling back corruption globally without a united front with agreed targets – something which largely exists in the UNCAC Coalition against corruption, chaired by TI and which has fed very successfully into the G20 anti-corruption agenda.

None of this is to ignore the fact that Whyte’s edited volume is a useful analysis of corruption in the UK at the present time, with good chapters by the likes of Prem Sikka on the big four auditors and John Christensen on the UK dependant offshore centres. It’s just regrettable that an obsession with the CPI question sets the tone for both the book and Monbiot’s response. On votes taken several times amongst representatives of TI’s hundred national chapters support for dropping the CPI has always been minimal. From a global perspective the CPI remains an effective tool for holding the corrupt in power to account. Just read the media from say Kenya, Colombia and Malaysia on the day the CPI was released.


Read 2478 times Last modified on Tuesday, 24 November 2015 11:48


The TI-UK blog features thought and opinion from guest writers as well as TI staff. Any opinions expressed by external contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of Transparency International UK.

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