6 December 2012

Mozambique: Mozambican Corruption Declines Slightly

Maputo — Mozambique was somewhat less corrupt in 2012 than in 2011, according to the latest Corruption Perceptions Index, published by the anti-corruption NGO, Transparency International (TI).

The Index scores countries on a scale of zero to 100. Any country which scores 100 is perceived as entirely clean and, if the score is zero, it is perceived as entirely corrupt. This year Mozambique’s score is 31.

Last year, when the index used a scale of zero to ten, Mozambique’s score was 2.7. To bring this into line with a zero-to-100 scale, one simply multiplies by ten. So Mozambique’s score has risen from 27 to 31, an improvement of 15 per cent.

But anyone reading much of the Mozambican press would imagine that corruption worsened in Mozambique over the year.

“Corruption increases in the public sector” is the headline in Thursday’s issue of the daily paper “O Pais”. In its story, the daily newsheet “Mediafax” claims “the level of perception of the degree of corruption in the public sector in Mozambique has worsened for the second year running”.

This is exactly the opposite of what the report says.

Even Adriano Nuvunga, the director of Mozambique’s anti-corruption NGO, the Centre for Public Integrity (CIP), makes the same misreading of the report.

Cited in “Mediafax”, Nuvunga said “the situation in Mozambique is very bad, and the situation is getting worse”.

“O Pais” and “Mediafax” made these mistakes because they looked at the rankings rather than the score. In 2011, Mozambique was in joint 120th position (along with eight other countries) out of the 182 countries considered. This year Mozambique is in joint 123rd position (with four other countries) out of 174 countries.

The fact that Mozambique has fallen three places in the TI ranking merely means that several countries improved at a faster pace than Mozambique, not that Mozambique became any more corrupt over the year.

Of the eight countries that tied with Mozambique in 120th position in 2011, four (Mongolia, Ethiopia, Ecuador and Guatemala) have improved their position, three (Kazakhstan, Iran and Bangladesh) have fallen down the rankings, and the Solomon Islands has disappeared from the index altogether.

This in itself is enough to account for Mozambique’s slight decline in the rankings.

Looking back at the TI Index from 2003 to the present, Mozambique’s ranking has fluctuated from 86th to 130th position (in 2003 and 2009 respectively), but the country’s score has moved in a much narrower band. From 2003 to 2011, Mozambique scored between 25 and 27. It is reasonable enough to say that perceptions of corruption in Mozambique remained much the same throughout this period. This year, however, it has jumped to 31 – something ignored by those journalists fixated on rankings.

The index also admits to a certain level of uncertainty, depending on the quality of the data used, and so inserts a “confidence interval” which reflects the number of surveys used to calculate a country’s position on the index. Where there are few surveys of corruption, the confidence interval is very wide. Thus the Comoro islands were given a score of 28, but based on only three surveys – so the confidence interval is an enormous 25: the Comoros’ real score could lie between 15 and 40.

For Mozambique, with seven surveys used, the confidence interval is only five – meaning that the score for Mozambique is somewhere between a lower limit of 29 and an upper limit of 34.

A score of 31 (or even 34) is nothing to cheer about, even though it is better than last year’s score. Nuvunga was right to say that current levels of corruption are “problematic not only in terms of attracting investments, but also for the credibility of public institutions”.

Nonetheless, he believed that, if the rest of the government’s package of anti-corruption legislation is speedily approved by the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, it could make corruption more difficult in the public sector, and eventually improve Mozambique’s position in the TI rankings.

However, the main anti-corruption law is an overhaul of Mozambique’s Penal Code, and the likelihood of this complex document being debated in this sitting of parliament, due to end on 23 December, is remote.

The three countries at the top of the TI index, all scoring 90, are Denmark, Finland and New Zealand, with Sweden close behind on 88. The United States is in 19th position, with a score of 73.

At the other end of the index, three of the most miserable countries in the world, Somalia, Afghanistan and North Korea, tie for last position with a score of just eight.

The rankings and scores for members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are as follows (scores in parentheses):

30 Botswana (65)

45 Mauritius (57)

51 Seychelles (52)

58 Namibia (48)

64 Lesotho (45)

69 South Africa (43)

88 Malawi (37)

88 Swaziland (37)

88 Zambia (37)

102 Tanzania (35)

118 Madagascar (32)

123 Mozambique (31)

157 Angola (22)

160 Democratic Republic of Congo (21)

163 Zimbabwe (20)

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